Reflections on 4 big road wins in Rutgers football history


4.  September 23, 2012: Rutgers 35-26 Arkansas 

Rutgers stormed the Southeastern Conference (SEC) and played the No. 8 team in the country, Arkansas. This was one of the best games of the Knights' quarterback Gary Nova’s career. He went 25-35 passing for a career best 297 yards and 5 touchdowns. This win secured Rutgers’ first 4-0 start since the 2006 season when the team won the Texas Bowl. The team was led by first-year head coach Kyle Flood. 

The Knights' defensive unit was ranked 12th nationally in total defense and found a way to shut down the best offense in the SEC. At one point in the game, the Rutgers defensive unit forced four consecutive three-and-outs.

The Knights trailed 10-0 in the first quarter before storming back behind Nova’s command. He threw 2 of his 5 touchdowns to wide receiver Brandon Coleman to help jumpstart the comeback. Running back Jawan Jamison had 33 carries for 118 yards for Rutgers on the ground to help supplement a great passing game. The Razorbacks battled all night with the Knights as quarterback Tyler Wilson went 20-40 for 429 yards. 

After Rutgers led 28-13 entering the 4th quarter, Arkansas stormed back and cut the lead to 2-points with 8:19 to play. The defense stopped the Razorbacks on their 2-point conversion attempt, but the Knights needed a big play to stop the Arkansas momentum. Nova delivered on the second play of the next drive, throwing a 60-yard bomb to wide receiver Mark Harrison that clinched the win. This game was loaded with big plays and great matchups. 

3. August 28, 2014: Rutgers 41-38 Washington State Cougars 

In 2014, Rutgers traveled to Washington State to play at Century Link Stadium. The game was a shootout resulting in a fourth-quarter rally by the Knights to win, 41-38. Nova contributed 281 yards, 2 touchdowns and one interception to the win. The 2014 season was the best season of his four-year college career as a starter for Rutgers with a QBR of 145.3. Running back Paul James had a monster game as he rushed for 173 yards and 3 touchdowns. 

Wide receiver Leonte Carroo showed off how dangerous he was by scoring a 78-yard touchdown on the first drive of the game. He finished with 6 catches for 151 yards and 1 touchdown. Carroo was a standout receiver for the Knights, and went onto being drafted in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins. Rutgers' offensive unit had one turnover and 496 total yards. 

The Cougars offense had two critical turnovers and 538 total yards.

To begin the fourth quarter, the Knights offense was struggling to get much going as they settled again for a field goal. Then the defense limited Washington State to a three-and-out, allowing Rutgers' offense to recapture the lead in the fourth quarter as Nova connected with wide receiver John Tsimis for a touchdown. 

The fourth quarter shootout continued as the Cougars offense marched down the field on a six-play 67-yard drive to take the 38-34 lead.

On the ensuing drive, the Knights punted the ball after a three-and-out on the 16-yard line. Many considered Rutgers to have lost, but then the special team’s unit forced the returner to fumble the ball on the 50-yard line. That critical turnover resulted in the Knights marching 50 yards down the field to score off a 3-yard run play by James. 

With 3:24 remaining, the Washington State offense had the opportunity to score. But, Rutgers' defense stepped up and prevented the Cougar’s offense from scoring. The Knights won the game 41-38.

2. November 3, 1979: Rutgers 13-7 No. 17 Tennessee

Rutgers was a major underdog in this game. Prior to 1979, head coach Frank Burns intended to make a statement to play better teams after going undefeated at the Division II level. Despite never playing a bowl game, in 1976 the program decided to not play in the first postseason appearance to emphasize to the NCAA their desire to play against better competition.  

Thankfully, the program got their wish and was scheduled to play against No. 17 Tennessee. Fans and reporters considered the Knights to be one of the laughing stocks in the league, and with legendary head coach Johnny Majors on the Volunteers' sideline, it was considered to be an easy win for Tennessee. 

The homecoming game day crowd of 84,000 fans packed the Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee, to watch the SEC powerhouse Volunteers demolish Rutgers. Tennessee lived up to expectations when the game began, as tailback James Berry scored a 1-yard touchdown to give the home team the early 7-0 lead. 

The next drive, the Knights' quarterback Ed McMicheal connected with wide receiver David Dorn to tie up the game 7-7. McMicheal went 11-12 for 174 yards in the game. After this drive, the scoring stopped. 

Both defenses shut down the opposing offense for the rest of the half. In the second half, Bruns emphasized defense and played with great clock management. His defensive strategy was to shut down the Volunteers' run game by pitching the defensive tackles into the "A: gaps" (gap in-between center and guard on the offensive line). 

Linebacker Ed Steward led the defensive unit with two interceptions to help secure Rutgers' upset win. In the second half, Tennessee would get shut down on offense. The Knights would go on to punish the Volunteers on offense as fullback Bryant Moore ran for 103 yards. Rutgers won the game 13-7.

1.  December 28, 2006: Rutgers 37-10 Kansas State (Texas Bowl)

This game is listed as the No. 1 road game in the Knights' history because it was the first bowl victory in program history. After losing in triple overtime to West Virginia, Rutgers lost its opportunity to win the Big East title and play in the BCS Bowl. Many people were very disappointed in the team’s relegation to playing in the Texas Bowl. 

The Knights absolutely dominated Kansas State the entire game by playing great on offense and even better on defense. The defense’s day was highlighted by a 27-yard pick six return by linebacker Quintero Frierson. 

Kansas State’s Josh Freeman and Jordy Nelson were shut down by the No. 7 defense in the county. Freeman struggled as he was limited to 129 yards, 11 incompletions and 2 interceptions. The defensive line also provided pressure all night.

The Knights' offense put on a show, as Rice ran for his tenth 100-plus yard rushing game of the season after finishing with 170 yards and a touchdown. Freshman wide receiver Tim Brown had 4 receptions for 101 yards and 2 touchdowns. For the rest of his career on the Banks, Brown was known for making an impact by netting big plays. 

This 2006 Rutgers team might be the best in the program's history. They had a lot of great talent and brought home the first Bowl win to New Brunswick. They were stacked on offense and defense.

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