The Rutgers Scarlet Knights had a chance to clinch a Big East Conference title, and the BCS bowl berth that goes with it, Saturday against the Pittsburgh Panthers. Instead, Rutgers was dominated from start to finish by Pitt in suffering a 27-7 defeat.
No. 21 Rutgers (9-2, 5-1) will still play No. 19 Louisville on Thursday with a Bowl Championship Series berth on the line. Louisville (9-2, 4-2) missed a chance to pull into a tie for the conference lead by losing to Connecticut in overtime, 23-20. The loss by Louisville means Rutgers did clinch at least a tie for the conference title.
Rutgers came into the game after a tumultuous week that saw the school announce it was leaving the Big East for the Big 10. While Scarlet Knights coach Kyle Flood promised his team would not be distracted, it certainly did not look that way as Rutgers fell behind 21-0 at halftime.
"I didn't hear any of the talk about anything [other than the game]," Flood said. "To me, we had a focused football team coming in here, but we just didn't execute on the football field."
Pitt outgained Rutgers 365-206 and did whatever it wanted against one of the nation's best defenses to beat a ranked opponent for the second time this season. Ray Graham ran for 113 yards and a score for the Panthers (5-6, 2-4 Big East), who kept their hopes for bowl eligibility alive.
Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova completed 18-of-37 passes for 157 yards and one interception. The Scarlet Knights rushed for only 50 yards on 24 attempts..
Rutgers will host Louisville in Piscataway on Thursday in a prime time game for the Big East crown.