Rutgers 37, Pittsburgh 29
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP)—Ryan Hart threw for three touchdowns and became Rutgers’ all-time leading passer as the Scarlet Knights built a big halftime lead and then held off Pittsburgh 37-29 on Friday night, their fourth Big East win in five seasons under coach Greg Schiano.
In the conference opener for both teams, Rutgers (3-1) beat Pitt for the first time since 1998, a span of five games. Tyler Palko threw four second-half touchdown passes for the Panthers, who fell to 1-4 under first-year coach Dave Wannstedt.
Rutgers took a 27-0 halftime lead before Pitt scored two touchdowns in the third quarter. But Rutgers linebacker William Beckford forced a fumble by Palko at the Panthers 27, and Hart found Tres Moses on a crossing pattern three plays later to push Rutgers’ lead to 34-14.
Hart also threw two touchdown passes to running back Brian Leonard in the first half. The senior’s 17-yard completion to Moses in the second quarter moved him past Scott Erney (7,188 yards, 1986-89) and into first place on Rutgers’ career passing yardage list.
Jeremy Ito kicked field goals of 22, 26 and 42 yards for Rutgers, which won its third consecutive game for the first time since 1992. Willie Foster returned a punt 71 yards for a score in the first half.
Pitt closed to 37-29 with 7:26 left on Palko’s fourth touchdown pass, to wide receiver Derek Kinder, followed by a 2-point conversion pass to Darrell Strong. But on the Panthers’ next possession, Rutgers defensive end Ryan Neill sacked Palko on a third-and-9 that started at the Rutgers 20, and Adam Graessle’s desperation pass on a fake punt fell incomplete.
Pitt had one more possession, but Palko’s pass was tipped by Rutgers’ defensive back Corey Barnes and intercepted by Brandon Renkart at the Rutgers 34 with 1:58 left.
Rutgers, one of the Big East’s original members in 1991, has had one winning season since, 1992. Their conference record over that span was 18-75-1 before Friday night, and they were 3-24 since Schiano arrived in 2001.
Rutgers led Illinois 27-7 in the third quarter earlier this season and lost 33-30 in overtime.