Piscataway, NJ – Gary Nova threw for 152 yards and a touchdown behind a Scarlet Knights defense that forced four turnovers, as No. 20 Rutgers defeated the Syracuse Orange, 23-15, to keep their undefeated season alive.
Khaseem Greene was a monster defensively, registering 14 total tackles, 1 1/2 sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception for Rutgers (6-0, 3-0 Big East), which is off to its best start since 2006 and won its first six games for just the third time since 1976.
Brandon Coleman paced all receivers with 104 yards on six grabs, while Tyler Kroft caught Nova's touchdown pass for the Scarlet Knights. Jawan Jamison was held under 100 yards for the first time this season, but still registered 64 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries.
Ryan Nassib threw for 356 yards and a touchdown on 25-of-42 efficiency, but threw two interceptions and lost a fumble in the second half for the Orange (2-4, 1-1), who lost to the Scarlet Knights for the sixth time in their last eight meetings.
Marcus Sales hauled in four passes for 100 yards and Christopher Clark caught a 40-yard touchdown pass late in the defeat.
Despite a turnover-plauged second half, Syracuse had a chance to tie the game after getting the ball back with just under three minutes to play, but Nassib was picked off by Brandon Jones, sealing the victory for Rutgers.
"I thought our defense did a nice job during the whole course of the game, despite being put in some very difficult positions," Syracuse coach Doug Marrone admitted. "Rutgers made the plays when they had to make plays."
The Orange tied the game at seven just before halftime and were moving the ball well on their first possession of the second half.
After advancing to midfield, Nassib connected with Jarrod West for an 18-yard completion, but on 3rd-and-12 from the Rutgers' 20-yard line, the Orange chose to run the football to set up 32-yard field goal for Ross Krautman. But his kick was blocked by Jamal Merrell and recovered by Duron Harmon, who took it 75-yards for the score to give Rutgers a 14-7 advantage.
The Syracuse offense stayed resilient and once again advanced the ball to the 50-yard line, but Nassib was sacked by Greene, who forced the ball out and Rutgers' Ka'Lial Glaud recovered. Nick Borgese added a field goal from 25 yards out off the turnover to give Rutgers a 10-point lead.
"The game changed significantly in the second half when he blocked the field goal for the touchdown and then kicked a field goal," Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said. "Now you're up 10 in the second half and all of a sudden it's a completely different game that you're in at that point."
After forcing a Rutgers three-and-out on its following possession, Steve Rene was back to receive the punt for Syracuse, but he fumbled on the return and Greene pounced on it for Rutgers to set them up on the Syracuse's 14-yard line early in the fouth quarter.
Three plays later, Nova threw a pass near the end zone to Tyler Kroft, who broke a tackle to cross the goal for a 12-yard score. Borgese missed the extra point, however, keeping Rutgers ahead 23-7.
Greene continuted to haunt Syracuse on the following drive. Nassib completed passes to West and Lemon for 15 and 17 yards, respectively, to put Syracuse on the opponent's 33-yard line. However, Greene jumped infront of Nassib's pass three plays later and returned it 25 yards to the Orange's 49-yard line.
Rutgers did nothing with the good field position and punted away, but once again got a big stop from the defense.
After allowing three completions to Sales of 33, 17 and 27 yards consecutively, the Orange set themselves up inside the Scarlet Knights' 10- yard line. Even after receiving a new set of downs after a pass interference call on Kevin Snyder, Syracuse was unable to punch it in as Nassib's pass on fourth down fell incomplete.
Syracuse made it 23-15 on its following possession off a 40-yard completion to Clark with 4:19 to go in the game, but Nassib was picked off on the first play of the Orange's next touch.
The Scarlet Knights struck first on a 1-yard rush by Jamison, capping a 10- play, 93-yard scoring drive that was highlighted by two long catches by Coleman.
From their own 7-yard line, Nova launched a deep pass down the sideline to Coleman, who hauled it in with one hand for a 27-yard gain. After Nova scrambled on 3rd-and-5 for a first down into Syracuse territory, he fired again down the field to the sophomore receiver for a 43-yard completion down to the 1-yard line. Two plays later, Jamison punched it in for the score to give Rutgers a 7-0 lead.
On its third possession of the game, Syracuse started inside Rutgers' territory, but came away with nothing.
Punting from near its own endzone, Rutgers' Greene was flagged for a late hit on the return, placing Syracuse on the Scarlet Knights' 30-yard line. But Greene redeemed himself on the first play of the second quarter, sacking Nassib and stripping him of the ball. Syracuse recovered, but lost 11 yards on the play, and after running on third and long, Krautman attempted a 50- yard field goal for the Orange, but it sailed wide left.
However, after making stops on Rutgers' next two offensive possessions, the Orange tied the game just before halftime on a 12-play, 80-yard scoring drive.
Nassib began the march with a 21-yard pass to David Stevens and then found Alec Lemon for 13 yards later on 3rd-and-4 to cross midfield. Stevens hauled in another pass, this one for nine yards, before six straight running plays put the Orange in the end zone. Adonis Ameen-Moore took a handoff from three yards outside the goal and broke through the line for a touchdown with 1:32 to play until the half.
Saturday marks the final time that the two school will face each other as part of the Big East. Syracuse leads the all-time series 30-12-1 but will join the ACC in 2013 ... Rutgers is 3-0 in the conference for only the second time since Big East play began in 1991 ... With the victory, the Scarlet Knights are bowl eligible for the seventh time in the past eight seasons ... Nassib became the first Syracuse quarterback to throw for over 300 yards four times in a season.