It was Nov. 9, 2006, when Rutgers kicker Jeremy Ito produced the most iconic moment in the program’s 143 years of playing college football — a 28-yard field with 13 seconds left to give Rutgers an improbable 28-25 upset of No. 3 Louisville.
Ito turned around, paused and pointed straight at the suspended camera hanging over the field. The moment was played repeatedly on “SportsCenter” and across the nation.
“It definitely was not preplanned. After I saw the ball going through, I turned to the student section, put my arms up in the air, and out of the corner of my eye I saw the camera,” Ito said this week, looking back on the win. “I looked up and pointed to it. I can’t tell you why; there was just so much emotion with that moment.”
Tonight, six years after that Thursday-night game propelled Rutgers onto the national stage, the Scarlet Knights will again play the Cardinals. But this one means much more.
A win would give Rutgers its first outright Big East title in history. It would also earn them a trip to their first ever BCS?bowl just weeks after announcing an impending move to the Big Ten.
Ito’s Rutgers team made history, winning a bowl game and finishing a season ranked — both feats accomplished for the first time in program history. But after upsetting Louisville, they lost two of their next three games and settled on playing in the Texas Bowl.
Ito will be at tonight’s game with his girlfriend, as he is at nearly every home game. He still loves to attend games and is often recognized by fans who thank him for that kick.
What to watch for …
1. Bridgewater’s health — Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has a wrist and an ankle injury that could limit his ability under center and affect his overall mobility. Expect Rutgers to try to knock him around early, like UConn’s defense did last week when they upset the Cardinals.
2. Jawan that they want — Rutgers redshirt sophomore running back Jawan Jamison topped 1,000 yards last Saturday in Pittsburgh, and he accounts for 35 percent of Rutgers’ offense. He is now back from an ankle injury that limited him to just 13 total carries over the past two week. Rutgers is 5-0 when he tops 100 yards this season.
3. Pandemonium in Piscataway — Rutgers has the chance to finish the job from 2006 — again on a Thursday night — and beat Louisville to take the Big East crown. The moment — and a BCS bowl — is theirs for the taking.
Follow Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.