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
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
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.