Rutgers exits debate over title contenders

Published November 19, 2006

CINCINNATI - Nick Davila fought back tears while hugging his family and friends in the middle of a rare, raucous Cincinnati celebration.

The senior quarterback who had never started led the Bearcats to their biggest upset in school history Saturday night, a 30-11 victory over No. 7 Rutgers that ended the Scarlet Knights' perfect season and national title aspirations.

"I'm just caught up in the moment right now," said Davila, who scored on a 1-yard run and threw an 83-yard touchdown. "It's so unbelievable. This is the greatest scene in the world."

Only nine days earlier, Rutgers was engulfed in a similar scene. Red-clad fans poured onto the field in New Jersey after a 28-25 win over then-No. 3 Louisville put the Scarlet Knights in the middle of the national championship debate.

Davila and the Bearcats watched that celebration on TV, and dreamed of their own.

"I thought: 'That's going to be us,' " Davila said.

Rutgers players now know what it feels like to have to run away from one of those celebrations.

"It seems like it's happened to every team in the Big East," Rutgers fullback Brian Leonard said. "It happened to West Virginia, it happened to Louisville, and now it's happened to us. We know we won't make the national championship, but we can still win the Big East."

Rutgers came into the day as one of only four unbeaten teams left in Division 1-A. Playing as a Top 10 team for the first time in their 137-year history, the Scarlet Knights gave by far their worst performance of the season.

"It's so hard to be at your best each week, and we weren't at our best tonight," coach Greg Schiano said.

Davila's short pass to Brent Celek turned into the clincher. The beefy tight end slipped through two defenders and spun away from another on an 83-yard touchdown in the third quarter, putting the Bearcats up 27-3 with their longest play of the season.

All the Scarlet Knights could do was watch.

SYRACUSE 20, UCONN 14: After watching his Orange get whipped a week ago by South Florida, coach Greg Robinson wasn't certain what to expect in the final two games.

After an uncustomary scrimmage on Thursday in the Carrier Dome, he knew.

"I wanted to find out, and they didn't blink. They got it on," Robinson said. "I'm proud of them."

Curtis Brinkley scored two touchdowns, the host Syracuse defense shut down Connecticut's running game and the Orange beat the Huskies 20-14 to snap a 12-game Big East losing streak.