PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- At least Rutgers can look forward to the Big Ten.
Needing only a win at home to earn their first Big East title and BCS bowl bid, the Scarlet Knights lost to Louisville, 20-17, Thursday night at High Point Solution Stadium.
John Wallace booted a 29-yard field with 1:41 to go in the fourth quarter to put Louisville ahead for the second and final time.
The Scarlet Knights had taken a 14-3 lead before giving up two touchdowns in the span of 16 seconds. Said Rutgers coach Kyle Flood, "We have a football team that's hurting. They poured a lot of their lives into this season and they fought extremely hard today. Unfortunately, we didn't do it well enough."
After Wallace's field goal, Rutgers got the ball back and had a first down at its 48 but then had a miscommunication between quarterback Gary Nova and wide receiver Brandon Coleman, who had stopped on the route. Nova's long pass was intercepted at the 18 by Terell Floyd.
"That's my fault. I messed up there," Nova said.
And the Cardinals escaped with an improbable victory over a Rutgers team that looked to be cruising to an easy victory until the third quarter.
The Scarlet Knights led 14-3 in the quarter and appeared to extend their lead to 21-3 after scoring a touchdown on a fake field goal, but an illegal-man- downfield penalty negated the TD. Instead, Rutgers punted.
Late in the third quarter, the game changed dramatically when Louisville scored two touchdowns 16 seconds apart.
Sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater scrambled, then shoveled a pass to running back Jeremy Wright, who split two Rutgers defenders for a 14-yard TD with 49 seconds left in the third to make it 14-10.
Jeremy Deering of Rutgers fumbled the ensuing kickoff and it was recovered by Louisville. Bridgewater then lofted a pretty 20-yard fade pass to DeVante Parker in the corner of the end zone with 33 seconds left to put the Cardinals ahead 17-14 and stun the crowd.
"It's kind of a 21-point swing in a very short amount of time," Nova said, "and we weren't ever able to really swing the momentum back, and that's my job."
But Rutgers fought back in the fourth quarter, tying it with 7:48 left on a 38-yard field goal by Nick Borgese.
Rutgers (9-3, 5-2) lost its last two regular-season games to let an otherwise great season slip away. Louisville is 10-2, 5-2.
The Scarlet Knights opened the scoring when Nova hooked up with Coleman for an 85-yard touchdown pass at 9:13 of the first quarter.
Nova hit Mark Harrison for a 68-yard TD pass in the second quarter to help Rutgers build a 14-3 halftime lead.