Written by By Justine Haley
If you’re a football fan and live or work in New Jersey, you’ve likely heard someone exclaim, “Oh heck yes, YES” around the Super Bowl or in the aftermath of the game itself.
People on both sides of the ball agree on the Jersey go-to cheer: New Jersey (or “Jersey” in the state of New Jersey in other words) deserves their own NFL team to compete for the top two spots in the local league.
While that franchise is unlikely to materialize any time soon — at least not until 2020 — fans got an extra 24 hours to feel good about their team’s influence on the NFL (No. 4 in the league last season with the Jets).
New Jersey’s football squad had a big Sunday, though.
Its national champions, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, took on the Alabama Crimson Tide on one of the most important Saturday days of the year — the Senior Bowl.
This game pits two of the country’s top college football players together, simulating their heads-to-heads for NFL scouts, coaches and fans.
The game was the culmination of an impressive season for Rutgers, which had not won a game on a Saturday since 1988.
The Scarlet Knights marched to their first-ever Big Ten championship and then went on to defeat both Notre Dame and Auburn in this year’s Outback Bowl, remaining undefeated to earn this season’s Senior Bowl berth.
“What a great way to end this special season,” head coach Chris Ash told ESPN on the field before the game.
“No one expected anything out of us but our kids believed in themselves,” he said. “Everyone doubted us because we weren’t really a big-time program and they doubted our players. They told us we were going to win one game and we’re going to take that and run with it, and to this day we’re still fighting for that.”
New Jersey went as heavy as it did possible to defeat one of college football’s largest and most well-known programs with the game played in Mobile, Alabama.
“The guys are so excited they’re playing the Alabama Crimson Tide in the national championship game. We went 2-10 in the year before and to win 10 games the next year is just an unbelievable accomplishment,” senior linebacker Kiy Hester told ESPN.
“The Rutgers football legacy is something that our fans should look forward to and they have a team that understands that, too.”
The result? A half of football that wasn’t boring at all, including a huge touchdown from Scarlet Knight quarterback Giovanni Rescigno in the fourth quarter to give Rutgers a 31-10 victory over the defending national champs.