PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Rutgers football (1-4, 1-4) was edged in a triple overtime thriller with Michigan (2-3, 2-3), 48-42, on Saturday night at SHI Stadium, presented by RWJBarnabas Health.
Quarterback Noah Vedral threw for a career-high 381 passing yards, eighth-most in a game in prgoram history, with three touchdown passes, including a 61-yard toss to wide receiver Bo Melton. Quarterback Johnny Langan added two rushing scores against the Wolverines, while wide receivers Aron Cruickshank and tight end Jovani Haskins each added receiving scores. It marked the fifth consecutive outing with 20 or more points scored in Big Ten play, matching the Scarlet Knights' output from the previous four seasons combined.
Linebacker Olakunle Fatukasi led the defense with a career-high 17 tackles and two sacks. With his 17 stops, Fatukasi became the first player since Aaron Brady in 1998 to produce 10 or more tackles in five consecutive games. Safety Brendon White also establish a new personal best with 15 tackles, adding a forced fumble.
Rutgers forced a turnover on its first defensive possession, as safety Christian Izien scooped up a forced fumble White to keep the Wolverines out of the red zone. Then on its next defensive series, the Scarlet Knights stuffed Michigan on a fourth-and-one attempt when linebacker Fatukasi and defensive tackle Julius Turner stopped quarterback Joe Milton short of the line of gain.
On the next play, Vedral found wide receiver Cruickshank for a 43-yard reception, setting Rutgers up within Wolverine territory. Running back Aaron Young then took a run 10 yards to give the Scarlet Knights first-and-goal, followed by a three-yard rush from Langan for the first score of the night. Rutgers led, 7-0, with 4:33 left in the quarter.
Rutgers held strong to begin the second quarter, as Michigan missed a 49-yard field goal attempt to remain off the board with 11:58 to go before the half.
The Scarlet Knights turned around a nine-play, 69-yard scoring drive on the following possession. Wide receiver Shameen Jones took an end-around 33 yards to the Wolverine three-yard line. RU then turned to Langan, who produced his second rushing touchdown from one yard out to make it 14-0 Rutgers with 8:45 to go in the quarter.
The defense continued to make big plays down the stretch before the break, as Fatukasi registered his second sack of the night to force a Michigan punt and give RU the ball back with 7:37 to go. Rutgers drove 41 yards in 3:14 to set up kicker Valentino Ambrosio for a 38-yard field goal attempt to give the Scarlet Knights a 17-0 lead.
The Wolverines would add a touchdown in the final four minutes as Rutgers took a 17-7 lead into the locker room.
Michigan returned the opening kickoff of the second half for a score, but Rutgers did not falter. Vedral connected with Melton three plays into RU's opening drive of the quarter for a 61-yard touchdown, extending the Scarlet Knights' lead to 24-14 with 13:48 left in the third.
The back-and-forth quarter continued, as Michigan answered with a touchdown on the next possession. Rutgers countered with Ambrosio's second field goal – this one from 42 yards out – to make it 27-21 at the six-minute mark. The Scarlet Knights would hold on to that margin at the end of the quarter.
Michigan took its first lead of the night when quarterback Cade McNamara found Mike Sainristil for a six-yard score to put UM up, 28-27, with 13:38 left in regulation.
The Wolverines would tack on another at the 5:07 mark, as Cornelius Johnson grabbed a nine-yard pass from Cade McNamara to extend their newfound lead to 35-27.
Rutgers never let up, tying the game, 35-35, with a 16-play, 75-yard drive over 4:40. Vedral connected with Cruikshank for an 11-yard grab on a fourth down, the first of Cruikshank's career, with 27 seconds left. The Scarlet Knights successfully completed the two-point conversion with a rush by Vedral, sending the game into overtime.
Michigan began the first overtime period with possession, faltering on a 35-yard field goal attempt. Rutgers, however, would miss a 45-yard field goal attempt of its own, leaving the score knotted at 35-35.
The Scarlet Knights wasted no time in the second overtime, as Haskins reeled in a 25-yard touchdown from Vedral to move in front 42-35. The Wolverines countered with a two-yard rush by Cade McNamara to tie the score, 42-42, and force a third overtime.
Michigan opened the third overtime with a touchdown - failing on a two-point conversion attempt - to set the margin at 48-42. However, in the end UM held on to escape with the win.
Rutgers travels to Purdue on Nov. 28 for its first trip to Ross-Ade Stadium. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. on FS1.