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Pittsburgh - Rutgers officially isn't swapping the Big East for the Big Ten for another two years.
The 21st-ranked Scarlet Knights sure looked ready to check out early, though, in a lifeless 27-6 loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday.
Though Rutgers (9-2, 5-1 Big East) still managed to clinch a share of its first conference title after No. 19 Louisville was stunned at home by UConn, the Scarlet Knights head into a showdown with the Cardinals next Thursday reeling.
"It (stinks) to lose, but we still have something to play for," Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova said.
Even if it was the Panthers (5-6, 2-4) who performed like the team with everything on the line.
Pitt's defense swarmed the Scarlet Knights all afternoon. Nova completed just 18 of 37 passes for 157 yards with a touchdown and an interception and left briefly in first half after getting slammed to the ground on his right (throwing) shoulder.
"Their defensive linemen are really good," Nova said. "They put a lot of pressure on me, and we really didn't execute well enough in protection on their pass rush to make a difference."
The Scarlet Knights came in the Big East's biggest surprise, rising to the cusp of the school's first Bowl Championship Series berth despite losing program architect Greg Schiano to the NFL last winter.
First-year coach Kyle Flood stressed his team would not be distracted by an eventful week in which the program announced it was heading to the Big Ten in 2014, though the Scarlet Knights appeared to have their minds on other things while falling into an early 21-0 deficit.
"I didn't hear any of the talk about anything (other than the game)," Flood said. "To me, we had a focused football team coming in here, but we just didn't execute on the football field."
There were no such issues for the Panthers, who continued their maddening inconsistency while keeping their hopes for a fifth straight bowl appearance alive.
Tino Sunseri passed for 227 yards and two touchdowns in his last home game and fellow senior Ray Graham ran for 113 yards and a score as the Panthers beat a ranked opponent for the second time this season thanks to some words of inspiration from the 18 players taking their final bow at Heinz Field.
"We just told (the underclassmen) to leave it out on the field," said Graham, who moved into third on the school's all-time rushing list. "If you're not ready to play, stay inside this locker room. That's one of those attitudes that we have."
It shouldn't be an issue if Pitt can take the intensity it showed during an emotional Senior Day to South Florida next week.
Pitt outgained Rutgers 365-207, won the field position battle and controlled both sides of the line of scrimmage after finding its footing in the second quarter.
"We put it together today," wide receiver Mike Shanahan said. "I don't think we've played 60 minutes like that all season."