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Remembering Rutgers’ Halloween Thriller against Virginia Tech



Photo credit Rutgers Athletics

On October 31, 1992, the 15 year old version of myself went to the Rutgers homecoming game against Virginia Tech with my father and childhood friend. It was the undercard to the main event for any teenager on a day such as Halloween, possibly the last I was of age to trick or treat. As it turned out, I remember a good amount of my experience at the game. I have no idea what my costume was or what my candy haul looked like.

The noon matchup between Big East foes was easily one of the wildest games and finishes in Rutgers football history. The two programs will meet once again this Saturday, September 16 at 3:30 p.m. at SHI Stadium. It will air live on the Big Ten Network.

I do remember having a hard decision midway third quarter with Rutgers trailing the Hokies 42-23. The enticement of leaving to get a jump start on the anticipated fun night ahead was a dilemma. Ultimately, we decided to ride the game out with the hope that RU would make a comeback.

We sure did make the right decision. What happened next was better than any sugar high achieved on Halloween.

Behind the dynamic duo of Miami transfer quarterback Bryan Fortay and wide receiver Chris Brantley, the Scarlet Knights outscored VT 27-7 for a stunning 50-49 victory.

Rutgers trailed 42-30 at the start of the fourth quarter. They got the ball back trailing 49-44 with 1:32 left in the game. Starting from the RU 22 yard line, Fortay completed arguably the two most clutch passes of his career.

With the clock running under 20 seconds and Rutgers still in its own territory, hope was fading to black. However, Fortay completed a hail mary 46 yard pass to Mario Henry, who jumped up in traffic to grab it. Just seven seconds remained with RU on the Hokies 15 yard line. Just as the clock expired, Fortay floated a perfect pass in the back right corner of the end zone where Brantley dove to secure the game winning touchdown.

Bedlam, pure bedlam, ensued.

This was the last season of old Rutgers Stadium. My friend and I ended up watching a good amount of the game in the greenery sections located in the corners of the stadium. Don’t tell security.

It made for an iconic memory as we recklessly charged down the whatever green turned brown shrubs were planted and jumped off the ledge of the all onto the track surrounding the field.

We stormed the grass field to join the raucous celebration at midfield. I can close my eyes and transport back to the moment.

Sports are truly magical.

Fortay threw for 338 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions. Brantley caught four touchdowns, including one from Ray Lucas, along with 124 yards receiving. Running back Craig Mitter ran for 148 yards on 8.7 yards per carry and 2 touchdowns. Bruce Presley had 168 all-purpose yards with 72 yards rushing on 9.0 yards per carry while grabbing two catches for 23 yards along with 73 yards on 3 kickoff returns. Jim Guarantano had 93 receiving yards on 7 catches while Rutgers great Marco Battaglia had 38 yards and 2 catches.

There were plenty of other  players on that team that I remember. Jay Bellamy. The Jackson brothers. Bill Bailey. Tim Pernetti. The list could go on.

Both teams combined for 99 points, 1,164 yards of total offense, 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. There were 167 plays from scrimmage and 54 first downs. Rutgers had 6 TURNOVERS and WON The game ended in REGULATION. Box score here for proof.

Absolutely bonkers.

Rutgers went on to have a heartbreaking loss to Cincinnati the next week (sound familiar?) before beating West Virginia (YES!) and Temple. Even with a 7-4 record, RU missed out on a bowl game. It was my favorite Rutgers team growing up and that hurt. As disappointing as that was, the experience of being at Halloween Classic turned out to be more memorable and dramatic than any postseason game would have been.

If you want to see footage of one of the most fun and wonderful days in Rutgers football history, check out the below.

You can watch the finish here:

You can watch the complete game here:


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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. pj43

    September 14, 2023 at 2:31 pm

    Aaron – my questions: What players were at the bottom of the pile and did they survive without serious injury or loss of life?

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