Rutgers Stadium was a stadium in Piscataway Township, New Jersey. It hosted the Rutgers University Scarlet Knights football team until the school moved to the current Rutgers Stadium in 1994. The stadium held 31,219 people at its peak and was opened in 1938. It also hosted the NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championship on five different occasions.
The Dedication Game
First-half play, before a crowd of 22,500, had been as masterful as the words. But, in the halftime dressing room, the Scarlet squad, at an 18-13 deficit, wondered if the 69-year-old jinx would continue to hold. One writer's account of the game imagined that "Over them hung the most grotesque hoodoo in the history of football."
Princeton had opened the scoring after blocking a punt and recovering the ball at the Rutgers seven-yard line. Jack Daniel scored the game's first TD two plays later, but the extra point was partially blocked and the score read 6-0. Hope was revived for Rutgers when Art Gottlieb returned the ensuing kickoff to the Princeton 40 and then completed a pass to Parker Staples at the Tiger eight-yard line. Bill Tranavitch then tied the game with an off-tackle one-yard run. Len Cooke's placement gave the Scarlet the first-period lead. Princeton scored twice in the second period, on a recovered fumble in the end zone by Dick Purnell and on a short plunge by Stan Pearson following his own 40-yard pass completion. Both extra point tries were missed.
Down 18-7, Rutgers stormed hack as Herm Greif, who had worked on the WPA crew three years before, replaced Gottlieb and quickly completed a pass to Joe Varju who was tackled at the Princeton one-yard line with just 59 seconds remaining in the half. After three passes, Greif ran for the score to bring the Scarlet to within five points at halftime.
The day deserved a storybook ending and that was to follow. Princeton penetrated to the Rutgers 15-yard line in the third period but the drive was stopped by the Scarlet. The game's golden moment came with five minutes remaining. Rutgers center Doug Hotchkiss recovered a Princeton fumble at the Tiger 12. But, in two plays, Rutgers had lost 10 yards. Gottlieb and Tranavitch combined on a nine-yard pass completion and, on fourth down, Gottlieb found Mullen at the goal line for the go-ahead score. The extra point by Walt Bruyere was good, Rutgers had taken a 20-18 lead.
The ensuing Princeton possession saw the Tigers take to the air, but Mullen shut down the drive at the Rutgers 30 with an interception. That left time for only a last line plunge and the game was over, the hex was gone. Rutgers had defeated Princeton for the first time in 69 years.
Harman, who was named among the nation's top coaches for the year by a coaches' poll, summed up the victory by telling his team that it "was the supreme moment of my life."
Associated Press writer George Bowen struggled to write an appropriate beginning for his newspaper and settled on "Ring the bells of Old Queens College, Paint the town as ne'er before," an obvious steal from 'Loyal Sons', the favorite postgame song. He agreed that the best composed by Dan Parker of the New York Mirror - "The Raritan flowed upstream yesterday for the first time in 69 years."
Though anticlimactic, Rutgers concluded its season by defeating Lafayette in the Stadium by a 6-0 score for a 7-1 record for the season, the best to date and the first of 13 undefeated seasons in the stadium.
The 1938 Dedication game was certainly of storybook stature, but there have been many more that rival that first contest.
None more so, perhaps, than that on another Princeton visit. Never has there been such preparation for a game in Rutgers Stadium that there was for the Centennial contest in 1969. All the elements of great sports drama were there - proclamations were issued; a special commemorative stamp was issued; a re-enactment of the first game drew 10,000 fans; pennants from some 350 football-playing colleges waved above the stands; an unscheduled protest march by Afro- Americans; introductions of celebrities, including the oldest living Rutgers football captain, William VB Van Dyck and Master of Ceremonies, Ozzie Nelson; the coin toss, or rather the three coin tosses, first with a 1869 silver dollar and then with a pair of Centennial medallions.
The game would be the first Rutgers home football contest ever televised as Chris Schenkel and Bud Wilkinson manned the ABC booth.
The Centennial Game
A crowd of 31,000 was on hand for the game, the largest in Scarlet history to that point, and later eclipsed only by the 31,219 for the Rutgers-Temple game in 1988, a Homecoming affair.
Princeton provided the game's opening salvo as Robinson Bordley returned the kickoff 63 yards to the Scarlet 24-yard line. Rutgers successfully repulsed the attack, Both teams missed field goal tries, but, after an interference call at midfield, Rutgers took a 7-0 lead on Rich Policastro's rollout and Chris Stewart's PAT near the end of the first period. The Scarlet upped the lead to 21-0 by halftime on a Bruce Van Ness TD and Bob Stonebraker's reception from Policastro.
Rutgers scored again on a 27-yard Mike Yancheff-to-Joe Barone pass, and, because the goal posts had already been dismantled, the Scarlet scored on a two-point conversion by Yanceff. The 29 points were the highest ever recorded by a Rutgers team against Princeton. The victory was Rutgers 10th in the 60-game series. The teams would go into their second centuries, once again having made football history.