More important, the win would have given Rutgers its first BCS bowl bid. That bid will undoubtedly go to Louisville (10-2, 5-2).
"I think everybody in the stadium, including us, believed we were going to win, and that is why it hurt so much because we didn't win," Ryan said in the quiet Rutgers locker room afterward. "I am sure everything happens for a reason, and we have to learn from it."
So now Rutgers will learn its bowl destination Sunday.
"When I came here, we had a vision of going to BCS games and winning Big East championships, and I don't think this season was a failure," Ryan said. "The team has worked too hard and put too much into it for these seniors to be considered a failure."
That Rutgers is disappointed at a nine-win season and a share of the Big East title shows how far this program has come. If the Scarlet Knights win their bowl game, they would become the third 10-win team in the 143-year history of the program.
As for Ryan, nothing he has done at this level should surprise anybody who saw him compete at Eastern.
Entering the Louisville game, the 6-foot, 190-pounder was the only player in the nation with at least 75 tackles, four interceptions, and 15 passes defended. He added 10 more tackles Thursday.
There is the feeling that Ryan's football career will continue beyond college.
Ryan combines great athletic ability with toughness and intelligence to be an accomplished cover corner. For now, he is focused on ending this season with a win, even though some games will be difficult to erase from the memory bank.
"This might stick with us the rest of our lives, but the fact that we have another game may be the only chance we can move on somewhat," Ryan said. "I think eventually, we will do a good job of bouncing back."
With Ryan leading the way, that's a very good possibility.
Contact Marc Narducci at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter @sjnard.