Swezey: Thoughts on Rutgers Game

In 1973, a group of prominent Rutgers graduates formed a committee and recommended an upgrade to the school's basketball and football programs. This followed the recommendations of The Board of Trustees in 1971 that asked for the same thing; a few months earlier, a group of faculty, students and administrators petitioned the school president for stronger football and basketball.

The appeals were heard. Starting with a game against Penn State in 1977, the Scarlet Knights overhauled their football schedule. Gone were Princeton, Lehigh and Colgate. They were replaced by the Nittany Lions, Alabama, Pitt, Boston College, West Virginia, Arizona State and Tennessee.

Not surprisingly, Rutgers found the going kind of hard--it went 2-20-1 against those teams from 1977-1983.

What is happening this year with Rutgers, however, is the fruition of those requests from many years ago. The Scarlet Knights have beautiful facilities, a very good coach and have scaled down the schedule somewhat to be successful. (This should sound familiar to Navy fans.)

They are recruiting very good athletes and they seem to be hungry.

But Rutgers clearly isn't used to the success, the attention, etc. they are getting this year. Has it affected them during the bye week? There are only so many times you can tell a 19- or 20-year old kid they're special before they start believing it. The Rutgers players I talked to this week were adamant the success hasn't gone to their heads; but it would certainly help Navy if it has.

This game reminds me a little bit of U-Conn. The Huskies had recent success stopping Navy's option. They used the same game plan the second time around, and they got crushed.

What will Rutgers Coach Greg Schiano do? He held Navy in check last year by playing assignment football, according to Meek's quote in the Balt Sun. But there are ways to exploit teams who are so focused on their assignments.

Last year clearly was not the first time a well-coached, athletic defense played assignment football and held Paul Johnson's option offense in check. He's been around a while; my best guess is he's had a gameplan for this game since he watched the film last year.

Navy's bend-but-don't-break defense, meantime, faces a team that has two excellent running backs--#23, Leonard (146 yards rushing) and #27, Rice (818 yards rushing). My guess is this will be Leonard's type of game--run straight at Navy's defense and try to tire them out. Their QB's numbers indicate he doesn't throw downfield a ton; their longest completion this year is 45 yards, and they haven't exactly played a difficult schedule to date.

It will be a very difficult game. Rutgers's toughest games are still ahead--Pitt, West Virginia, Louisville. So I doubt they spent the bye week and game week on Navy; likely there was some planning for the future games in there as well. One thing that the Jersey papers reported is that the Rutgers defense has worked on stripping the ball; Navy beware.

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