Fans Can Provide X-Factor in Fight for First

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Rutgers remains heavily in the hunt for its first Big East Championship and Saturday's noon game against Cincinnati can be a defining moment. Against the no-huddle, hurry-up offense, Rutgers needs a strong fan turnout for what could be an epic day in Piscataway.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — A hostile environment is the no-huddle offense's worst nightmare. Rutgers made the position changes necessary in the offseason to combat Cincinnati's no-huddle, spread attack, but that does not mean the Scarlet Knights do not feel the need for a strong home crowd.

The Cincinnati offense relies on verbal queues from the line of scrimmage in its no huddle, but has to revert to hand signals if a road environment is too loud for communication. With a quarterback about to make his first start in Munchie Legaux, an energized crowd gives Rutgers a major advantage.

An apathetic one does not.

"I hope the crowd comes ready because I know this team is going to be ready to go," said junior Scott Vallone. "I hope we have a good showing and the faithful come out because we need them. We need that 12th man. We need those crazy fans out there screaming and getting us hyped on third down, cheering when we score a touchdown and things like that. We need the fans."

What kind of advantage could Rutgers have with a strong showing?

Cincinnati averages 16 fewer points per game on the road this season.

"If they're not used to using hand signals and we've got the crowd going nuts on third down, or even first and second down, they might have to change something they do, get them out of their comfort zone," Vallone said. "It's all about them playing on the road, trying to get them out of the comfort zone and trying to use home field advantage for us."

Add in the Big East implications of the game and Saturday could be a special experience for the fans that pack High Point Solutions Stadium.

Simply put, a win ties Rutgers for first place in the Big East with two weeks left in the season. The team needs help to win tiebreakers, but a loss crushes hopes at a BCS berth.

"We need it to be that loud every play," said head coach Greg Schiano. "We need them to use hand signals every play. It's just an added dimension, and that's part of our home field advantage.

"I'm confident that our students, I know it's an early game ... Once a year we can set those alarms and get on up. I know for this and for biology class, I guess, those are the two big reasons. We need to get our student section packed and made it loud. That noise when it comes out of the south end zone is deafening, and we need it."

On top of the home-field advantage and chance to see a crucial game, fans also have the chance to say goodbye to the senior class for the final game of the year.

From Joe Martinek to Justin Francis to David Rowe, it will be the last time the senior class plays in Piscataway.

"This will be my last home game and I definitely had fun in my four years and hopefully I can end it right," Rowe said. "...We're hoping the fans will show up, and if they do, it will be our advantage."

The star of the senior class, Eric LeGrand, will also be honored before kickoff.

"Everybody deserves to go off their home field as a winner and that's just one of the main focuses when I think about it," said junior linebacker Khaseem Greene. "Send the seniors off right. They've worked hard for this. They deserve it. ... It's always exciting when Eric's here, when Eric's around. When he leads us out of the tunnel or when he's on the sideline or when they put his face on the big screen and show him in the booth, it's always good to see him around."


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