One could make an argument for the 2012 victory over Cincinnati as the biggest win for Kyle Flood’s head coaching career, but beating Washington State is right there at the top. The win is a lot more important than a 1-0 record (though Flood must love being 1-0). Here is why.
1. Momentum -- Rutgers will not limp into Sept. 13. This was a victory Rutgers had to get, and will be huge in trying to get bowl eligible this year. The brutal midway point of the schedule makes early games that much more important to win. Flood is a momentum coach, with winning streaks of seven and four games in 2012 and 2013. Is this the first step toward another winning streak? The Scarlet Knights are obvious favorites against Howard, and two early wins helps with confidence against tough battles with Penn State and Navy. Flood hired a new agent in the offseason to begin negotiating a contract extension. Early wins help in building up steam for everything from recruiting to attendance to contract negotiations.
2. Here to Show the World -- The Scarlet Knights are not going to be handed any respect as the new guys in the Big Ten. They will have to take it. It was a long offseason for Rutgers athletics, and people finally have something positive about which to talk. Rutgers has done nothing but show off its positive attributes dating back to Big Ten media day, and that continued on the field against the PAC-12 in front of a national audience. Rutgers prides itself on special teams, which came through big. Actions speak louder than words. It is one thing for Flood to promote his team in interviews. Doing it with a road victory means a lot more. This was the first step in earning a better national reputation. The FOX broadcasters can talk all of the trash they want about Gary Nova, but the quarterback gets the last laugh with two touchdowns and a victory. Rutgers had one of the tougher openers in the Big Ten Eastern Division, and is undefeated alongside the other six teams after one week.
3. Easy Lessons -- Any coach will tell you they would rather learn from a win than a loss, and Rutgers has plenty to break down after escaping CenturyLink with a comeback victory. Rutgers is not going to beat Penn State without making changes and improvements. It is time to study the film, highlight what worked and change what did not. Rutgers will have to evaluate its secondary after giving up a school record in passing yards to Connor Halliday. The number 532 is easier to stomach when put next to 41-38. Rutgers also found success without having to throw too many young guys into the fire. Freshmen Dre Boggs, Josh Hicks and Robert Martin have more learning to do before they play, and were not thrown into the mix too early in a potentially overwhelming road environment. Work them in against Howard, and find the right place to use them for Penn State.
4. Talent Evaluation -- Multiple “Kyle Flood guys” broke out for the first time last night. There are now more Flood signings than Greg Schiano signings, and many of them took the next step against Washington State. Defensive end Kemoko Turay is the most obvious sign of development, but there were others. Sophomore receiver John Tsimis scored his first career touchdown, and continues to earn a role on the offense. Flood gave offensive lineman J.J. Denman 15 snaps as a reward for a strong training camp. Sophomore receiver Janarion Grant took a step forward by showing he can be trusted on the line of scrimmage. Sure, there have been under-the-radar signings that did not work out for Flood. But others showed off their potential Thursday night. Flood has his best coaching staff so far, and that staff deserves credit for developing guys like Turay, Denman and Grant. The 2015 class is full of those types of guys, so consider WSU a good sign.
5. Ticket Sales -- Never underestimate the power of an exciting television victory. Some Rutgers games are natural sellouts this year, but not all of them. Look for the average fan or alum to take a bigger look at buying tickets for Howard, Tulane and Indiana with the strong start to 2014. Rutgers only broke 50,000 twice in 2013 after losing the opener to Fresno State. Fans always want to spend more money on a winner, and recruits will be more interested in checking out the 1-0 Scarlet Knights.