Schiano Making a Reputation
Fast forward to year number 3 in Operation Revive Rutgers Football. The program is just about where most fans had hoped we'd be. We're competitive, we're feisty, and we do not back down. We've got several playmakers that have surfaced during different times of the season. However, one glaring weakness remains...that signature Schiano win has still eluded the program.
There are several reasons, but the man himself headlines the top of the list. Don't get me wrong here - we are clearly in the current situation due only to Schiano. His tireless recruiting effort has raised the athletic level of this program several notches. Players are indeed faster and stronger. They can and do make plays. He hasn't preached to the choir without reason because many have bought into his plan, and rightfully so. But with all the enthusiasm and energy, all the positive reinforcement, something is still missing.
"Something's missing all right."
"This is a young team." Where have we heard that before? If you've been to the Coach's Huddle, it sounds like a broken record already.
"This is a young team." Where have we heard that before? Well, if you've read the papers anytime this football season, then you've no doubt encountered similarly made comments from our Head Coach.
"This is a young team." Hmmm...this is getting rather redundant...interviews, pre-game shows, post-game shows, television shows - you name it, you've heard Schiano preach it.
Fast forward to November 15th, 2003. The site is Rutgers Stadium where the Scarlet Knights play host to Boston College. Fast forward to the 2nd quarter, with Rutgers leading 12-0, seemingly on their way to a win many deemed not only possible, but probable.
Rutgers received the ball a total of 4 times in the second quarter. RU did manage to score 10 points; however, 7 points came on Nate Jones' timely kickoff return. The other 3 drives, the Rutgers offense managed a total of 3, 11 (capped by a Ryan Sands FG), and 3 plays, for a grande total of 85 yards. Having a somewhat comfortable lead at the half was the important result. How Schiano played with that lead will be a lesson he won't soon forget. Playing to win and playing not to lose is something he needs to be consciously aware of.
Rutgers received the ball a total of 4 times in the 3rd quarter. There were no special teams miracles this go-around. Save for an 8-play 27 yard drive (resulting in a missed FG), Rutgers had possessions of 3, 3, and 5 plays, the last of which culminated in a Ryan Sands FG.
The 4th quarter was none too kinder. Three more possessions resulting in 3 plays, 10 plays (and a missed FG), and 7 plays (orchestrated by Ted Trump).
Rutgers was an abysmal 1-9 on 3rd down conversions in the second half. Could this have resulted in the number of limited plays the Scarlet Knight offense put together on almost every drive? You bet! Countless times Ryan Hart found his offense in 3rd and long situations where the Eagle defense was prepared for the pass. The second half featured no imagination whatsoever. However, it did feature a healthy dose of Brian Leonard. 19 times Rutgers rushed on 1st down - that's 19 times. What is even more remarkable was that 9 of the 19 times the ball carrier gained 2 or less yards. Why continue to go to the well, when it is clearly all dried up? As a result Rutgers never, not once in the entire game, found themselves in 3rd and short situations. The complete disaster on 1st down led to 3rd and long - 1 rush and 11 pass attempts. When the offense becomes that predictable, it isn't overly difficult to stop it. But the question begs: why was the offense so predictable?
Schiano has to realize he has other playmakers on this team besides number 23. Brian Leonard poses the greatest threat when he isn't the number 1 target. Tonight he was and B.C. keyed on him every opportunity they had. And give credit to Leonard because he made the best of a horrible situation.
The horses are here. There is no doubt about the quality of talent on this team and the level of depth it has acquired. What remains to be done is for Schiano to learn to use the tools he was so successful in bringing here. What Schiano needs to do is allow himself to see success some way other than the one he envisions; what he needs to do is learn to treat flexibility as something other than the anathema he regards it as. What he needs to do is learn to coach to win. He has time and he has support. But the Big East needs this Rutgers team now.
This is a young coach. Hmmm...where have we heard that before?