A lot of Rutgers fans also hate the term. During the Terry Shea years the "Kool Aid Kids" spun every "on-field" disaster into a "moral victory". They attributed so many "moral victories" to Terry that it was positively immoral.
But yesterday's game was different. Yesterday's game was a game well needed for the program. It was generally well played by the team and generally well coached by the coaching staff. It helped to restore credibility to a "rebuilding effort" that for most of this season had appeared to be going in reverse.
Things didn't start out well. Ryan Hart's first pass on the first play of the game was intercepted. A few plays later it was 7-0 ,WVU. Only minutes after that WVU scored again and I was ready to turn off the TV and find something more profitable to do on an autumn afternoon.
The Rutgers woke up.
The next three and a half quarters was a war between what, once again, looked like an "improving Rutgers" program and a very talented and tough WVU squad.
Some of the things that went right.
The coaching staff was mixing it up. Some of it probably had to do with the fact that we got behind early. On the other hand the fact that we came out throwing was a good sign. More importantly, Schiano resumed the cloak of "innovator". In prior seasons Greg would do anything to win. He would run tackle eligible plays or other equally bizarre but effective on-field gambits. Schiano had read and re-read the rules book till he knew it inside and out. Time and time again, he beat referees in arguments about the legality of the strategems that he ran. It was something to watch.
Yesterday, he was back to being his old self. On one play, Jeremy Ito lined up to kick a 56 yard field goal but fooled the WVU defense with a pooch punt play that worked beautifully. On the key play of the game, Schiano lined up two place-kickers to kick the onside kick, leaving WVU to wonder who was going to kick it and which way it was going to go. More importantly it forced the Mountaineers to jump off sides which should have given Rutgers a second bite at the play.
It was pure brilliance.
The change in play calling didn't stop there. Rutgers went back to getting everyone back into the game. Hart hit eight different receivers, including two tight ends. He even got Justise Hairston out of the doghouse and back on to the field. Justise caught a pass out of the back field for a key gain in a clutch situation.
In short, RU not only put its talent back on the field, but they used it.
Rutgers came ready to play. I haven't seen this type of effort since the opening game against Michigan State.
Perhaps we'd do better if we only scheduled top 20 teams, but the hope here is that Rutgers is now ready to play every weekend regardless of opponent.
Daniels in the lion's den
I have been waiting for Marcus Daniels to have a break out game. After all he has all the tools. He has hands, size, speed and more strength than any wide out on the squad. I figured that it was only a matter of time before Marcus would strut is stuff. I didn't figure it would be against the top pass defense team in the league.
In retrospect it makes sense. Marcus is 6-2, 210 and strong. Who would be a better target than him when matched up with WVU's talented secondary. While the Mountaineers could generally keep up with all our wide outs in terms of speed, they had no one who could match up with Daniels' combination of speed, muscle and athleticism. Marcus had 6 catches for 84 yards, including a 22 yard touchdown.
Overall, it ended up being a great game to watch and a game that helped to restore some faith in the rebuilding effort at Rutgers. Now, if they only can gear up the team for the last ever football game between RU and Boston College. A win there would atone for an awful lot of sins.
The opposite side of the coin
While Greg Schiano deserves credit for the team's performance during the game, some of his statements afterward were another thing. He said to the Star Ledger:
"Contrary to some of the popular opinions right now in the great state of New Jersey, people, instead of trying to build the thing, are trying to tear it down."
Apparently, Schiano had whined to Bob Mulcahy during the week regarding the criticism of his stewardship of the program. Mulcahy went onto WRSU and blasted the fans for criticizing the team's piss poor performance against Pittsburgh last week.
Hey, Bob, it's not the fans' fault. They didn't recruit the players, call the plays or scout the opponents. It was the staff that did all that.
I just have two things to say about all this.
Greg, Harry Truman used to say, "the buck stops here." The taxpayers of this state are paying you a half a million bucks a year to turn around this program. When one more buck ends up stopping at your desk, be big enough to let it stop where it should.
If you want praise, beat Boston College next week. Do that and I guarantee you "instant hero" status. In fact, if you do that I'll guarantee you a free pass on your performance through the rest of this season ... maybe beyond.
In the Big East
Does any team get exposed as a fraud more often than Connecticut? The Huskies (the media anointed future kings of the Big East) got their butts handed to them yesterday by Syracuse, 42-30. The Orange led 42-23 until a garbage time TD made it look closer than it was. The 'Cuse sacked Dan Orlovsky five times and intercepted him twice.
Right now, what quality wins do the Huskies have? The only thing looking remotely like that is their victory over Pitt.
Dan Orlovsky did
indeed throw for an impressive 445 yards but he graduates after this season and
who else does this UConn team really have?
Anyway, UConn's play against Syracuse is important to note. Rutgers' young secondary is getting more and more experience every game. Often against top QBs. By the time the UConnn Game rolls around ... who knows?
There were no other games in the Big East. In the NBE, Louisville and South Florida did not play. Cincinnati had a respectable 21-10 win over TCU.
Last night I watched one of the most exciting games this season. It was MSU's near upset over Michigan. I was hoping that an MSU victory would add some gloss to RU's early season win over the Spartans. I was also hoping that a Michigan loss would help West Virginia move up in the national rankings which is necessary for the Big East's BCS standings.
MSU came close, only losing the game in triple OT before a deafening Ann Arbor crowd. However, for sheer excitement it was one of the years' top games. These two teams were very evenly matched which tells you something about what Rutgers can do when it wants to.
Around the Nation
Earlier in the season Miami came from behind to beat Louisville. Last night they tried to come from behind to beat North Carolina but failed. Tarheel true freshman Connor Barth hit a 42 yard field goal on the final play of the game to give UNC the win.
Florida State also lost to unranked Maryland. Other teams in the top 25 which lost included Texas A&M, Minnesota and Purdue. All of which means that there should be a major shake up in the polls this week.
Mike and the Big Dog LLC