That Fine Line

The whole thing balances on the edge of a knife. Well, not quite – unlike last year, the Knight's final five games are very unlikely to all or even mostly be against bowl-bound teams. But to Head Coach Greg Schiano, the season might as well be on the line as we approach this Saturday's game against the Connecticut Huskies (4-2 1-1).

There is a fine balancing act that must be performed by the coach in order to make sure his players stay focused. He must allow them to be confident from their past success, but not to get overconfident – a problem that has plagued the Knights not only from game to game, but within the course of a single game.

When asked about the threat of overconfidence given the Knights' recent performances against traditionally superior teams like Pittsburgh and Syracuse, Coach Schiano replied, "I think you think about one game – and that is Connecticut. You don't worry about what you did Saturday. You don't worry about next Saturday." As for the players, "I think they've learned over time how hard it is to win, and what it takes to win", he said.

Schiano brought up the focus issue again in reference to his team's preparation for the slew of replacement players that the Huskies will field this week, including freshman third string quarterback Dennis Brown, who is subbing for injured Redshirt freshman QB D.J. Hernandez, who in turn injured his wrist in Connecticut's loss to Cinncinati.

"If you are not careful, the focus will become the unknown, and we want to focus on the known, which is you're going to have to tackle great."

One thing that did not hang in the balance was the result of the Knights' most recent game. This week's victory against the Syracuse Orange was the first time that a Greg Schiano lead Rutgers team has soundly beaten a name team (albeit in a very, very down year) from start to finish. Two weeks prior to this victory the Knights had watched a 27 point lead nearly evaporate in the second half against Pittsburgh, and the season opening blowout turned monumental collapse is an instant reminder among Schiano's doubters.

So what was different this time? How did the Scarlet Knights retain a sizable lead at the dreaded Carrier Dome, a place that the Knights had not won at since 1986.

They remained focused.

Coach Schiano says that he has always emphasized focus but this weekend, "we finally did it as a whole team. I think there's a bunch of guys who have been approaching it that way, but it's a team sport unlike any other -- it takes every one of the guys to do their job. Once in a while you can have a guy not do his job and get away with it, but if you do it more than a few times it's going to get exposed."

Redshirt freshman quarterback Mike Teel is perhaps lucky that his new found role as the starter was not hanging in the balance for this game. While Teel performed admirably in some situations he threw two interceptions and threw two more balls into coverage that could and perhaps should have been intercepted. Coach Schiano said that, "The deep shot, I'm not as concerned about. But the two that we dropped I am concerned about because he threw into coverage."

His performance also had some good notes. He threw for two touchdowns including one where he had a man hanging off of him, which led Coach Schiano to claim "Only a big guy like him could get that ball off on the money."

As for this week's game against Connecticut, Schiano insists that improvement will occur.

"I think he'll see things better. Mike has very good vision for a quarterback. I think he'll see things better. I think we'll do a better job of protecting him."

Did you know?
This week's game against Connecticut will be the Scarlet Knight's only game on natural grass this year.

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