What is sure to be a new scene was the press conference itself. Traditionally there had been 1 or 2 news cameras present. In the wake of joining the Top 10, now stood a stiff, neat row of 8 with professional photographers to boot. National and specifically New York media reporters were present in great numbers. The normal rectangular table and microphone was replaced by an oak podium featuring Schiano's baby: the Block R and so many tape recorders that some had to be stacked. It is almost a little too creepy to gaze back into that first press conference where the new head coach proclaimed that he was here to take Rutgers to the National Championship Game.
ATTENTION all Rutgers faithful: it is safe to remove the beer-goggles, it's the real deal.
Not Losing Focus
As Rutgers fans salivated over all of the national attention and reports from ESPN, New York and Philadelphia news stations, and endless supply of YouTube.com clips, Head Coach Greg Schiano was locked away in the office putting together next week's game plan. Rutgers heads on the road to the University of Cincinnati to take on a dangerous Bearcats team. Sure their record stands at 5-5 but 4 of those 5 losses come against teams that were in the Top 10 when they played. Certainly nothing to be ashamed of when you are building a team that started an array of true freshmen last year. With that year of development comes better play and Cincy's got it.
"They're running the football and then they're doing a great job of play-action pass. Number four [Dustin Grutza] is a real mobile guy, and their run pass game is tied together real well," said Schiano. "They do a lot of (what we call) naked and boots where they run the play – run action, they pull the quarterback out and try to break [containment]. He's mobile enough to do that."
Dustin Grutza is very similar to another quarterback the Scarlet Knights have seen this year and not one they would like to face again in Matt Grothe of South Florida. When the secondary is doing a great job of covering downfield, Grutza has the option to run with it and has the legs to put together some big plays. But he is also prone to the same mistakes as Grothe in his ability to take care of the ball as he has thrown 12 interceptions this season. He is a developing quarterback that has thrown for over 1500 yards this season and has the potential to become another fine Big East threat.
One Shot at a Time
The Bearcats play a disciplined game and believe that their coach is heading them in the right direction and this resonated with Schiano. "On 3rd down, defensively, again, they're like us: they kind of do a lot of different stuff and offensively they know exactly what they want to do on 3rd down," said Schiano. That translates into a team that doesn't lose its cool when it faced #1 Ohio State or took then-undefeated Louisville down to the last play of the game. They have their schemes: they understand why they do them and how to do them effectively. That is what makes Cincinnati a dangerous opponent for Rutgers coming off the biggest win in its history.
The fear of an upset now is riding along in the minds of the Rutgers faithful, but their head coach has instilled in them a discipline as well. These take on special names like "One-Eleventh," "T.B.A.," and the fan favorite "Keep Choppin'." With the unprecedented level of media coverage it would appear almost too easy to get caught in the limelight, but every player will tell you that it's a matter of continuing their preparation, staying focused on their assignment, and continuing to chop away.
"That's what makes college football neat - that fans and the people can speculate on what's going to happen. But as I've told our team from the beginning of the year….that's all great stuff, but it goes away quickly if you don't do your job," said Schiano as he pounded home his philosophy. "If you don't take care of preparation, all this good stuff goes away." Preparation has consistently been the factor in Rutgers success.
What many fans witnessed on Thursday was Schiano's field general stepping up and leading the team to that marquee win. Mike Teel impressed fans and pundits alike with his sharp throws (albeit many dropped) and poise in the pocket. Despite having only 8 completions a number of fans could still recount exactly what several of those throws were good for: 26 yards to Tiquan Underwood for a TD, 39 yards to Kordell Young setting up Ray Rice's touchdown run, 64 yards to Kenny Britt setting up another Ray Rice touchdown run, 10 yard pass to Tiquan Underwood to get out of their own Red Zone and a 26 yard swing pass to Brian Leonard on 3rd down that kept "The Drive" alive.
Certainly now teams will have to respect Teel's arm and remove the 8-man box designed to stop the run, right? Not according to Schiano. The traditional philosophy of stopping the run will continue, because if a team can't stop the run then they have no means of controlling the clock. It appears that the challenge to Teel will continue while the red-shirt sophomore continues to develop and command the offense.
Notes: Injury-wise the Scarlet Knights came out of the Louisville game unscathed. There is a push for Shawn Tucker to return from his foot injury and it may be a late week decision. Brian Leonard has taken ill, the coaches believe it is merely a stomach virus and should have him ready by Saturday. Derrick Roberson appears to be close to returning as well.