With the Scarlet Knights returning home from their worst performance of the season, Schiano looks to regroup his squad for the final home game against Syracuse. For the remaining nine members of Coach Schiano's first recruiting class it will be an emotional game when they emerge from the tunnel. They bought into the vision that the Head Coach sold them and watched Rutgers Stadium go from empty graveyard to sold out crowds and bowl game plans. For Schiano, Syracuse is the next tree to be chopped in this fantastic season.
Monday Morning Quarterback
Looking back to the debacle in Cincinnati, Schiano saw that the team's dynamic wasn't quite the way it needed to be. A mental mistake here, a missed tackle there added up to a loss. "Overall, I think we were about that much off," said Schiano as he put his thumb and index finger close together. "When everybody's a little bit off it adds up to a team that's off. And I think we caught a team that was very on. So I think the combination of us being a little off, them being very on; not a good combination on the road in the Big East Conference."
The run game that had been Rutgers bread-and-butter was being scaled back as the end of the first quarter. During the first quarter Brian Leonard tweaked his hamstring and forced Schiano to diminish his role and taking away the option of letting Brian share the load. "I don't think Ray was shut down, as much as we never got to get to when Ray gets good because we were down so much," said Schiano. Typically the sophomore has been known for getting stronger as the game wears on and he heats up. Playing with such a huge early deficit forced the Knights to get away from their game plan of bruising running combined with selected passing. Instead the pressure fell to the quarterback to find his receivers downfield often.
Many fans that tuned into the game felt that with the offense unable to find its rhythm it might have been time to try giving backup quarterback Jabu Lovelace a chance in the second half. Schaino pointed to the fact that there was a team meltdown and Mike Teel was giving them the best chance to win. "If you look at the three deep balls [that are defensive pass interference] they're right on the money," said Schiano. "The interception part of it: that's a mistake in judgment .we believe that we were still operating effectively." The sophomore was handed his second loss as a starter after throwing four interceptions. Schiano saw this as a huge learning experience for his young quarterback and Teel's confidence has been solid following the game.
As the Rutgers receivers managed to beat the coverage and Teel putting up a catch-able ball it could have been all the difference in the game. Unfortunately Deangelo Smith was aware that if he interfered it would only cost the Bearcats 15 yards versus a 40 or 50 yard touchdown pass. So three times over the Rutgers receivers fell victim to having a potential game changing play taken away with the paltry consolation prize. "I've always believed that pass interference in college football; the punishment doesn't fit the crime. No doubt, if a guy can catch a football and you tackle him, it should be where you tackled him," said Schiano. Having coached in the NFL where that is the rule, his frustration over this diminished punishment is well known.
Go Bug Some Other Guy
Earlier at the South Carolina press conference, Steve Spurrier mentioned that Miami should turn their attention towards Schiano in their recruitment of a head coach. He said he is seeking to, "do what the experts said couldn't be done, which was to win an SEC championship here [at South Carolina]." Schiano has repeatedly said that he is committed to Rutgers and winning his own conference championship that the experts said couldn't be done. Upon being inquired about this all he could do was laugh and say, "He's in a position [what is he? Sixty years old? Sixty-one] he's won a lot of games. It's not a bad spot to be in, right? What does he care? Says whatever's on his mind he just says it, good for him. I'm not quite there yet."
Chopping When Nobody's Lookin'
The Knights will look to rebound in the same fashion that West Virginia and Louisville managed following their first losses of the season. "I'm confident our guys will be prepared [very hard] this week and will be ready to play this Saturday. What that means in results I can't control Syracuse, none of us can, but can control us and we better be ready to play," said Schiano. "It is such a fine line between winning and losing in the top level of football that there is in the country." He believes that if you don't produce with the select opportunities you have then you cannot turn the momentum to put yourself in a position to win.
With every option of post season play still possible aside from the National Championship game the Knights have plenty to play for. "The main focus is preparing to be the best we can be. Whether it's against Louisville, whether it's against Howard, it doesn't matter. It's Rutgers. Our comparison has to be against ourselves, and that's all it's been about all year and that's what it's going to be as long as I'm here," said Schiano. "That's how we take it. We take it one step at a time and build it each week." A single loss is not going to cause Schiano to change his philosophy. His philosophy has given him his worst season at 1-11 and has been the same philosophy that has turned out his best start at 9-1.
Looking on to Syracuse they sit at the bottom of the Big East, but they have had their moments. They took then #14 Iowa to a second Overtime before falling but have not really been able to put together a complete game. They have been a team that has shown signs of development under second-year head coach Greg Robinson. He recorded his first Big East victory of his career against Connecticut this past week and will look to make it two in a row for the Orange.
Syracuse boasts tall receivers and a large quarterback in Perry Patterson who will be tough to bring down. Schiano has been looking over the Orange and tough issues that they will present to the Scarlet Knights. "They play aggressive defense. They're going to crowd the box, which I imagine against us they're really going to do with our running game. They take their shots down the field. They have a quarterback who is a big, strong guy who's not easy to get on the ground," said Schiano as he tallied his list of concerns having watched the game films over the weekend. "They seemed to open it up a bit more. They're not afraid to take shots down the field."
Many of the Scarlet Knights have been banged up from Saturday's game and will
be a wait and see for tomorrow. Derrick Roberson should be ready to play Saturday.
He dressed at Cincinnati but did not play. Shawn Tucker is not progressing in
the way the coaches had hoped and so he will not be ready to go this week.