Moving Forward

Rutgers' 31-3 loss to West Virginia last weekend was the worst performance by the Scarlet Knights all season. The loss hurt on a number of levels, but none more than in the conference standings.

First, the loss dropped Rutgers to 5-3 overall and 2-2 in the Big East, which effectively ended the Scarlet Knights hope for a conference title.

Second, the Scarlet Knights committed a number of mistakes in the game, from missed tackles, to untimely penalties, and dropped passes. Rutgers Head Coach Greg Schiano mentioned during his Monday press conference that the game was a lot closer than one might think for a 31-3 game. He noted that if the Scarlet Knights did not make those mistakes, including dropping three touchdown passes, the outcome may have been entirely different.

"But there's a fine line, there's a few plays out there on that field, and the game would be drastically different," Coach Schiano said on Monday. "But they didn't happen. And there's a bunch of plays that we had to play, that we would not have seen if we had made the plays we had to on third down."

"That is how football games go from being a tight game to being a 31-3 game that's out of reach. It's very simple how it happens, but not very simple to fix."

One player that has shouldered responsibility for the loss to West Virginia was RU wide receiver Tiquan Underwood. Underwood has been a big-play machine all year, highlighted by his run-after-catch against then-No.2 South Florida just 1 week earlier, but versus the Mountaineers, something went awry. The receivers as a whole accounted for seven drops during the game.

"Watching the film, I think it made us grow up," Rutgers wide receiver Tiquan Underwood said. "We saw opportunities that we had, me especially, and we just need to learn from it, grow up and just work on our game so that it does not happen again."

Underwood and the coaching staff spoke in meeting about ensuring that a negative carry over effect does not take place. Given his importance to the WR corps Underwood has become a critical cog in the RU receiving game, leading the team in a number of statistical categories including receptions (46), yards (848), and receiving yards (6).

"You can't let one thing affect another," Underwood said. "One game can't affect another or if you drop a pass, that can't affect the next pass. [Receivers] Coach [Robert] Jackson told us that all year. Now it has happened, so I really have to learn from it." It's really a lesson in life and Underwood and the rest of the wide receivers were the last off the practice field on Tuesday putting in extra work to correct the mistakes from the prior outing.

Rutgers quarterback Mike Teel said that the receivers were "excited" to get back on the practice field and worked hard in running their patterns during practice.

"I think just practicing on Sunday and getting back out here today helped," Underwood said. "Getting back out here with the guys and practicing again helped us. We are past that, we learned from it, put it behind us, and we are ready to go."

Underwood understands that it is important to control his excitement when he gets back on the field on Saturday. No. 13 Connecticut will host Rutgers this Saturday and the Huskies feature a strong defense. It will be important for the players to play within themselves and not allow UConn to take advantage of mistakes.

"Coach Jackson, our receivers coach, when your warming up before the game and adrenaline is flowing, he tells us before every game, be excited, but stay in the moment," Underwood said. "You can't overdo it."

The upcoming contest against UConn comes at a critical point of the season. While the prospects of a conference title may look dim, a major bowl game is still within reach for the Big East's second-place team, and tie-break advantages against the likes of the Huskies will go along way toward achieving an upper-echelon spot in the Big East's standings.

"Every game is important," Underwood said. "And as the season goes on, each one just gets bigger and bigger. We are just focused on the game before us. It is a great opportunity, we are playing a great team, and we are just looking forward to it."

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