"We've got to give everything we've got to chop Ball State to pieces," senior defensive tackle Eric Foster told the crowd, referring to head coach Greg Schiano's mantra that the team needs to "keep choppin'" in order to win. "I've got the jitters right now. We've got the best fans in the world."
Senior offensive tackle Jeremy Zuttah thanked fans for their support and told them that Rutgers was not going to have any letdowns against Ball State."We're going to come out here and dominate this game," he said.
Thousands of Rutgers fans descended on the Westin to hear current and former players speak, and the event was emceed by Chris Carlin and Tim Pernetti, Rutgers' radio play-by-play team. Among the attendees at the pep rally were former quarterback Ryan Hart, former tight end/quarterback and holder Anthony Cali and legendary Rutgers running back Brian Leonard.
"When I came here, it wasn't the place to come," said Leonard, who committed to Rutgers after a 1-11 season. "You guys (fans) are the reason I'm where I'm at today. . . . I'm going to be out tonight partying will all these Rutgers fans."
Schiano told fans that Ball State players have been talking loudly all week and trying to intimidate Rutgers.
"These guys are prepared. They're ready to play hard, and they're ready to play hard for you," he said. "We're going to do our talking on the field tomorrow."
Earlier in the day, Schiano attended a bowl kickoff luncheon at the Westin
Harbour Castle that was attended by Ball State and Rutgers players as well as
each school's athletics director and president. BSU president Jo Ann Gora threw
down the gauntlet when she predicted a Ball State victory in the International
Bowl at Rogers Centre on Jan. 5.
"I keep thinking about the Nebraska game (a 41-40 Nebraska win), where we lost by only one point. I know that's not going to happen tomorrow," she said.
Schiano complimented Ball State's team, saying head coach Brady Hoke put together
a competitive ball club this year.
"Anytime you love your football team, you've got a really good team," said Schiano.
RU's seventh year coach said BSU's passing attack, led by sophomore quarterback Nate Davis, is as dangerous as any club Rutgers has faced this year.
"They don't come much better than Ball State's passing offense," Schiano said. "You're not going to stop their passing game. You can only try to contain it."
Hoke praised Rutgers junior running back Ray Rice and RU's offensive line. He said the key to victory is playing as a cohesive unit.
"We've got to play as a team for a chance to win," Hoke said. "Every
time we get on the field, we want to compete."
Pernetti, who said his prediction for the Texas Bowl last season, was off by only one point, predicted a 38-17 Rutgers victory.