"Correcting the mistakes I made in the past eight games is definitely what I focused on," Malast said. "I was looking at clips and seeing how I can become a better player. We weren't looking at Syracuse yet, instead we were just focusing on ourselves and how we can get better."
Getting players healthy was also a goal for Rutgers during the week off, but Malast said everyone was still playing hard.
"We're still grinding real hard," he said. "There's no breath, we weren't breathing easy because it's the bye week. We still had an urgency."
Last game the offense emerged with a stellar 54-point performance against the Panthers on the road. After so many close games, the offense gave the defense a mulligan where they allowed 34 points, and still won the game by 20.
"It feels real good, the offense definitely had our backs at Pittsburgh," Malast said. "We have to play better no doubt, but we have to just keep on improving and correct the mistakes that we made in the Pitt game."
Malast, who leads the team with 62 tackles, continued to rack up the tackles at Heinz Field with eight. The highlight of his day came when he intercepted a pass by quarterback by Pat Bostick, taking it 74 yards.
"The quarterback just threw it up and I high pointed it, just get as high as I could because it was a jump ball," he said about the pick. "I caught it with my fingertips, and it was kind of like a punt return because I had a clear lane in front of me. Pete Tverdov made a great block for me, and from there I just took it and LeSean McCoy just had an angle on me and made the tackle."
The offense has been under intense scrutiny the whole year and finally broke out against Pittsburgh. Before the Connecticut game, there was talk of this season being chalked up as a losing season. But now with the two straight wins, along with other teams in the Big East losing, the Knights have new hope. Malast doesn't feel like a weight has been lifted off their shoulders yet though, saying the team as a whole is playing with a focus and with urgency.
"To be honest, I don't really feel that way," he said. "A lot of the players and the coaches are the same way. There's like this urgency that we have to get focused on the next game and we have to get better as a team, there's really no release, especially in this conference. Syracuse is a great team so there's really no monkey off the back yet."
When the team was practicing in the bubble, you could sense a different feel to the team. Everyone was upbeat, including Schiano. Malast said that's a credit to the team's attitude of just going out there and playing hard each day, and them enjoying what they do.
"We're just playing and getting better and that's what it's all about,"
he said. "You can't do this if you don't enjoy it. For the most part, players
are just out here enjoying it and having fun."