Knights Focus On One Game Season

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Whether the early season struggles or the recent success, blocking out distractions remains the same for Rutgers football head coach Greg Schiano.

"Oh, I don't know," Schiano said at his weekly press conference Monday at the Hale Center. "I think they're probably equal. That's one of the challenges of athletics."

Schiano said each Scarlet Knight handles them his own way.

"I think it's an individual thing," said Schiano, whose team has overcome a 1-5 start to register a 5-5 record, 4-2 in the BIG EAST. "Some people handle success better, some people handle adversity better. It's the individual. As a team we try to talk all the time about staying on task."

From allowing Fresno State's deep completions to the University of South Florida's defensive ingenuities, the secondary has completed a 180-degree turn. They have forced nine turnovers in the last three games, a recurring theme in the four-game winning streak.

"I think it was more we played kind of out of character early in the year and I think they're back to playing the way they're capable of playing," Schiano said of his secondary personnel. "I think they're preparing very hard and because of that they're having some success."

Feeling a sense of relief, senior cornerback Jason McCourty intercepted his first two passes of his career, off Bulls quarterback Matt Grothe, in Saturday's 49-16 road victory. While McCourty returned the former for six points, he sealed the Bulls' fate with the latter one.

"Getting that first interception was nice," he said. "[Defensive backs] Coach Hewitt said to me in the locker room, 'you finally got that monkey off your back,' so that was nice."

For his efforts, which also included a fumble recovery and five tackles, the Big East named McCourty Defensive Player of the Week.

"I was out there playing, I was able to make a few plays," McCourty said humbly.

J. McCourty said his twin brother Devin was the first to congratulate him on the sidelines.

"Devin was the first in my face yelling and screaming, so he was really happy for me," J. McCourty said.

J. McCourty also addressed the perception surrounding the team, which will become bowl eligible with a win over Army Saturday at Rutgers Stadium.

"We're playing better," he said. "In the beginning of the year, we weren't playing our best football, but our playing better; you can attribute that to preparation during the week. I think after losing those games that we did earlier in the season we saw that it was going to take a lot more effort from all of us individually.

"No matter who you are on the team, you have to go and watch more film and just try to improve on things that we were messing up on."

Schiano said the recent adjustments by the defensive backs have not surprised him.

"You know, it's been a weird year so I'm not surprised by anything," Schiano said. "I'm just glad they're preparing now and playing better on Saturdays. That's what we need to keep doing."

Schiano said he remains focused on Army despite the potential for completing a college football rarity: overcoming a 1-5 start to receive a bowl bid. Only six other teams have accomplished the feat:

Year Team
(Final record, bowl)
1983 Mississippi (6-6, Independence)
1993 Utah State 7-5, Las Vegas)
1993 Texas Tech (6-6, Sun)
2001 Pitt (7-5, Tangerine)
2002 North Texas (8-5, New Orleans)
2006 Rice (7-6, New Orleans).
**Courtesy of Gannett NJ Newspapers

"I think it's dangerous to talk about it for us," Schiano said. "We just need to stay focused on a very good Army team that's coming, because that stuff will be needless info if we drop a game.

"It will be neat to talk about at the end of the year if it happens, and I'm glad to because that will be fine. I'm hoping we're talking about that."

Notes: Long snapper Jeremy Branch sustained a knee injury and will require surgery "at some point." However, Schiano said he is uncertain if Branch, a fifth-year senior, will continue his duties the remainder of the season. If not, Andrew DePaola becomes the new long snapper and punter Teddy Dellaganna the holder.

In addition to McCourty, the Big East named Kenny Britt Offensive Player of the Week. Britt seized eight passes for 173 yards, the bulk of which he secured on a 93-yard catch-and-run touchdown. The junior wideout also became Rutgers all-time leading receiver with 2,666 yards (and counting).

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