South Florida was seen as the biggest challenge remaining on the Knights schedule. Rutgers came out with an impressive 49-16 win that saw Kenny Britt and Jason McCourty earn Big East Player of the Week honors.
"Kenny and Jason gave two great efforts," Schiano said. "Kenny breaking the all-time receiving record in Rutgers history is quite a feat. And Jason coming up with three turnovers-two interceptions, one for a touchdown - was very important for our victory."
Rutgers suffered a few close losses and Schiano said the team was inches away from breaking losses. Now the inches are bouncing his team's way because they kept working hard each week.
"Early in the season, we weren't very far off, we were just missing some deep plays by a couple of inches, and just one block away from popping a big run," Schiano said. "It wasn't that we were way off, our guys just stuck with it and made up that inch, and now we're starting to make those plays. I really think that's what it is."
To make such a turnaround, Schiano credits the players character and toughness.
"I think we have great young people here and I think they were as disappointed as our staff was," he said. "When a group of people work as hard as these kids have, I think all they needed was people that would continue to teach them and encourage them. They just kept working and worked their way through it. Now we're looking at something where we have a chance to right the season, and hopefully we can just continue to do what we're doing, which is prepare each week."
When assessing the growth of the current team and the program, Schiano said you have to look at each differently.
"The team is a one year thing, the program is a multi-year task," he said. "I think this team is starting to play the way they're capable of playing. I think things in the program are moving along steadily. I just feel like early on in the year, we didn't play or coach up to our potential, but we're starting to get their."
For the long term growth of the program, Schiano said he wants his group to keep competing to be the top in the conference, while also excelling with school work.
"We have long term goals in the program to be a consistent winner in the Big East conference and then nationally, and to do it the right way that's always been our mantra," he said. "We want to do it with guys that are graduating, to do with an academic progress rate that's near the top in the nation and all those things. That's what we continue to strive for and when you do that you'll have year's where you're cooking, and then year's where you're not at the top, but not too far down. That kind of takes care of itself if you're doing your best."
Two wins guarantee a winning season for Schiano's team. First they have to beat Army, who Schiano said changed its offense. Because of that change, Schiano had to change how he prepped for them early in the year. When he got his most recent glimpse of them, he was very impressed and knows they will have their hands full at home.
"I knew they had changed their offense so I knew it wouldn't be good to
do an extensive off-season study on them," he said. "I did get to
peak at them a little bit during the bye week just to see what they were doing
offensively. They're doing a heck of a job, as you watch the tapes chronologically
you can see an improvement. That's a tribute to their coaching staff and players."