Rutgers To Face NC State in PapaJohn.com Bowl

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – If you want Rutgers football head coach Greg Schiano's reaction to being invited to the PapaJohn's.com Bowl in Birmingham, the fact that he mentions the word ‘exciting' at least five times (on my count) should suffice.

"It's exciting to be going to our fourth consecutive bowl game, having the opportunity for our program to continue to move in the right direction," Schiano told reporters at a press conference Sunday night at the Hale Center. "I'm excited to be going to the Papajohns.com Bowl. Right now we're working on right now arrangements, all the particulars and hopefully by the middle of the week we'll have that.

"December's always a crazy time here- whether we're recruiting or preparing for a game. Your kids are involved in final exams, so there's a lot going on right now. It's exciting. It certainly beats the alternative."

Qualifying for the bowl (Monday Dec. 29 at 3 p.m.) did not come easy for Rutgers, which started the season at 1-5, but finished it with six straight wins.

"Where we were and where we finished up is a tribute to [the kids], to them and to our leaders," Schiano said. "It's a great achievement anytime, to be going to a bowl game especially the way the season started.

"7-5 is not our goal. If there's a disappointment, it's the disappointment that we didn't finish the season the way we wanted to- the cumulative body of work. To win six straight and to be headed for a bowl season, that is exciting."

Schiano said his players will prepare accordingly.

"Like I said earlier in the year, this is not old hat to us," he said. We are still new at this bowl stuff so we're very excited and our players know how we handle bowl games. When it's time to work, it's time to work and when we're done with work, the [team] gets to enjoy it and take good care of it. This is no exception. We'll have a great trip."

Considering the fall semester ends this Wednesday and academic finals start two weeks from tomorrow, Schiano said the Knights will practice between 15 and 19 times this month.

Schiano also discussed the importance of going to four straight bowl games: Insight Bowl in 2005, Texas Bowl in 2006 and International Bowl in 2007.

"The way I always look at is the program development," Schiano said. "Our seniors have been to a bowl game every year and when you start stacking, that becomes the norm of the institution." A much improved North Carolina State (6-6, 4-4) will represent the Atlantic Coast Conference in Birmingham. Second-year Coach Tom O'Brien leads the Wolfpack, who have posted a 12-10-1 record in 23 career bowl games.

"We are honored to have been invited to compete in the Papajohns.com Bowl and feel that it is an excellent way to end an exciting season for NC State," O'Brien said in a release. "Our football team has worked extremely hard to earn a chance to play in this game. Rutgers is a great opponent and we are very happy that Birmingham is our destination because it will give the Wolfpack nation an opportunity to travel to see us play."

Schiano discussed his experience in the state of Alabama.

"9-0, 1990 Penn State against Alabama in Tuscaloosa," he said. "We stayed in Birmingham and bussed in. I remember there were nine or 10 police on motorcycles. It was a great defensive game."

Despite the global economic situation, Schiano said he expects unyielding support from the RU Faithful.

"It's drivable. What's it, 14, 13 hours," he said. "The true fans will get in their cars and go."

When reminded that many supporters drove some 30 hours to Houston for the Texas Bowl, Schiano responded, "Exactly."


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