Under Schiano, the Scarlet Knights have gone from longtime league laughingstock to perennial conference contender. The annual break between the end of the season and beginning of spring practice has been shortened by a month in recent years thanks to a run of three consecutive bowl game appearances by RU.
From a talent standpoint, Schiano has done a wonderful job of keeping some of the top prospects in New Jersey inside the Garden State's borders for the duration of their college careers.
Despite all that he has accomplished, though, one area in which Schiano has been unable to gain some traction is beating West Virginia. Seven tries, seven losses. Rutgers has not defeated WVU since 1994, and has never won in Morgantown. The Mountaineers are the only Big East team that Schiano has not beaten.
This Saturday, Schiano and the Scarlet Knights are hoping to erase those dubious distinctions.
From at least one perspective, it isn't unreasonable to think that this is finally the year that Rutgers gets a W in Morgantown. The Mountaineers, still very much a work in progress under a first-year coaching staff, are just 2-2, and have yet to put together a complete performance on offense, defense, and special teams.
On the other hand, Rutgers isn't exactly looking like a world beater. The Scarlet Knights started off 0-3 with nationally-televised lopsided losses at home to Fresno State and North Carolina followed by a narrow defeat at Navy.
Rutgers was finally able to notch a victory this past Saturday with a 38-0 trouncing of Division I-AA Morgan State.
"It was a good victory at home. Any time you can keep someone from scoring any points, that's a little bit better than just winning," Schiano said earlier this week. "We're pleased with that. We moved the ball well which was good. We certainly come away from the game with a lot of things we need to work on.
"When you've lost three consecutive games, just to get a victory I think gives the guys that feeling in their belly that you need," he continued. "I think that was good."
The problems for Rutgers, at least offensively, can at least partially be attributed to the early departure of all-time leading rusher Ray Rice. A staple of the RU backfield for three seasons, Rice was a reliable workhorse for the Knights offense, routinely carrying the ball 30-plus times a game on his way to All-America honors.
With Rice now suiting up for the Baltimore Ravens, senior quarterback Mike Teel is being counted on to make a few more big plays in the passing game. Despite having big-play weapons at wideout such as Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood, Teel has yet to deliver consistently in 2008 for the Knights, throwing seven interceptions against just two touchdown passes.
"Mike has struggled a little bit with turning the ball over," Schiano admitted. "I thought he made a big step this week when he made better decisions and threw the ball a lot better. We're just trying to give him as much help as we can. Mike has been highly-successful and highly-productive in the past at Rutgers. I think he's hit a little slump and he's playing his way out of it right now. I think he's in the midst of doing that."
Teel got a big lift against the Bears from freshman running back Jourdan Brooks, listed at 6-1, 245 pounds. Brooks bullied his way to three touchdowns against Morgan State.
""Jourdan's getting better," Schiano said. "He's a very talented young man. He's a redshirt freshman. He's got a lot of upside in front of him. But he's just starting to understand the runs a little better. He's starting to read things a little better. There's still a long way to go there which is exciting. He's a very talented running back. He's big, he's 235, 240 pounds. He's fast. He's elusive. All the things you look for in a back."
Defensively, Schiano is hopeful that the shutout – albeit against I-AA competition – will at the very least provide a needed confidence boost for the stoppers as they prepare for the challenges presented by West Virginia.
"This week, West Virginia is a very talented football team," he said. "Pat White is just a spectacular player, and he is surrounded by very good athletes. It is going to be a challenge to try and slow them down."