By Dave Morrison
It hasn’t been the year that Rutgers coach Greg Schiano envisioned.
The record stands as a testament to that. The Scarlet Knights are 4-7 (1-5 in the Big East).
And Rutgers has lost five straight.
At one point Rutgers was 4-2 (including a win over Connecticut).
But after Eric LeGrand was paralyzed in the Scarlet Knights’ last win over Army (23-20 in OT) Oct. 18, the season went South.
Now, the team doesn’t have a bowl to play for, so the question, it seems, is whether or not the pressure is off. All they can do now is spoil West Virginia’s season and hopes of a BCS Bowl berth.
“I don’t know. I didn’t personally get the feeling that with the bowl streak and bowl eligibility that (the team was) pressing at all,” Schiano said Tuesday. “I didn’t get that feeling. I just didn’t think we executed very well. I didn’t think the reason for our lack of execution was that. Up until two weeks ago, you say there are four games we lost by 11 points where we were right on the cusp but then something clearly happened. We just need to move through it.”
Injuries, including that to LeGrand, hurt the Knights.
We have had 11 season-ending injuries, five ACLs; we have had Mohamed (Sanu) Casey (Turner) and Joe (Martinek) all unable to play… three really valuable skill guys,” Schiano said. “ That I have to keep definitely separate and say look this is reality. The Eric (LeGrand) situation is a whole other thing. We have had players that have lost family members, parents, multiple players… that is adversity, that is real life. When you add it all up, you have to be careful.”
Rutgers is coming off a 40-13 loss to Louisville Saturday, a team WVU beat 17-10 a week before. West Virginia (8-3, 4-2) is coming off a 35-10 over Pitt in the Backyard Brawl.
“They are a very good football team in all three phases,” Schiano said of the Mountaineers. “Their defense is exceptional. They have a very talented offense with great skill players and every kicking team they have is much improved from a year ago. They seem to be hitting their stride as a football team. We have a great challenge and I am looking forward to it as are our players.”
Schiano sang the praises of WVU’s defense, which is ranked No. 3 overall (255.73), second in scoring defense (12.64), second in rush defense (87.1) and sixth in sacks (34).
Schiano cited those sacks.
“They have a three-man front but they bring multiple guys with five linebackers,” Schiano said. “They bring them from every which angle. They bring cornerbacks, they bring safeties, I don’t know if there is a guy on their team that doesn’t rush the passer at one time or another. It is very much like us, they just do it out of a three-man front and we do it out of a four-man front.”
Rutgers QB Chas Dodd has completed 113-of-204 passing since replacing Tom Savage. He had thrown for 1,498 yards with nine TDs and seven interceptions.
Jordan Thomas leads the team in rushing with 354 yards and a TD. He had 120 and his TD last week against Louisville.
Mark Harrison (41 receptions, 763 yards, eight TDs) and Keith Stroud (16-157) are the leading receivers.
The game at Milan Puskar Stadium kicks off at Noon and will be televised on ABC.