Scarlet Knights finally find themselves as winning team
Coming off a season in which Rutgers won only one game, many critics thought the losses would continue to stockpile for the Scarlet Knights this season.
But after an impressive 48-27 drubbing of Navy on Saturday, they find themselves with a 3-1 record for the first time in 10 years.
‘It was a good victory for our players,’ head coach Greg Schiano said. ‘Navy did an excellent job at the end of the game, but we’re learning how to finish games and close out victories.’
The Scarlet Knights have been so bad in recent years that Sports Illustrated ran a story in August entitled, ‘Why Can’t Rutgers Win?’ Going into the season it looked as if the Scarlet Knights would still be searching for the answer to the rhetorical question, but a promising group of young players has sparked Rutgers in its first four games.
Freshman running back Justise Hairston was one of the new contributors against Navy. He carried the ball 31 times for 161 yards and four touchdowns in his first career start, claiming Big East Co-Offensive Player of the Week honors. He led the Scarlet Knights’ rushing attack, which gained 259 yards.
‘Justise hasn’t had that much experience, but he has been one of our better players this year,’ Schiano said. ‘He got on a roll and we kept feeding him the ball. I look forward to seeing that a lot more from him.’
The win Saturday also marked something new for Rutgers: a large home crowd. 32,382 people were on hand to watch the game, which was the biggest home crowd at Rutgers Stadium since Notre Dame played there in 2000. But the strong fan base hasn’t shocked everyone around the program.
‘When people asked me before the season what I thought this team was going to be, I told them that we would be exciting to watch,’ Schiano said. ‘I don’t think we’ve disappointed so far.’
The Scarlet Knights are riding high after a great start, but those feelings may turn quickly by a visit from the No. 4 team in the country, Virginia Tech, on Saturday. The Hokies boast one of the best running backs in the nation in Kevin Jones, who is third in the Big East with six touchdowns and averages a hefty 5.7 yard per carry.
Although Rutgers has played well so far, its only true test came on the road in a 44-28 loss to Michigan State. Virginia Tech is a high-caliber program, unlike most of the opponents the Scarlet Knights have faced this year.
‘Rutgers went up to Michigan State and hung in real well against a quality team,’ Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer said. ‘I also remember the game against Miami last year when they led for most of the game. That shows us what they are capable of.’
It’s been a long time since Larry Fitzgerald was held out of the end zone for 3-1 Pittsburgh.
Fitzgerald scored a touchdown in his 10th consecutive game Saturday, and took advantage of a national audience, collecting seven catches for 135 yards with three touchdowns when the Panthers appeared on ABC. He made one breathtaking catch after another, schooling Texas A&M defenders and leading the Panthers to a 37-26 victory.
The success Fitzgerald has enjoyed so far has made him a leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy.
‘His last touchdown was an unbelievable, miracle catch,’ Pitt head coach Walt Harris said. ‘The guy is unbelievable and he didn’t miss a play in the game even though it was a humid day. His concentration while the ball is in the air is unbelievable.’
Fitzgerald leads the nation with an average of 148.5 yards per game and has nine touchdowns, which is second in the Big East. He will get another chance to show off his talent for a national audience in two weeks, when Pittsburgh hosts Notre Dame on ESPN.
Boston College handled Ball State on Saturday, capturing its first home victory with a 53-29 romp. But the Eagles continued a season-long trend that kept the Cardinals in the game.
Boston College leads the Big East in penalties. The Eagles have been penalized 45 times, costing them 364 yards.
‘We have to be better in that regard,’ head coach Tom O’Brien said. ‘A lot of it comes down to self discipline and kids not thinking about the team first.’
BC will have plenty of time to work on discipline as it heads into a bye week before playing Temple at home Oct. 11. The Eagles are 3-2 heading into the Big East schedule.
‘It’s much better to go into a bye week coming off of a win,’ O’Brien said. ‘We fumbled the ball a few times and we have a lot of things to work on, but overall we’re happy with the way we played.’
This and that
Virginia Tech has not been shut out in a school-record 100 straight games. The Hokies were last shut out 16-0, in 1995 against Cincinnati. … Louisville notched its second victory against a Big East team this week, beating Temple 21-12. The Cardinals improved to 4-0 on the season.
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