The year was 2005 and Rutgers opened its season against Illinois.
The Scarlet Knights, with Greg Schiano at the helm, squandered a 27-7 lead and lost in overtime, 33-30.
In the locker room, Schiano delivered this message: "It was no great work of thoughtfulness. Right now we're in a bad spot, we're in the middle of the forest, it's all dark, we can't see. Get an ax and just start chopping away."
That team won six of its next seven games.
As optimistic as you might want to be, your Tampa Bay Buccaneers are coming into this 2012 season from a very, very dark place. They are coming from the murky darkness of 10 straight losses that were more than losses. They were humiliations that left the fan base numb.
So discouraging, those final 10 games, that the Buccaneers are now perceived to have the worst home field advantage in the NFL. Call it a home field disadvantage.
The fact is the 2011 Bucs of Raheem Morris could play equally woeful at home or away.
They're out on the practice field this morning at One Buccaneer Place and it's time for this team to simply do what Schiano made his mantra at Rutgers—Chop! These Bucs need to start choppin', and first and foremost, they need to understand exactly what that means.
"Keep chopping" didn't start at Rutgers. Schiano was introduced to the mentality by sports psychologist Dr. Kevin Elko, way back when Schiano was the defensive coordinator at the University of Miami. It never caught on with the 'Canes. But Schiano got out his ax when he was hired at Rutgers.
Schiano needs to bust out an ax over there at One Buc Place. In fact, he better break out one for every guy on the roster.
Chopping wood is a tough task. You better be focused, or you'll end up with that ax embedded in your foot or leg. If you've ever chopped wood, you'll know what it entails.
As a Boy Scout in the 60s, we all had to take our turns chopping wood at one time or another. Keep your ax sharp, pay attention, keep focused, pay attention, keep focused, keep choppin'. It's tedious work.
Working on proper football fundamentals is tedious as well, and if there was a massive failure on this football team last season, it was a failure of fundamentals.
Can the Bucs chop their way out of the NFC South cellar?
That's Schiano's way of telling his teams to maintain focus no matter what the situation.
If this Buccaneer team has any prayer of getting better, it will require more focus, more attention to detail and some good tackling fundamentals wouldn't hurt, either.
There's a double-edged meaning to the term as well.
It's time to buy in and do it Schiano's way. Love football, solid fundamentals and execution—do it again and again and again. Keep chopping.
Screw it all up and your head will be on the chopping block when it's time for the roster to go to 53.