Rutgers Looks To End 14-Year Drought Against West Virginia
It was the year when Nancy Kerrigan’s legs were taken out by one of Tonya Harding’s thugs. Bill Clinton was President of the United States. Kurt Cobain died. O.J. Simpson was “in the news.” And there was no World Series because of a strike.
Certainly, a lot happened in the U.S. in 1994, and most Americans can recall each of these culturally significant events.
But something else happened in 1994 that was significant to a smaller group of people—something that hasn’t happened since.
It was the last time Rutgers beat West Virginia on the college football field.
Remember that one? You might not, and that’s okay—you’re probably are not familiar with what a “fat sandwich” is, either.
But think about that!
Since then, the Rutgers football program has gone through three coaches, including Greg Schiano, but has failed at defeating the Mountaineers year-after-year-after-year-after-year-after-you-get-the-point.
Coach Schiano has gone “oh-fer” in his eight years coaching the Scarlet Knights, and it’s no surprise West Virginia is the only Big East team he hasn’t taken down.
So, to say Rutgers is due for a victory against the Mountaineers is like saying Bill Clinton “likes-him-the-ladies.”
And although West Virginia has had Rutgers’ number for (virtually) ever, the past few matchups have given each team a run for their money.
In 2008, Rutgers left Morgantown with a 24-17 loss after failing to convert a fourth down late in the final quarter.
But last year’s defeat was nothing compared to the historic matchup on the last week of the 2006 season which pitted a 15th-ranked West Virginia versus a 13th-ranked Rutgers.
If you are unfamiliar with the result of the game, this picture about sums it up.
For those who are familiar, please accept my apologies for reminding you (I’m still getting over that one).
So, while recent years have carried modest optimism going into this game, West Virginia week always comes with a grain of salt.
We Rutgers people like to think of WVU as rivals, but Merriam-Webster may disagree.
According to M-W, “rival” is defined three ways: (1) one striving to obtain something that only one can possess; (2) a companion, associate; and (3) an equal, peer.
Okay, let’s see how that works.
Definition 1: Sure, Rutgers is always striving to possess a “win,” I suppose, they have just done an awful job in the last decade plus.
Definition 2: Ehh, not so much. I’m not sure companions would constantly refer to each other as “hillbillies” or “guidos.”
Definition 3: Here’s the big red flag. When you haven’t beaten a team in this many years, it’s pretty aggressive to consider them “equals.”
Rutgers has arguably beaten better teams than West Virginia in the past 14 seasons, so why can’t Rutgers figure them out?
Are they simply in Schiano’s head?
It would be foolish to disregard the idea that Schiano is unaware of his coaching record against the Mountaineers, so that could have something to do with his game-planning.
Is it some sort of curse?
Does the aroma of fried raccoon fur somehow scramble the brainwaves of players and coaches wearing scarlet?
(I kid, 'Eers fans. We all drink Jager-bombs in place of water and use pounds of hair gel, I know, I know.)
Whatever it may be, I have a feeling this could be the year the tables turn in favor of the Scarlet Knights, and here are three reasons why.
West Virginia turns the ball over. A lot.
They have 22 giveaways this year, and Rutgers leads the nation in turnover margin.
Tasty matchup, right?
Greg Schiano should be licking his chops.
2) A Let Down Game
Last week, the Mountaineers exercised some 2007 demons by defeating the ninth ranked Pitt Panthers at home on a field goal as time expired.
Pair the win with the fact that it was Senior Day for the Mountaineers and they are set to face a Rutgers team who hasn’t won in a decade and a half, and you end up with a classic let down scenario.
Not to mention, it has been rumored that the 'Eers will be invited to the Gator Bowl, regardless of the outcome of the game.
3) The Protection of 'R' Turf
The Mountaineers boast a respectable 8-3 record, but all three of their losses have come away from Morgantown.
Rutgers, on the other hand, has played extremely well at home over their last five games.
West Virginia’s worst loss of the season was a 30-19 defeat at South Florida on Oct. 30.
Rutgers’ best win of the season was a 31-0 spanking of South Florida in Piscataway on November 11th.
It was also the last time Rutgers played at home.
In addition, it’s Senior Day for Rutgers, which means the seniors will be playing their last home game “On The Banks.”
Oh, and there will be over 10,000 more fans packing Rutgers Stadium than the last time WVU came to town.
You can bet that Rutgers Stadium will be overflowing with energy given the magnitude of this showdown with West Virginia.
And to top it off, a win will likely secure a spot in the Meineke Car Care Bowl against an ACC opponent, possibly against the Miami Hurricanes.
It’s been a long 14 years, but a win this Saturday will wipe the slate clean and turn a new page for Rutgers Football.
Last home game of the season, against a division “rival,” on Senior Day, at noon on a Saturday, televised on ESPN, and with a chance to go to the best bowl game the program has ever been to?
Sounds like a storybook ending, 14 years in the making.
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