Block R at Rutgers
When Greg Schiano took over this program in 2000, any win was a good win.
The perennial Big East doormat struggled to win even one or two games each year in the late '90s under Terry Shea, and Schiano's hiring brought hope to a beaten-down fanbase.
These days, the program is a little different. The fanbase expects to win. Bowl games are no longer new and exciting; they are expected and now critiqued.
It isn't enough that the team wins its seven or eight games and goes to a bowl. These fans want style points and big-time winning. They want a conference title, BCS games, and national prominence.
The complaints were rolling in before the season even started. The schedule is weak; why are we going to FIU? My parking location stinks. Why are we playing Army at the New Meadowlands? I got messed over on my tickets!
But now, the complaints are about the on-field play.
It is early season, and the team is 2-0, but people don't like the way the team got there. They led FCS Norfolk State 6-0 at the half and managed just 19 points in beating FIU over the weekend. The fans are playing the "we can't beat anybody, because we 'looked bad' against two 'inferior opponents'" game.
Fans of RU need to understand that building and rebuilding a football team is a process every year. Rutgers fans should know from the comeback in 2008, the team you see in early September won't look anything like the team you see in October and November.
The '08 Rutgers team started the season with five losses in their first six games and then reeled off seven straight wins to finish the season 8-5 with a bowl win in Birmingham. At 1-5, no one was thinking bowl.
During the course of the 2009 season, fans questioned the use of Mohamed Sanu in the wildcat. At this point, it looks like RU's best option to move the ball. Things change.
So yes, the Rutgers offense looked awful against FIU. The defense and special teams, however, looked to be in midseason form. They got a scare but pulled out the win, which shows a lot of character for a young football team.
Ask fans of Virginia Tech, which lost to an FCS school, if they wished their team could show the same kind of resolve RU showed late in their game. They would have killed for a late score and a late stop like Rutgers got at FIU.
Fans don't want to hear these excuses, but the fact is it's a reality. Teams don't generally come out playing at their highest level. It just doesn't happen. NFL teams need training camp and preseason for a reason. Sometimes you need to survive early and learn on the go, particularly when you are working new players into key position. This is the case with the 2010 Scarlet Knights.
Rutgers is in exactly that position. The team is trying to rework its offensive line and find complementary wide receivers for Sanu. Through all this, the team has started the 2010 season as flat as a pancake, but guess what? The Knights are 2-0. It could be much worse.
Think back to 2006. Rutgers pulled out a couple of close wins early, getting by a UNC team that turned out to be 3-9 and a Ohio team that turned out to be 2-10, and the ball started rolling for the Scarlet Knights. I am not saying 2010 will be like 2006, but to write a team off for a few lackluster performances against subpar teams is unfair. Let's see how they play UNC in two weeks.