After a shocking home loss to Tulane that left Scarlet Nation reeling, Rutgers can't afford to look backward. But I can.
Rutgers seemed off to a wonderful start when Mohamed Sanu took a Wildcat formation run 91 yards for a touchdown. They led 7-0 and appeared ready to put the UNC disaster in the rear view mirror and take a 3-1 record into this week's showdown.
Tulane, however, had other ideas. They executed a flawless game plan. Ryan Griffin didn't throw an interception. Tulane did not fumble once. They worked short, safe passes, as Griffin completed 17-of-28 passes for 140 yards and keeping.
They let the shaky Rutgers offense beat itself, worked in a trick play when D.J. Banks hit a wide open Joe Kemp on a throwback option, and when the dust settled, the remaining fans at Rutgers stadium booed the Knights off the field Saturday afternoon.
The only fans not booing were the few thousand Tulane fans who and left with the satisfaction of taking down a Big East team in their own house.
The loss has left Greg Schiano the target of criticism he really hasn't heard since the crossroads moment of the 2005 season after the Knights blew a 20-0 lead at Illinois.
At that time, it appeared as if Rutgers would never produce a winning season. They managed to finish the regular season 7-4 and go to the Insight Bowl—the first bowl since 1978.
Scarlet Knights fans, however, are a schizophrenic bunch. No, they don't necessarily hallucinate, but they hyper-analyze each game and go from, "How are we not considered for the top 25?" to "Greg Schiano is the worst gameday coach in America."
They are all experts, they want every coach fired, and now, are feeling duped by Schiano.
Along the way, there have been many bumps for Schiano: the 1-5 start in 2008, the season-opening blowout loss in 2009 to Cincy, and a loss at lowly Syracuse.
In 2007, after the back-to-back losses to West Virginia and Connecticut fans were chirping then too, but never this loud.
This season is coming at a bad time for Rutgers fans and Schiano. They were led to believe that Tom Savage was the second coming. After an impressive freshman campaign, the R.U. faithful had every reason to believe he'd truly break out in 2010. As of yet, he hasn't.
To make matters more interesting, his inconsistent play landed him on the bench on Saturday as true freshman Chas Dodd took most of the second-half snaps for Rutgers.
Although Dodd worked through his progressions quicker than Savage and seemed to make good decisions, he was inaccurate on long and intermediate passes. He seemed to be, and justifiably so, a bit too amped up as plays opened up for him.
For whatever it's worth Dodd did look better than Savage, but still the offense managed just two touchdowns, and just one with Dodd at the helm.
So who is to blame? The coaches? Were they really unprepared to play Tulane? It didn't seem that way. The team played hard, they didn't quit on plays, they just didn't make enough of them.
There are too many young players at key positions for Rutgers this year. Mohamed Sanu is a great player, but he is only a sophomore. He had an opportunity to make two game-changing plays and dropped both passes.
Savage looked indecisive, and as mentioned, Dodd misfired on several wide-open big play attempts.
Take Savage's "breakout" season a year ago, and it cannot be overlooked that he had Timmy Brown in the fold. When he was in trouble, he could usually look to Brown to make a huge play. Look no further than the UConn game last season.
With Brown gone, neither Dodd nor Savage have that "go-to guy." As good as Sanu is, he just isn't at the level yet to make a play like Brown did last season against Connecticut.
Without blaming players or absolving coaches, I am simply stating the facts. College football is a game of depth and turnover. Players graduate, run out of eligibility, or simply don't pan out. Rutgers has gone to five straight bowls, winning four in a row. That's no small accomplishment.
But, there is a reason teams don't go to bowls every single year. Players turn over. A bad season was bound to happen at some point. It isn't over yet, but it seems pretty bleak right now.
It's Schiano's job to make the team progress and not let this season and spiral out of control. That's the mark of a good coach. It will be interesting to watch this play out.