In his eighth season on the banks, we know many things about Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano: He is certainly a great recruiter, he has a poor offensive coordinator, and he has certainly not improved as an in-game coach.
What Schiano has done at Rutgers is still amazing, bringing maybe the worst program in college football into the national spotlight and making Rutgers popular in the Tri-State area. Schiano, though, has yet to prove that the 11-win 2006 Scarlet Knights were no more than a fluke.
With Rutgers University approving the expansion of Rutgers Stadium last year, Schiano and his staff need to win in order to sell out the future 56,000-seat stadium.
The opening day loss to Fresno State on national television does not help the cause. The Scarlet Knights looked unprepared and seemed lifeless on the sidelines as the Bulldogs showed why they are a BCS contender.
Schiano and offensive coordinator John McNulty looked like they had pre-determined the first few drives for Rutgers. The Knights, led by QB Mike Teel, showed different schemes and formations which resembled a well put-together offense.
Once McNulty had full control of the play calling in the second half, Rutgers went back to its conservative play calling and head scratching decisions. First down meant run the ball up the middle, second down and short meant throw the ball, and third down was a failure because Rutgers did not want to run the ball on second and short.
All day Teel was forced into third-and-long situations, giving Fresno State ample time to sit back and cover Tiquan Underwood and Kenny Britt.
RB Kordell Young looked healthy after his knee surgery, but he showed he is no Ray Rice.
Once again Rutgers could not score inside the red zone. Rutgers may have been first in the conference last year in red zone scoring, but that was due to 17 field goals from last year’s kicker, Jeremy Ito. Rutgers had the worst FG to touchdown ratio in the Big East at 1.5.
During the Fresno game, Rutgers missed two FGs and could not score from the three-yard line on fourth down.
McNulty must realize what his offense possesses. He returns a 3,000 yard QB, as well as two 1,000-yard receivers. It’s time to air it out and let Teel and company have fun. He needs to let his speedy running backs run to the outside more, and he needs to get TE Kevin Brock more involved in the offense.
Last year was similar to yesterday and leads one to ask this question: Why is McNulty back?
A home loss last season to Cincinnati was in part due to a questionable play call on third and short, as McNulty decided to air it out instead of running it with Ray Rice. Teel threw an interception, and the Bearcats got back right into the game and went on to defeat Rutgers.
McNulty clearly will not go out on a limb and let Teel run the offense. Teel looked very good as usual in the two-minute drill and showed that the Knights could possibly use the hurry-up offense to let the receivers gain an edge on the secondary.
The loss to the Bulldogs also showed that Greg Schiano has still not improved as an in-game coach. Last season, losses to Maryland, Cincinatti, and Louisville should have been wins, as Rutgers held the lead going into half in each game; both Maryland and Cincinatti were home games.
Schiano is a terrific recruiter and has made Rutgers football popular in New Jersey, but if he and his staff cannot muster up a successful season, then people will begin to wonder why they need an extra 13,000 seats for their stadium.
If McNulty cannot open up the playbook, it will be hard for Rutgers to go to its fourth consecutive bowl game.
Schiano may need to get rid of McNulty if the offense continues to struggle before the season is a loss. Otherwise the fans are going to start coming at Schiano before the rest of the staff.