Rutgers Football: Scarlet Knights Look To Rebound Against West Virginia

Jayson LoveCorrespondent IOctober 26, 2011

LOUISVILLE, KY - OCTOBER 21:  Mohamed Sanu #6 of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights catches a touchdown pass during the game against the Louisville Cardinals at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on October 21, 2011 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

This week's showdown between Rutgers and West Virginia was supposed to be a Top 25 matchup between two teams gunning the Big East title.

However, it has turned into a battle of two teams looking to rebound from disastrous road trips last week.

WVU went up to Syracuse an could not stop Ryan Nassib and the Syracuse offense, surrendering 49 points in a 26-point loss to the Orange.  

Meanwhile, Rutgers lost a defensive battle to Louisville, 16-14.  The game was one of blown opportunities for the Scarlet Knights.

San San Te missed a pair of chip-shot field goals, while freshman quarterback Gary Nova threw two interceptions in Louisville territory in the first half—throwing a total of three picks on the day.

Nova was accurate at times.  He thew a strike to Mark Harrison that would most likely have gone for a touchdown had Harrison not inexplicably, dropped the ball. 

The Knights blew opportunities within the game, squandered the chance to move to 3-0 in the Big East, stay all alone in first place in the conference, and move into the Top 25.

The teams' respective losses put them both out of the public eye for now and furthered the argument about the Big East's lack of quality teams. However, they won't be completely out of the public eye since ABC locked into this game before both teams' Friday night disasters.

Now, each team is presented with a new opportunity.

For WVU, it is all about keeping a hold on their Top 25 ranking, which at the moment is quite tenuous as they sit at No. 25 in both the AP poll and BCS standings.

For RU, it is an opportunity that they deserve respect, and that their 5-2 record—2-1 in the Big East—is no fluke.

The Knights, however, face a tough road.

They have not beaten WVU since 1994, when junior quarterback Ray Lucas led the Scarlet Knights to a 17-12 win.

At the time, the Scarlet Knights had knocked off the Mountaineers twice in three years.

Now, the Knights simply cannot knock the Mountaineers off at all.  An 0-10 record against WVU is the one negative mark on the Greg Schiano era of Rutgers football.  This included a stunning 80-7 loss in 2001.

At times, the Knights have played the Mountaineers close, such as in 2006 when the Scarlet Knights lost in double-overtime at Mountaineer Field and 2008 when they lost to WVU by just a touchdown.

In 2004, a 4-7 Rutgers team lost to WVU by five points.

This year however, they will have an added boost.  They will be led out onto the field by Eric LeGrand.

The young man, who has inspired a nation after his devastating spinal cord injury causing paralysis below the neck, will try to inspire his former teammates on Saturday afternoon.

In order for the Knights to compete, they will need to pressure Geno Smith into mistakes, much like the 'Cuse did on Friday night.

When pressured, the dynamic WVU signal-caller showed signs of weakness, throwing two picks. 

Rutgers had been forcing turnovers regularly before last week, but they were really unable to pressure Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, which is a bad sign for this week's game.

The Knights will need to play darn near perfect to compete with WVU on Saturday and figure out a way to resurrect their struggling offense—14 points will not get it done.