Better Execution. Better Play-making. Schiano Football.

Andrew WeaverCorrespondent IDecember 30, 2008

During ESPN’s telecast of the 2008 Bowl on Monday, the pizza chef-turned entrepreneur, Papa John Schattner, joined the announcers in the booth for an interview. 


Papa John enlightened viewers on how he took his business from serving pizzas in a bar to opening over 3,000 restaurants worldwide.


During the early years of his business, he faced obstacles and hardships that could have hindered his long-term goals and disrupted his business plans.  However, he was able to maintain his composure, perfect his recipe, and grow his business to what it is today.  


The same could be said about the 2008 Rutgers Scarlet Knights, who lost five of their first six games before winning their final seven.


Preseason expectations were high for the Scarlet Knights, even after the loss of key players like Ray Rice (Ravens), who finished third in the nation in rushing yards in 2007, starting offensive lineman Jeremy Zuttah (Buccaneers), and starting defensive tackle and team motivator Eric Foster (Colts).


With fifth year senior quarterback Mike Teel and proven wide receivers Kenny Britt, Tiquan Underwood, and Timmy Brown all returning, the 2008 offense figured to be as potent as 2007, with a sharper focus on the passing game.


An experienced offense paired with an aggressive, hard-nosed Greg Schiano defense was expected to position Rutgers as a legitimate contender for a Big East title.


Well, if the Scarlet Knights’ first six games were like a pizza pie, the shape of the pie may still have been round, but the ingredients were expired, rotten, and moldy. 


Who would want to eat that?


(That’s not to say Papa John’s pizza isn’t delicious, because I’ve had it and trust me, it is.) 


Rather, if you encountered a problem with an order and received some bad customer feedback, would you close up shop?  Maybe you would if you were a quitter or if you didn’t believe in the long-term business plan.  Papa John and Rutgers alike were not quitters.


So, as Rutgers had to deal with some “quality control” issues earlier in the season, Schiano and his Scarlet Knights never let these issues affect their future performance.  Instead, they stayed the course, found the best ingredients, and cooked up a winning recipe from Game Seven forward. 


In fact, I think Zagat’s rated it the best dish in its Big East Football Dining Guide (Strangely, sales of this edition struggled outside of the “State of Rutgers”).


How would one duplicate this dish?  Well, here is a brief list of the “known” ingredients that made it so popular (all averages during the seven game win streak):


1) Have at least 22 hungry athletes ready to stomp opposing team;

2) Place 321 Mike Teel passing yards to 129 Kenny Britt receiving yards into a bowl;

3) Add 3.1 passing touchdowns and one Kenny Britt receiving touchdown and stir;

4) While stirring, carefully sprinkle 140 rushing yards to bowl, and one dash of a rushing touchdown;

5) Once you have done so, periodically add 2.7 sacks and one interception to the mix and stir;

6) Place bowl on HIGH HEAT for 60 minutes; and

7) Serve piping hot and enjoy!


Thanks to Chef Schiano and his staff, Rutgers has now served seven customers nationwide.  Their most recent satisfied customer was the Wolfpack of N.C. State in the Bowl whom Rutgers defeated 29-23. 


Knowing that one more loss would have all-but-guaranteed the Knights a long December of non-football related activities, Rutgers exhibited a praiseworthy amount of resilience and strength by defeating their last seven opponents.


At the close of the 2008 season, the Scarlet Knights reached a record of 8-5 and joined a group of only six other teams in college football history to begin a season with a 1-5 record and earn a bid to a bowl game.  All things considered, this type of turnaround is a commendable achievement for any type of team. 


As for Rutgers’ recipe for success in 2009, it will undoubtedly feature some new ingredients.  However, if Greg Schiano can mix together something similar to what he cooked up for the second half of 2008, he better prepare it in August and make enough to last the entire fall.