PISCATAWAY, N.J. - It's almost certain that when Greg Schiano took over this Rutgers program, he envisioned it one day being talked about amongst the likes of Texas, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.
He may have even wanted it in the worst way...and on Saturday afternoon, that's exactly how he got it.
Aditi Kinkhabwala, the Rutgers beat writer for the Bergen Record brought up the fact that the Scarlet Knights were one of four top 10 teams (and one of six Top 25 teams) to take a tumble this weekend in Schiano's postgame press conference. Schiano, focused as he was on his own team, wasn't aware that three others had gone down and asked who they were. Upon being told, "Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia," Schiano added... "and Rutgers."
That addition came back later, at the end of his press conference, when Lenn Robbins of the New York Post asked if this was a part of growing into the kind of program that Schiano wants to build here, and Schiano said, "Yeah. You're not going to win every game. But you know, I've been part of streaks where you start winning and winning and winning. We weren't on any great streak - we had a home winning streak that was pretty good - but it's better than a losing streak. We've got to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and go back to work, because everybody who's seen us play knows that's not close to how well we can play."
Not to say, of course, that Schiano was unwilling to give the Terrapins their due. "Give credit to Maryland," Schiano said. "They played very well. I think they had a good plan, and I think they executed the plan very well."
Execution is the word of the day. The Terrapins did it at all the right times. The Scarlet Knights did it at some key times, but not nearly enough. The anticlimactic succession of three incomplete passes and a sack on that do-or-die drive at the end was emblematic of the failure to execute.
The other big failure to execute for the Scarlet Knights was the Dennis Campbell fumble of a punt return in the second quarter, which led to the injury to Ron Girault and a 55-yard touchdown drive for the Terrapins. It came on the heels of a three-and-out for the Rutgers defense that featured a big pass breakup by Courtney Greene on first down and a sack of Jorden Steffy on third down by Eric Foster and Glen Lee, one of the best defensive series for Rutgers all afternoon, completely negating any major momentum gain by the Scarlet Knights.
Tiquan Underwood put it best. "We just didn't come out and play Rutgers football from beginning to end," Underwood said. "We showed spurts of it, but we didn't put an entire game together."
Among those spurts:
- a career-high total of 25 completions for Mike Teel as he moved into fifth place on Rutgers' all-time passing yardage list.
- 4-for-4 performance in the red zone, bringing Rutgers to 16-for-16 in that category on the season.
- 62 yards on eight carries for Ray Rice in the first quarter. (He'd carry 13 more times for 35 yards the rest of the way).
- 100 yards for Underwood for the fourth straight game, tying a school record.
Unfortunately, though, the consistency and execution weren't there over the full 60 minutes.
Not that they were truly there for Maryland either. The Terrapins were 9 for 21 on third down, but seemed to get the ones they needed. Obi Egekeze missed three field goal attempts, but he got two in the third quarter, giving the Terrapins points they needed. Most importantly, perhaps, the Terrapins did not turn the ball over, something the Knights did three separate times (and almost did a fourth time on the first play of the game). That despite having to go with backup Chris Turner under center in the second half. Turner certain;y delivered, completing 14 of 20 passes for 149 yards. Not bad for just over 30 minutes' worth of work.
"Give Turner credit," Schiano said. "He got hit a few times but still hung in there. He did an impressive job."
Turner's own coach, Ralph Friedgen, was more effusive.
"Turner came in and did what he does in scrimmages," Friedgen said, "and a lot of guys made plays around him. The line blocked for him and some of our receivers started making some plays. Chris is to be commended for the poise he showed. He did a heck of a job. I have always said this kid has a chance to be a good quarterback. He played pretty good today."
Of course, there was also the Maryland running game, which took a lot of the pressure off. Led by Keon Lattimore's 124 yards on 34 carries, the Terrapins got 239 yards on the ground Saturday, as Lance Ball added 90 yards on nine carries and Da'Rel Scott got into the act as well. "We knew we were bigger than them," Lattimore said. "We knew our line, running the ball like that, [Rutgers] would get tired. That's what we play, smash mouth. We tired them out."
On the other side of the ball, once again, the three turnovers were huge. "We work hard on takeaways," Friedgen said. "I think we stripped the ball more. The defensive coaches really work on that in practice and it helps us be more conscious of it in practice on our end as well."
The Terrapins certainly gave Rutgers what to be conscious of as well as they get set to enter the Big East schedule, and there's certainly no quit in the Knights.
"Today's loss is very tough," defensive tackle Eric Foster said, "but we have to keep chopping. I will look at the game film to know exactly what went wrong today, but I know we need to improve. Even though their line was bigger than us, we've encountered this before against other opponents. We knew we could compete against Maryland, but we just didn't get the job done."
Fortunately for the Scarlet Knights, there are still more jobs to do, for both them and the Terrapins.
Good night from Piscataway.