Rutgers stunned Michigan State for a 38-27 victory on Saturday to open the 2020 season and mark the triumphant return of Greg Schiano as head coach. Our contributors took time away from celebrating to put into words what this win meant for the program, the players, and the fans.
Fred Gaudios: If I can go rapid fire for this one: (1) Wow. Just… wow. It’s not that Rutgers won this game, it’s how they won this game. They seemed better prepared, more disciplined, more fired-up, willing to face adversity. (2) The dime from Vedral to Shameen Jones in the fourth quarter for a TD was the best throw I’ve seen from Rutgers since the Gary Nova era. (3) Is it weird that 2020 (of all years?!) might be the most optimistic year for Rutgers athletics in over a decade? It is, but I’m here for it. (4) There is stuff for Rutgers to clean up for sure – three turnovers won’t net you +4 in the turnover margin next week — but the ball-hawk defense is so refreshing, and so different from what we’ve seen over the past several years. You felt like Rutgers was trying to force a turnover on every play, it’s the only way to get so many (even in the first game of the season in a pandemic year). (5) I’m prepared for a week of “Is Rutgers good or is Michigan State bad?” Big Ten takes. (6) It feels like a new era for Rutgers is starting. I still think .500 is unrealistic for this year, but a ride fans can actually enjoy seems well-deserved.
David Anderson: I’m just so happy. For the fans, but mostly the players. Almost three calendar years since this team won a Big Ten game and it felt longer. Got the monkey off their back mostly due to excellent and I mean excellent coaching, game management at QB (more on that Monday), and capitalizing on mistakes. This team might not win another game, but you saw more reasons for long-term hope than any point since 2017 or maybe even the 2015 MSU game. Enjoy the day and here’s to another shot at an unlikely upset next week.
Patrick Mella: Wow. Well I didn’t see that one coming. As to everything I mentioned in our predictions post that I was looking to see today, they checked all the boxes. I have no idea how good or bad this Michigan State team is and you know what? I don’t care. Rutgers played spirited football for the first time in years AND came out with the win. No “moral victories” or “well they competed hard for three quarters.” Yes this is game one and yes we’re almost certainly going to get the “same old Rutgers” comments from fans when the team falters. But the immediate impact Schiano has had on this program is undeniable. Chances are we’re still years away from competing with the likes of Ohio State, if ever, for that matter. But for the first time in a very long time, Rutgers fans have a legitimate reason to be excited. #schiano4lyfe
Dave White: Both Rutgers and Michigan State surprised me today. Rutgers was better than expected. The schemes were smart and the players played well. Michigan State, however, was way worse than I expected. Yes, Rutgers caused some turnovers, but a lot of the Spartans’ errors were unforced and gave Rutgers plenty of opportunity. I don’t have much to say here, and I know I’ll be the negative nelly for this, but it is what it is. Rutgers isn’t there yet, and while they will compete this year, I’m not sure they’re worthy of raising expectations yet. Meanwhile, I think the Spartans are destined for the Big Ten basement.
Cara Sanfilippo: Um, what just happened here? Am I dreaming, or did we actually break our 21 game Big Ten losing streak. I was running late to my parents this morning and my dad greeted me with its 7-0. I responded, Michigan State or Rutgers? When he said Rutgers scored on the first possession I was shocked and made his rewind so I could see it myself. The fact that we not only won the game, but every quarter, made me so proud. I was cautiously excited and waiting for the other shoe to drop the entire game, to which my dad kept telling me how exactly MSU would need to score in order to win near the end, but I couldn’t allow myself to fully celebrate until the end. To which in full Italian tradition, we took a shot of Sambuca.
I am so excited as a fan, excited for Schiano (who didn’t seem that excited in his post-game interview) and SO EXCITED for a team that has not had much to celebrate these past few years. While we did have a huge infusion of talent, a lot of the key players were on the team last year, which just shows you the value of great coaching. Congrats, Scarlet Knights!!
Lance Glinn: Wow what a win! I of course give myself a lot of credit for predicting the win (see our pregame prediction roundtable) but the score of the actual game was much different and better than the score I predicted. Was it a clean game by the Scarlet Knights? Not at all. But that’s what makes it so great! They didn’t play their best in all three phases, and still dominated from start to finish.
Who do you give credit to? The coaching staff for getting this team prepared under difficult circumstances? The defensive line after they basically set up shop in the Michigan State backfield all game? Noah Vedral and the offense for always answering when Michigan State got within one score? There were so many groups that played well, that not one can take all the credit for helping Rutgers pull out this victory. That’s how Rutgers will win games this year. Not by getting carried by one unit all game, but by playing a well-balanced, full, team game.
Lets enjoy this win Rutgers fans. I know that Michigan State was one of the easier teams on the schedule, but really no Big Ten game is easy. I understand that the schedule gets more difficult in the next few weeks, but this was a statement win. A statement that this is not the Rutgers Football team of the last few seasons, and a statement that this team has improved greatly from last year to now. We as fans can worry about Indiana as it gets closer. But for now, Rutgers is 1-0 and the Schiano Era part 2 has started off with a bang!
Aaron Breitman: I lamented in recent seasons about the fact that Rutgers fans were tortured by having to watch joyless football. Each week revealed a new embarrassment. Hope was dead. The season opening, sequel starting victory over Michigan State on Saturday was a five course meal for the soul for Scarlet Knights fans. Even if it was with a burger and not filet mignonette. Our nightmare of the last five years, when Rutgers went 13-47 and dignity was lost, is officially over. The rebuild is going to take time, but faith that it will lead to long term success has been boosted after just one game.
There is a new sheriff in town, same as the old one that produced glory days that once seemed a distant memory and now feel like only a matter of time before they return. Greg Schiano’s team did what Greg Schiano led Rutgers teams always did before. They play hard and for each other, were aggressive on defense, had key moments on special teams, saw multiple players contribute in the victory and ultimately outworked its opponent. These were staples of his first tenure and they were on full display in the debut of his second tenure.
The most compelling development is how the players have been reborn and transformed. Many have endured so much pain on the football field the past few seasons and the newcomers are all cast-offs from bigger, more successful programs. Schiano has already molded them into a team of believers, fully bought in and chopping as one, in a global pandemic no less. The most important part of this victory is the message it sends to the rest of the Big Ten. Rutgers is a laughingstock no more.