The Scarlet Knights are off to a 2-0 start and preparing for their third and final non-conference game of the season. They will host Delaware at 3:30 PM on Saturday.
Delaware is also 2-0 this season with victories over Maine and St. Francis. Now, the Blue Hens will have a chance to notch another win for an FCS team over the FBS. This has become a trend this season and Greg Schiano and Rutgers are well aware of it.
“Delaware, they were one of the best two teams in the country last year and that’s why they played in that game,” Schiano said during Monday’s press conference. “They’re a good football team. They have good players on offense, good players on defense, and good players in the kicking game. To me, just like it was for Temple and for Syracuse, it’s about Rutgers getting ready. Our team getting ready to be the best that we can be — and we certainly weren't on Saturday. You never are, right, but we weren’t close to playing our best football.”
There have been eight FCS teams that have taken down FBS schools this season. Most notably, Montana defeated No. 20 Washington 13-7 and Jacksonville State scored a walk-off touchdown on Saturday to take down Florida State.
Of course, this is something that Rutgers knows a little about. During Schiano’s first tenure, the Scarlet Knights lost to Villanova in his second season and New Hampshire in his fourth season.
Delaware is one of the best FCS teams in the nation. They finished 7-1 during the spring and lost in the FCS semi-final game against South Dakota State. The Blue Hens last played an FBS opponent in 2019 in a 17-14 loss on the road to a Pitt team that went 8-5 and won a bowl game that season. The Scarlet Knights are fully aware of this and need to prepare as if this is any other opponent.
“There’s that gap in between but we’re looking at the film as continuous film and it’s weight, right,” Schiano said. “Guys change numbers from the spring season to the fall but it’s essentially the same football team. So, like I’ve said, they had great success in the spring and are now 2-0 in the fall so when you look at the run that they’ve been on, it’s a heck of a run, even though it was split up by a couple months in summer.”
“You try to see what did they change in the summer and are we going to see something different? One of the things is that they played a similar structure defense that Syracuse played. They’re different on how they do things but at least the base is that 3-5-3 look that we saw last week.”
If Delaware runs a similar defense to Syracuse, the Scarlet Knights will have to make some necessary adjustments. Its defense carried it to a 17-7 victory over the offense but Rutgers totaled just 195 total yards and 50 yards on the ground on 43 carries — which equates to 1.2 yards per attempt.
The wide receivers for Rutgers were supposed to be a strong suit but that vertical passing attack is something that has not been there just yet. This must change for the Scarlet Knights as they prepare for Big Ten play.
“If you’re throwing a nine route to the wideout and they roll up on a corner and have a half defender over the top, you can throw it, but it might get picked,” Schiano said. “You look to do that versus single coverage and turn that into a one-on-one battle. We’ve had a couple one-on-one battles but we haven’t come up with the ball. So was that the throw? Was that the catch? Everyone is its own situation. Than we’ve had a couple that where it’s called but we haven’t been able to get it off because of protection.”
“I’m a big believer in, I call them fly-over yards. When you throw a deep ball, you fly over a lot of problems. A lot of missed blocks, a lot of potential penalties, a lot of bad things — you go right over them. That’s one thing that we have to do a better job in for sure.”
Rutgers will have a chance to pickup its third-straight victory to begin the season. This would put them at the halfway point if they want to qualify for a bowl. As the week goes on, the Scarlet Knights must work the same so they do not look over the Blue Hens. They cannot afford to join the list of FBS teams that have been upset this season.