Rutgers nation, there has now been a full night to digest the season-opening victory. The Scarlet Knights defeated Boston College for the first time since 1991 and won the first game of the year for the third consecutive year since Greg Schiano returned to Piscataway.
The Scarlet Knights put together a 12-play, 96-yard drive in the fourth quarter to secure a 22-21 victory at Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill, MA.
Following the victory, Schiano had plenty to say and it began with the culture around Rutgers and the way fans traveled.
“I’m really proud of our players,” Schiano said. “And our fans, unbelievable turnout by our fans and our pep band. Our cheer team. That was really good. Really great opportunity for our team to figure out how to do it. We’re a young team and started out the game with some young team mistakes. It was a great lesson that if you can stay in the moment, eventually we got there.”
Schiano preached in the offseason that there was a three-man quarterback battle. It was clear from the opening possession that this was the plan. With Noah Vedral out with an injury, Rutgers used both Gavin Wimsatt and Evan Simon over the course of the game.
With the players in house, Schiano is comfortable with letting the situation play out.
“First off, we have the most unselfish quarterback room I've ever seen,” Schiano said. “They just pull for each other, they coach each other. Noah is going to be week to week. It’s not going to be a whole season. He’ll be back. I wish that I could say to you that it was all planned, like this many plays for this guy. We have a plan to start the game but every game is its own story.”
The offense for the Scarlet Knights struggled to get anything going in the first half — and this continued into the third quarter. As the game went on, the team looked more comfortable and was able to put together a drive to win the game.
While there is still ways to go to consistency, Schiano believed that playing multiple quarterbacks was the best way to win the game on Saturday.
“I mean that’s, as long as I’ve been watching football, that’s what everyone says when you play more than one quarterback,” Schiano said. “Leading into the game, I really felt that this team, they would be good with whoever played. Certainly, eventually, you’d like to settle on who your quarterback is. I’ve seen teams win a lot of games and championships playing multiple quarterbacks. We’re going to do what gives us the best chance to win. Today, that certainly did.”
“I’m not going to put a time on it because then you make it happen. It has to happen organically. Do I think it will? I do. Usually there’s a click moment but if it doesn’t, when Noah comes back, there’s another guys in the mix. I’m not going to worry about that as long as we have the room that we do. I have been in other situations where that wouldn’t fly. They wouldn’t support each other that way or put the team first. This is a unique room. A lot of it is Coach Gleeson’s leadership but there’s some strong character guys in that room.”
The offensive line was a question mark heading into Week 1. Yes, there seemed to be more depth on paper than previous years because of work that was done in the transfer portal. With that being said, it is natural to expect time for a unit to gel when they have not been together much.
Rutgers brought in some experienced players who have logged time at different schools. Now, they got a taste of a bigger stage and this will help moving forward.
“Look at the guys, we have like two guys that have played,” Schiano said. “They have played other places but haven’t played here. They haven’t played in this kind of atmosphere so it was good. They got a feel for it. Got some young guys in there. The more guys that we play, you have to let them play. They work hard all year round and are good players. That’s college sports. Find a role for everybody. I’m convinced they practice harder and study hard when they know they’re going to get into the game.”
Al-Shadee Salaam and the Final Drive
When Boston College pinned Rutgers on their own four-year line in the fourth quarter, it had to feel pretty good about the position. From this point on, the Scarlet Knights decided to run the football and did it well.
“We were going to run the football,” Schiano said. “We felt like we were conditioned and ready to go. We were committed to running the ball. In that last drive, we knew we had plenty of time, seven minutes or something like that. We said ‘right now, we have 96 yards to go. Let’s go do it.’ Just go get yards. We didn’t have to get chunks at a time. When you do that, as a defender, it gets hard. The tackle you would have made on play two of that drive, you don’t make it on play 12. It gets harder to reach when you’re exhausted.”
Al-Shadee Salaam scored the game-winner on a 22-yard run that he was able to break to the outside. Schiano created Salaam for the work that he put in and explained his talent on the field.
“He’s a very talented young man,” Schiano said. “He’s been working very hard. He was here for a year, we knew who he was, he had some injuries. We knew who he was. He’s just got to keep getting better. Understand what were doing on offense every week. You can see his talent. He’s quick, he’s fast, got good vision.”
The secondary for Rutgers was one of the bright spots coming into the season but Boston College was able to make some plays, led by Zay Flowers who finished with 10 catches for 117 yards and two touchdowns.
The Scarlet Knights were able to pick off Phil Jurkovec twice, with one coming from Robert Longerbeam.
“Robert’s had a tremendous camp,” Schiano said. “That exact pick, that exact play he missed at Northwestern. He caught it today. That’s what development is. Same play, three-step slant, three-step hitch to the field, he made it today. You have to remember, that’s how you build a program. Little by little, guys get better and you build a team. We have a long way to go. It’s fun to win but we have a long way to go.”