A rational person would not truly believe that the season opener is a must-win game. However, I am not a rational person, I am a Rutgers Football fan! This is a game Rutgers NEEDS and needs badly.
Northwestern comes into this season in turmoil as a hazing scandal led to major transfer departures and the firing of the best head coach they’ve ever had — and are a popular pick to finish last in the conference. All signs point to Rutgers having the advantage, especially with a home game. But that little voice in the back of my head who’s watched so many Rutgers games over the years tells me that this is a classic RU Screw scenario where the opponent comes out fired up with nothing to lose and the Knights have a letdown game. Northwestern has NOTHING to lose, and Rutgers has EVERYTHING to lose.
With that in mind, I actually love that this is the first game of the year because it will show us what this team is made of; a perfect opportunity for this program to show it is ready to take a step forward and climb out of the Big Ten cellar. Is this team ready to CHOP??
Coach Schiano HAS TO have his guys fired up and ready to go. Coach Ciarrocca HAS TO call a great offensive game and be a step ahead of new Northwestern head coach David Braun, who was initially hired to be the defensive coordinator. Gavin Wimsatt HAS TO execute and be in command of this offense. The talented defense HAS TO wreak havoc on the Northwestern quarterback (who last I checked was still unnamed). If Rutgers comes out and lays an egg, I will be very concerned for the future of this season. If Schiano is outcoached by a first time head coach, that does not bode well looking ahead. If the offense can’t move the ball against Northwestern’s defense, I have a hard time believing there will be more success against the other defenses they will face later on. If the defense doesn’t dominate, it could create a blueprint for future opponents on how to attack what is projected to be the strongest unit.
Now, I don’t want you to read this and think that if there are struggles at any point during the game that we are doomed. That is certainly not the case. We have to understand that the offense is adjusting to a new scheme, the offensive line will have two new starters, and last year’s starting right guard and right tackle have now been flipped to the left side. Mistakes will happen (they’re just kids after all!), so I’ll be watching closely on how the team responds to any adversity. I’m hoping to see the players rally around one another and play some good old fashioned complimentary football! If the offense can sustain drives and put some points on the board, and if the defense plays to their potential, I believe the home crowd will leave very happy. I don’t think it has to be a dominating performance, either. Starting this season with a win would be massive for this team’s confidence going forward, and a necessity if there is any hope of going bowling at the end of this season. It may sound silly in the first game of the year, but this is certainly a MUST WIN.
I hope you enjoyed my first solo article for On The Banks! As a lifelong Rutgers fan, I am very excited to contribute to this group going forward. If you liked what I had to say please follow me on Twitter @FrancisHearne and GO RU!