With a disappointing 2016-17 Rutgers Football Season almost over, the Scarlet Knights have not had much to be inspired by. Senior WR/KR/PR Janarion Grant had some highlight moments this season. Here are some of the best. A little something to be thankful for this holiday season.
This is a recap of the regular season wins and one memorable night in November of 2006 that catapulted Rutgers football into the consciousness of the nation.
Fast forward to about 6:12. If you don’t have chills by the end of this, check your pulse.
We asked our followers if they would support the re-hiring of Greg Schiano as Rutgers Football Head Coach. Needless to say, recruiting and discipline would be major benefits. Kyle Flood lost control of the team before the season started AND can thank most of his success on players recruited by Schiano. We say, give the guy another shot. Most of you seem to agree with us.
In 2001, Schiano took over a Rutgers program widely considered among the worst in college football and resurrected it to respectability. His Scarlet Knights teams went 49-28 from 2006 to 2011, he recruited future NFL first round draft picks such as Kenny Britt and Devin McCourty and he helped kick-start stadium expansions that created an impressive gameday experience in Piscataway. The improvements also put Rutgers on the doorstep of the Big Ten, which it joined in 2014.
Rutgers made recruiting inroads under Schiano, and coaches said the key to winning in the Big Ten would be keeping New Jersey’s top prospects home. Schiano helped put together Rutgers’ heralded 2012 recruiting class highlighted by defensive tackle Darius Hamilton and wide receiver Leonte Carroo — both Don Bosco graduates. Schiano left for the NFL just before signing day, and his successor, Kyle Flood, who was fired Sunday, held much of the class together.
“Chris (Laviano) is our starting quarterback,” Flood said on Sunday after his team lost its fourth straight game, 31-14, to Nebraska on Saturday.
Laviano has completed 38-of-87 passes (43.7 percent) for 410 yards, no touchdowns and five interceptions during the team’s four-game losing skid. The first-team offense ended a three-game streak without a touchdown on Saturday, thanks to a pair of interception returns that put the ball in Nebraska territory.
Those struggles have not shaken Flood’s belief that Laviano is the best option.
“Every position, we make the decision the same way,” Flood said. “It’s the player that gives us the best chance to be 1-0 this week. I feel like Chris is that guy.”
Rutgers has significant problems in pass protection and its receivers — aside from Leonte Carroo — have struggled to get open. While the offense’s woes certainly aren’t solely Laviano’s fault, many fans are frustrated by Flood’s refusal to give backup quarterback Hayden Rettig a chance to start.
Rettig started the season opener against Norfolk State while Laviano served a one-half suspension for violating curfew and getting caught with a fake ID during training camp. Rettig completed 9-of-11 passes for 110 yards, two total touchdowns and no interceptions in the first half before he was replaced by Chris Laviano after halftime.
Flood didn’t name a starter until after the opener because he said the competition between Laviano and Rettig was too close to call. Since that point, Rettig has only appeared in mop-up duty at the end of three blowouts.
“I’m not going to get into the specifics of one player over another,” Flood said. “I’m not going to do that in public. That’s not in the best interest of the program. I understand why there is interest in it. The quarterback position is the most important position in all of sports. The guy who goes out there as the starting quarterback is going to be the one who we feel like gives us the best chance to be 1-0 this week. This week is the only week we’re thinking about.”
Rettig transferred to Rutgers before the 2014 season after one year at LSU.He admitted recently that “it’s been hard” not to play while the offense sputters. Rettig declined comment on Oct. 31 when he was asked if he felt he should have played earlier than the fourth quarter of a 48-10 loss to Wisconsin.
Flood said Sunday that he isn’t concerned that Rettig will check out mentally or emotionally as he continues to sit on the bench.
“Hayden is a good teammate. He’s been a good teammate the whole year,” Flood said. “I don’t have any concerns about that. But I know he is a competitor. I know he wants to get his opportunity to get out there. I know he is working really hard to make sure he is ready when he is called upon.”
Laviano and Rettig are both redshirt sophomores. With Flood investing so heavily in developing Laviano this season, it’s natural to wonder if Rettig would consider transferring again to try to find an opportunity to play.
But when he was asked if he had any concern about Rettig potentially transferring, Flood simply responded, “No.”
With Gary Nova nursing an injured ankle, Rutgers quarterback Chris Laviano saw some of his most meaningful action last season when he played the final 20 minutes of a 37-0 shutout against Wisconsin.
His statistics — 17 yards on 2-for-12 passing — were subpar, but Laviano hopes to use that experience as an aid to his preparation as the Scarlet Knights game-plan for Saturday’s 12 noon kickoff at Wisconsin.
“I was thrown into it, and to be honest I didn’t prepare the way I needed to,” said Laviano, who is set to make his seventh career start. “Now, I’m doing a lot better job preparing. It’s going to be a totally different experience for me. When I dive into it this week I’ll feel more familiar (with Wisconsin’s defense). It’ll definitely help me this week because it’s the same defense.”
The Big Ten’s most accurate passer at 67.2 percent, Laviano figures to be tested against a Wisconsin defense that ranks second in the conference in fewest points allowed (11.2) and is yielding 182.6 yards through the air.
“From what I’ve seen so far, they play really fast and they’re talented in the secondary,” Laviano said. “I remember them from last year. They had a very unique way of blitzing and dropping guys into coverage and that’s vaguely what I remember. They’re playing pretty good right now. They’re a pretty tough defense.”
• PLUS: Rutgers quarterback Chris Laviano struggles in loss to Ohio State
Even though he struggled to the tune of 117 yards on 10-for-20 passing, Laviano said he believes he’s getting settled into the starting role as the Scarlet Knights (3-4, 1-3 Big Ten) head toward the defining stretch of the season.
“Throughout the course of the last six games I have been getting more comfortable just by game-planning and knowing how to practice the right way,” said Laviano, who has thrown for 1,505 yards, 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions on 125-for-186 passing overall. “I’ve obviously made mistakes. I definitely know I’m getting better at different kinds of stuff, and it’s allowing me to play more comfortable.”
• ALSO: Why won’t Rutgers coach Kyle Flood give backup quarterback Hayden Rettig a shot vs. Wisconsin?
Laviano, whose 148.9 passing efficiency rating ranks second best in the Big Ten, received a vote of confidence Monday from Rutgers coach Kyle Flood, who clearly doesn’t want the third-year sophomore looking over his shoulder with strong-armed backup Hayden Rettig waiting in the wings.
“Although the last game was not his best performance, I think if we look at the season, he’s gotten better and better,” Flood said, “and I’m pleased with how he’s progressing and that’s how we’ll move forward.”
If there was any doubt that Leonte Carroo would be welcomed back with open arms by his teammates after a second off-field incident in a three-week period resulted in a suspension from the team, it was answered by the way the Rutgers co-captain was greeted when he returned to the locker room.
“What made me the most happy was the comfort from my teammates,” Carroo said Thursday, speaking for the first time since serving what amounted to 25-day suspension due to the legal charges that were dropped earlier this week.
“As soon as I got back in the locker room they were going crazy, they were happy, showing me nothing but support out here on the field today, making sure I lined up correctly and little things like that. It was just a blessing to be back out here and just to be back out here with them.”
Still, there is a question of how Carroo — who was selected as one of four captains based on a team-wide vote in August — will go about leading after a pair of incidents led to team-imposed disciplinary measures.
PLUS: Rutgers receiver Leonte Carroo says he’s ‘blessed’ to be back after ‘unfortunate event’
“The biggest thing for me is to make sure my teammates know what type of guy I am,” Carroo said, when asked how he plans to go about leading the team going forward. “They already know, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t in there ear every day I was out. I was watching practice, I was texting the receivers, coaching them up, I was motivating guys before the game, calls at night while they were in the hotel, talking to them nonstop.
“So even though I wasn’t here physically they still heard me every single day.”
In the last week of training camp, Carroo was among five players suspended for the first half of the season opener against Norfolk State as a result of a curfew violation. Carroo called it a “dumb decision,” took ownership of the penalty by saying he got “exactly what (he) deserved,” and said he would take “full responsibility … being a captain and a leader of this team” to “go out there and do my best to make sure this team is still disciplined.”
A day after the Scarlet Knights’ Week 2 loss to Washington State, Carroo was suspended by head coach Kyle Flood as a result of an altercation outside the football team’s headquarters. Carroo was arrested by the Rutgers University Police Department and charged with simple assault under domestic violence for allegedly slamming a woman to the ground outside of the Hale Center.
The charge and a restraining order against Carroo were dismissed in separate court hearings on Tuesday when the alleged victim said she did not wish to pursue the case.
Flood — who is currently serving his own suspension stemming from a violation of a university compliance policy — reinstated Carroo on Wednesday after, according to a Rutgers athletics statement, “he accepted the responsibility that comes with his return to the team.”
ALSO: What will receiver Leonte Carroo’s role be vs. Michigan State?
Carroo declined to address what those stipulations are, but said following practice Thursday that he’s “just happy to be back out here with my teammates and ready to go.”
The program’s all-time leader in receiving touchdowns is eager to return to the field Saturday (8 p.m., BTN), when the Scarlet Knights host No. 4 Michigan State at High Point Solutions Stadium.
“I’ve very confident in his ability to lead,” Rutgers interim head coach Norries Wilson said. “He’s made some mistakes. He’s not perfect. And he’s stepped up and owned up to his mistakes. That’s behind him now and we’re going to go forward now and just take it day-by-day.”
Rutgers enters the bye week with a 2-2 record, finally having time to recover from what has been a nightmarish first month off the field. After losing in the final minutes at home to Washington State, followed by Penn State beating Rutgers badly in Happy Valley, the results on the field haven’t been good either. Looking ahead, this team faces a brutal month of October and early November, as they are scheduled to take on four ranked teams in their next five games.
Rutgers only home games in the next month are against the two top ranked teams in the country, Ohio State and Michigan State. After facing the Buckeyes at home on October 24th, Rutgers travels to #19 Wisconsin and then #22 Michigan in back to back weeks. We should expect to be at least two touchdown underdogs in all four games. The only opponent we play during that stretch that is not ranked is 4-0 Indiana. We visit the Hoosiers on October 17th for their Homecoming game. Following this five game stretch, Rutgers returns home to face 2-2 Nebraska.
So is there any hope that Rutgers can string enough wins together to become bowl eligible? I say yes but it will not be easy at all. The last two games of the season are against Army in West Point and at home against Maryland. Army just won their first game of the season on Saturday against Eastern Michigan, after losing to Fordham, Wake Forest and UCONN. There are no sure things of course, but Rutgers will be favored to win that game. Finishing the season at home against Maryland will not be easy, but the Terrapins are in worse shape than Rutgers on the field right now. They have benched two starting quarterbacks so far this season and their defense is a mess. They lost to Bowling Green by three touchdowns and were destroyed by West Virginia on Saturday 45-6. As bad as September was for Rutgers on the field, it wasn’t on the same level of bad as Maryland.
Let’s assume for a minute that Rutgers has enough left in the tank to finish off Army and Maryland. Where is Rutgers going to get two more wins? The best opportunities by far, is Indiana on the road and Nebraska at home. I am not giving up on any game, but let’s be realistic. Winning at Wisconsin seems highly unlikely, even without Corey Clement in the backfield. While it’s possible to win at Michigan, the Harbaugh effect has already led to a step forward, after a 31-0 shellacking of BYU on Saturday. Rutgers would have to play near or at their best to beat Michigan in the Big House the way things look right now.
Indiana is undefeated but they are beatable. Their wins include a 1 point victory over FCS school Southern Illinois, a 3 point victory over Western Kentucky and a 7 point win at Wake Forest. Indiana gives up 32 points a game on defense and again, have not faced anyone of significance. They do have a good quarterback in Nate Sudfeld, who is starting to excel after returning from his season ending injury a year ago. He averages 285 yards passing a game and has thrown 7 touchdowns with just 1 interception. It must be nice to have a quarterback that efficient!
The point, it will not be easy on the defensive end, but our offense will have every opportunity to keep up. If Rutgers can continue to fine tune and improve on the running game, we can control the game like we did Saturday against Kansas. Indiana’s rushing defense is ranked 54th, giving up 138.5 yards per game. The highest ranked rushing offense that Indiana has faced is Florida International at 96th in the country. Rutgers currently ranks 30th, averaging 211 rushing yards a game. Last year we wore Indiana down with the run, and we need to do the same this year. It will also be coach Kyle Flood’s first game back from his suspension, hopefully resulting in this team coming out fired up and ready to play.
After Rutgers ends that crazy five game gauntlet, it comes home to face Nebraska. The Cornhuskers are 2-2 with heartbreaking losses to BYU and Miami. What is more telling is they only beat Southern Miss at home this past Saturday 36-28. Although the Nebraska run defense is ranked 11th in the country, the highest ranked rushing offense they have faced is Southern Miss at 78th. Miami and BYU are pass heavy offenses. Another fact on our side is that Nebraska plays Michigan State the week before their visit to Piscataway. Who knows what shape they will be in heading into our game? Of course, we don’t know what shape Rutgers will be in either.
The season is only a third of the way complete, but it’s obvious Rutgers only has so many realistic chances left for a win. They cannot squander those opportunities like they did with Washington State. I hope they play respectably against Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin. Heck, there is always a shot they could upset Michigan. However, major improvement is needed in all facets of the game for this team to do that.
The reality is this, a loss to Indiana would spell likely disaster for whatever is left of the season at that point. With a win against the Hoosiers, the most likely scenario is this team is 3-6 with Nebraska, Army and Maryland left on the schedule. In order for Rutgers to achieve six wins and qualify for a bowl, they would need a clean sweep to finish the season. Never say never and let’s hope this team can pull it off. Otherwise, the season will result in failed expectations across the board.
(All content in this post is from www.OnTheBanks.com)
Despite that strong first impression, the Scarlet Knights haven’t earned much respect in preseason predictions. Rutgers was picked to finish sixth in the seven-team Big Ten East Division in a poll of conference beat writers.
The schedule doesn’t get any easier in 2015 and Rutgers has big holes to fill, especially at quarterback and on the offensive line. Once again, there are a handful of toss-up games that will determine the Knights’ fate.
With so much uncertainty, the best case scenario and the worst case scenario are being analyzed.
Best case: 9-3
Hayden Rettig throws for four touchdowns in the first half of a blowout win over Norfolk State in the season opener and Rutgers has its quarterback for the future. Washington State brings its Air Raid offense to the East Coast, but Rettig and Leonte Carroo steal the show in a shootout. Free safety Anthony Cioffi seals the win with the interception, and then tells Washington State coach Mike Leach not to underestimate Jersey players. Rutgers gets revenge against Penn State, as Kemoko Turay sacks Christian Hackenberg four times and the defense gets a late goal-line stand to hold on for a victory.
Rutgers fans finally get something to celebrate on homecoming with a blowout win over Kansas. This is the “best scenario” but not the dream scenario, and Michigan State ends the Knights’ undefeated fantasies with a convincing win in Piscataway. Rettig and Carroo have another big day against Indiana’s shaky secondary and Rutgers hits the midpoint of the season with a 5-1 record.
Rutgers’ hype starts to build, but defending national champion Ohio State slows the bandwagon with a blowout. The downward trend continues with a loss at Wisconsin, as Glassboro native Corey Clement vaults into Heisman Trophy contention with a big day. The Knights stop the bleeding with another win over Michigan, this time against Jim Harbaugh at the Big House.
The Knights pick up a marquee win over a Nebraska team struggling to adapt to new coach Mike Riley. Rutgers stuffs Army’s triple-option and rolls to an easy win. Once again, the Knights close with a win over Maryland. The 9-3 finish gets Rutgers to the biggest bowl game in program history.
Worst case: 3-9
Rettig and Chris Laviano struggle in an ugly win over Norfolk State and a quarterback controversy develops. Washington State lights up Rutgers’ inexperienced secondary and the Knights don’t have the offensive firepower to keep pace as they fall to 1-1. Things hit rock bottom as Rutgers is blown out in front of 107,000 Penn State fans in Happy Valley.
Rutgers gets its first win of the season against Kansas on homecoming, but the quarterback issues persist. Michigan State steamrolls Rutgers, scoring on a fake field goal in the final two minutes to cap a 56-6 win. With a healthy Nate Sudfeld at quarterback, Indiana gets revenge for last year’s loss to drop Rutgers to 2-4 at the midpoint of the season.
Urban Meyer sends a message to New Jersey recruits with Ohio State’s 60-3 win at High Point Solution Stadium. The misery continues at Wisconsin, which “jumps around” after another blowout of the Knights. Rutgers limps into the Big House where Harbaugh has the program turned around. The Wolverines get revenge for last season’s loss, as East Orange native Jabrill Peppers has two interceptions and a punt return for a touchdown.
The Scarlet Knights fall to 2-8 with a home loss to Nebraska. Rutgers finally snaps the six-game losing streak with a win over an overmatched Army squad. The season finishes with a loss to Maryland that leaves fans calling for the jobs of head coach Kyle Flood and athletic director Julie Hermann.
Neither of those scenarios are expect to unfold. In fact, expect the season to wind up right in the middle of the best and worst case scenarios with a 6-6 record.
Look at Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin as extreme long shots for wins, and Norfolk State, Kansas and Army as locks for wins. That leaves six toss-up games. Rutgers had an incredible success rate in toss-ups last season, but things tend to even out.
With little experience at quarterback, offensive line and the secondary, it’s difficult to envision the Knights coming through in the clutch as consistently as last season. Considering all of that uncertainty, a 6-6 record would have to be considered a success.
The weight of Rutgers’ student body is now resting heavily on Janarion Grant’s shoulders.
If the junior kick returner takes one to the house on the Scarlet Knights’ season-opening kickoff against Norfolk State on September 5, the school will pay 100 lucky students $1,000 each.
Kudos to you if you figured out that’s a total payout of $100,000.
According to the team, every Rutgers student sitting in the student section will automatically be entered to win. This is a pretty ingenious plan to get students in the seats, and Grant did score on a 100-yard return in Rutgers’ home opener 2 years ago. That was the last time the Knights took a kick return to the house.
“So, you’re telling me there’s a chance?!” (cue in Lloyd Christmas)
There may be a riot if the Spartans decide to start the game off with a squib kick.
This week, Rutgers football players are scheduled to vote for their team captains. Fans are being given the opportunity to weigh in on the decision.
The list of potential captains has been narrowed down to 10. It’s a diverse group with a number of strong and deserving candidates.
“Whoever the captains are going to be are going to be good guys,” said junior defensive lineman Julian Pinnix-Odrick, who is among the 10 top candidates. “We have a lot of guys who are working a lot harder than they have since they’ve been here. We have a lot of guys who are leading people well and a lot of guys are buying in.”
As we await the official results, here’s your chance to vote for the captains.
Last year, four of the top five vote-getters in the NJ.com poll were named captains. You can cast your votes here – Rutgers Football Captains