Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano held his game week press conference for Virginia Tech on Monday. It’s the first standard week of the season following a Sunday season opener and then short week against Temple. The Scarlet Knights now host the Hokies are 1-1 coming off a home loss to Purdue.
Schiano was asked about what he’s learned about Rutgers and if his outlook has changed for this season after the 2-0 start.
“No. I had belief in our team from the beginning,” Schiano affirmed. “Where that puts you us, you never know because you don’t know what the competition is. But I don’t concern myself with that. I do see a group that trusts each other, and that was evident in our last game when things started to get away from us a little bit.”
Despite dominating the game against Temple, Rutgers only led 13-7 early in the fourth quarter. The Scarlet Knights responded with 23 unanswered points to win 36-7. It was a statement that they were in fact a different and better team this season.
“As I told that you Saturday night, they came together and said, no, we’ve got a job to do, everybody go do your job and this is going to go where we want it to go and that’s exactly what happened,” explained Schiano. “That to me is a belief for trust in each other that happens when you pay the price together over time. Not a year but over three and four years paying the price together over time and that’s what I keep talking about, the pipeline. We’re not there yet. We’ve got to fill that pipeline with guys that have paid the price together and they develop together but we’re getting closer.”
The offense came into the season with many questions. None were bigger than how improved quarterback Gavin Wimsatt would be. He’s thrown for 361 yards, completed 54.0% of his passes along with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Wimsatt has also rushed for 61 yards at 3.6 yards per carry. The most important part of his development has been taking care of the football.
“I think in both games, he showed that he’s stayed calm and he’s been cool on the sideline,” said Schiano. “There was a little stretch even with him Saturday night that it started to get away and he brought it back. So I think that’s a step; if you’re looking for one that’s unique to Saturday, that’s what happened.”
A major work in progress has been the offensive line. Rutgers has rotated 10-11 players in both of the first two games. Tyler Needham left the Temple game injured and Schiano said he would update his status on the availability report released by the Big Ten two hours prior to kickoff.
Needham was replaced by Missouri. As for how he did, Schiano said, “Did some good things. Did some things that we can’t do. If we do them, we’ll get beat.”
Ad for his view of the play of the offensive line through two games, Schiano was positive but also realistic of the situation.
“We have made improvement, that’s for sure. Are we anywhere close to where we need to be? No,” Schiano said. “Improvement is a relative term. We just have to keep getting better every week, that’s the key. Keep getting better. Doesn’t matter who is out there, we have to be better. We have protected well. Given up one sack and part of that is the quarterback getting rid of it and knowing where he’s going with it and the other part is the protection.
The unquestioned strength of the offense is its running back depth. Kyle Monangai has rushed for 214 yards at 5.1 yards per carry and two touchdowns. He’s been the workhouse Rutgers has needs with Aaron Young missing both games and Sam Brown just working his way back late in the second half against Temple. In addition, offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca has utilized the running backs in the pass game as well.
“Yeah, it’s not a curse by any means because you don’t have to share the ball around. That’s what competition is. The guys who are playing the best are going to get the touches,” explained Schiano. “The guys that are doing the best in practice, the guys that are carrying into the game, you know, we love to have that kind of depth at every position because with competition, the cream rises to the top.”
If Rutgers can beat Virginia Tech on Saturday, it would ensure a 3-0 start for a third straight season. However, so far this Rutgers team does appear to be different. While the defense was expected to be good, they’re tracking to be even better this season. The offense is giving hope that even better performances are ahead this season.
Even with tougher opponents are on the schedule later this fall, optimism for a bowl game remains. If Rutgers ultimately gets there, the improved offense will be a key reason why. There is a long way to go but Schiano said on Monday he has always believed this team was capable.
You can watch his full presser below.
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