Rutgers surprised college ranks with win vs. Michigan State in Greg Schiano’s return

By Tom Canavan
Associated Press

The college football world has no idea what to expect from Rutgers anymore.

Heading into the start of Greg Schiano’s second stint as coach, no one would have been surprised if the Scarlet Knights went winless in a schedule consisting of nine games against Big Ten Conference opponents.

Michigan State wide receiver Jalen Nailor walks away as Rutgers celebrates an interception late in the fourth quarter.

After all, Rutgers had one of the worst programs in college football. It had three wins over the past two seasons and a 21-game losing streak in conference play dating to 2017.

The gloomy expectations ended Saturday when Rutgers stunned college football fans with a 38-27 win at Michigan State in the season opener.

That left many with questions.

Is Schiano, who made Rutgers a winner in his first stint between 2001-11, a miracle worker? Is Rutgers actually better than expected? Is Michigan State that bad?

Answers should come this weekend when the Scarlet Knights play host to No. 17 Indiana. The Hoosiers stunned then-No. 8 Penn State 36-35 in overtime last weekend to jump into the AP Top 25 poll.

Schiano got a lot of congratulatory emails and texts messages after the game and told his players to enjoy the win.

On Sunday, it was back to work and turning the focus on this week, which has been his theme since being hired in December.

“You know, there’s going to be highs. There’s going to be lows,” Schiano said Monday. “We have to be able to continue to … our word is ‘chop.’ You have to be able to chop and not get distracted by the bombs that are going off on your right or your left.”

With a young team, he said, the goal is to be competitive each week and to have a chance in the fourth quarter to win.

Rutgers will have some distractions this week. Staying focused will be the biggest because players will have to deal with people at school telling them how good they are.

The second will be on Saturday when the university is allowing roughly 500 friends and relatives to attend the game at SHI Stadium. Fans watching them play has been a rarity since March, when the virus took hold in the United States.

Rutgers also can’t count on Indiana being so generous with the football. The Scarlet Knights forced seven turnovers against Michigan State and scored three touchdowns on drives of 1, 23 and 26 yards.

“The world will lie to you both in the good times and the bad,” Schiano said. “And you need to just stay on the process. And that’s what we do. And that’s what we’re going to continue to do. That’s what this program is built on.”

The game in Michigan was the first time the Scarlet Knights have been away from home. Schiano is interested to see if there is any fallout in terms of the coronavirus.

He said he does not intend to disclose cases on a weekly basis, noting he will not get testing results for a couple of days. However, he kept track earlier this season when other conferences started play and saw at least five or six teams that had a spike in cases after a road game.

“We worked really, really diligently to try to take every precaution,” Schiano said. “But as I’ve said all along, you’ve got to do all the right things and then, you know, who’s kidding who, you have to get a little lucky. But we’ll know a little bit more here as the week unfolds.”