PISCATAWAY – Under Greg Schiano’s tutelage, Rutgers has become a team that has a knack for scoring on defense and special teams. The more they do so, the more successful they are. As is the case this year.
In Blacksburg, Va. they call it Beamerball. In Piscataway, N.J. they call it uh, err, well there is no name for it. And quite frankly, there should be.
“No,” nose tackle Scott Vallone said with a laugh when asked if the team has a name for the style of football they play. “We’re playing Rutgers football. That’s all it is.”
Safety David Rowe agreed with the similarities to Beamerball, and put it simply: “We’re just swarming.”
And they’re doing so like hornets on a nest.
The Scarlet Knights lead the country in turnovers (24) and turnover margin (2.17), are and second in interceptions (14).
“A lot of teams may just say ‘hopefully the kicker will miss it.’ We’re trying to take matters into our own hands and we were able to block two kicks in two big situations this year,” Vallone said. “We’re hoping to rely on that come the rest of the season.”
In the lone loss to North Carolina, 24-22, the defense recorded six turnovers. The offense was only able to muster up 12 points, and came away with none after Duron Harmon returned an interception to the 2-yard line.
While the offense had it’s best performance of the season against Navy, they’ve still left major room for improvement.
They also did what a team that relies so heavily on their defense can’t do. Turn the ball over. Freshman running back Savon Huggins fumbled on the 1-yard line while freshman quarterback Gary Nova threw two interceptions.
Although it appears that Nova has overtaken Chas Dodd as the starter, it doesn’t really matter which one quarterbacks this team. Whoever it is has one primary job. Manage the game. More specifically, take care of the football.
Sure, Mike Teel is regarded as the best quarterback in school history, but he was really a game manager. While Teel won his fair share of games for Rutgers, his job was more to not lose games, than to go out and win them.
And this season, more than any other in Schiano’s tenure, the turnovers and special teams are what’s gotten Rutgers this far.
“If that’s the way we’re winning, then we’ve got to continue it” Rowe said. “Each team is different on their philosophies of winning the game. Special teams and creating takeaways for the defense, that’s a big part of our game.”
A big enough part to have a name.