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People forget about everything


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Politi: Empty seats for Rutgers' win over ranked South Florida suggest fans may have lost perspective

By Steve Politi/The Star-Ledger

November 13, 2009, 1:20AM

The empty aluminum seats seemed even more noticeable under the bright lights of national television.

Three years ago, they couldn’t fit another human being into Rutgers Stadium for a Thursday night game like this without strapping people to the roof. This Thursday night, the Scarlet Knights were hosting the only game in the nation again, and the building was barely half full at kickoff.

Was it the disappointing start to the season? The Route 18 traffic? The cold weather?

Or are people just bored with this already?

Complacency is setting in at Rutgers, the buzz replaced with a general sense of ho-hum. The team defeated 23rd-ranked South Florida, 31-0, Thursday night to become bowl-eligible for a fifth straight season — unthinkable territory for a program that was a doormat in the not-too-distant past.

“People do forget, and that’s the way it is,” coach Greg Schiano said. “It’s not just with football, it’s that way with everything. I stood behind a guy at the airport who got so mad about going through security. Think back eight years, no one was complaining. People forget about everything.

“It happens.”

Schiano is the one who set the bar high and, nine years into his tenure, he has yet to deliver the Big East championship and the major bowl that goes with it. Fans are expecting more, and Schiano is paid $2 million a year to deliver that. Nobody is taking him off the hook for that.

Still, in most seasons, this is as good as it’s going to get in Piscataway. Rutgers has a chance to win 10 games. Yes, the schedule is Charmin soft, but 10 wins has happened exactly twice since 1869.

If that does happen, the record would include a victory over a West Virginia team that has beaten them 14 straight times and that miracle last-minute victory over rival Connecticut. They would have lost to two teams that, so far this season, are a combined 17-1 and ranked in the top 15.

The day when that becomes ordinary is the day when Rutgers picks up its campus and moves to Gainesville, Fla. Or the day people have completely lost perspective.

“I don’t feel like the last two years we’ve been able to do what we were capable of doing — I’ve been on myself about that,” said Schiano, who evened his career record at 53-53. “This year, let’s see what happens these last three games.”

This was not a glamorous moment for the program like the dramatic victory over Louisville three years ago this week, but it was another victory against a ranked conference opponent, and a positive step for a young team.

South Florida arrived here talking big about getting revenge for the 49-16 pasting the Scarlet Knights applied last year in Tampa. The Bulls accused Rutgers of running up the score in that one, and Thursday night, they looked like the ones trying to run up the score — on themselves.

Still, this was a dominant performance for the home team, one that had to have viewers reaching for the remote early. It was almost hard to believe that this Rutgers defense, one that forced four turnovers and blocked a punt, was the same one that Cincinnati destroyed in the season opener.

Schiano deserved the criticism for not having his team ready for that season-defining test, but for the second straight season, he appears to have pulled the defense together.

“Give Rutgers a lot of credit,” South Florida coach Jim Leavitt said. “They just beat the dog out of us.”

Rutgers had a game changer in cornerback Devin McCourty, who blocked one punt and forced a fumble on another. He’ll be another NFL Draft pick with this program, along with left tackle Anthony Davis, who helped make the vaunted South Florida pass rush a nonfactor.

There was plenty to build on in this one. Tom Savage continues to grow at quarterback, and he had a new favorite target Thursday night in Mohamed Sanu (five catches, 105 yards). That’s one true freshman throwing to another, a connection that will be the backbone of this offense for three more years.

Rutgers has three games left on its schedule. Two are against Syracuse and Louisville, both 0-4 in the conference so far. The third one is the biggie: Old nemesis West Virginia comes to Piscataway for the regular-season finale on Dec. 5.

The Scarlet Knights might be 9-2 then, shooting to end that 14-game losing streak to the Mountaineers and crack double digits in victories for the third time in their 140-year history.

If the aluminum is visible because seats are empty for that one, then Rutgers fans have really lost perspective.


Interesting piece about the victor.

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Replace Schiano with Leavitt, Scarlet Knights with Bulls and Rutgers with USF and it would sound very familiar Bulliever. Good find.

Although USF hasn't had to endure decades of mediocrity like most BCS programs. Everyone looks at the current Gators, the 90's FSU, the Miami's of yesteryear and go why can't we do that. WELL it takes time and LOTS OF LUCK and MONEY! At least USF is compressing it's mediocrity into short periods in the middle of seasons with some good stuff at the ends! ;)

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There are so many people out there who only wishes to see within a 3 feet radius of themselves.  Any thing beyond that point is blurry, therefore, irrelevant and meaningless.

The big picture is hard to gasp, because one needs something major in their life to occur before they get it.  You see it all the time when death knocks on someone's door.  Then finally football games, security check points, long lines at the deli, and terrible drivers become irrelevant and meaningless.

That's my philosophical b.s. for the day.

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There was one glaring omission in that article.  Two years ago the stadium was full because there were 8 - 9 thousand less seats.  I believe their capacity is near 53K now (according to one fan I talked to).  Last time we were there it was in the mid 40's.

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Great find.  Is there a more 'spoiled with success' group of people than current Americans?

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rutgers had more than 100 years of losing and turned it around

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I was there, and even though some of the seats were empty (not as bad as the article makes it sound) they were plenty loud.

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