Rutgers, Iowa State set for Pinstripe Bowl
Friday's Pinstripe Bowl featuring Rutgers against Iowa State may be a meeting of two programs in different stages of a comeback, but Scarlet Knights coach Greg Schiano said Thursdaythat he refuses to let one bowl game define either Rutgers' 2011 campaign or its future prospects.
"I think it's always important to win your last football game," Schiano said at the final Pinstripe Bowl news conference at Yankee Stadium, where the game will be played Friday afternoon. "It gives your offseason a great feel . . . but I think our program is beyond one game defining our program, if it's going to be on the rise or on the decline.
"We realize that [this is] the minimum standard at Rutgers. You need to go to bowl games and then you win bowl games next and then win championships. I think that's our mission. That's where we aim every year, and I think we're past one game making or breaking our program."
That may be so, but it's no secret that Rutgers and Iowa State aren't on the most secure ground.
The Schiano-era Scarlet Knights made their first bowl appearance since 1978 in 2005 -- and now are about to make their sixth in seven years.
Still, the program suffered in 2010, posting a 4-8 record before rebounding behind an aggressive defense and the electric play of wide receiver Mohamed Sanu this year.
Eric LeGrand, who was paralyzed last year in a game against Army, has been with the team this week and will be at Yankee Stadium Friday.
"For Eric to be here and do everything with us is special to him and special to our team," Schiano said. "It was really a good break for him and a good chance to be with his buddies for an extended period of time."
Meanwhile, Iowa State -- looking for the 500th victory in school history -- has posted one winning season since 2005, but with a 6-6 record this year, a big double-overtime win over highly ranked Oklahoma State and all-time season attendance records, it has shown sparks of life. It's something that wasn't lost on coach Paul Rhoads, now in his third year at the helm.
"We know we're moving in the right direction," he said. "[We] want to continue that process."
For one day, at least, that will mean solving whatever Schiano plans to do at the quarterback position.
Rutgers (8-4) has been alternating between Chas Dodd and Gary Nova, and Schiano -- who said both likely will get playing time -- refused to commit to a starting quarterback as late as Thursdayafternoon. Nova has slightly better numbers, with a 118.2 passer rating to Dodd's 115.0.
"We'll kind of let that happen at kickoff," Schiano said.
Iowa State also will have to deal with Sanu, who's amassed seven touchdowns and 1,144 yards on 109 catches this year.
Asked how he was able to mimic his play in practice, Rhoads answered, "We haven't. It's a simple answer.
"He's a great football player and as productive as any receiver in college football. The way they move him around and line him up in different locations, you can't zero in on that, so it's going to take a complete team defensive effort to try and control him.
"You're not going to stop him. You're not going to shut him down. We're just going to work very hard to try to control him the best we can."