How Greg Schiano views his second Rutgers rebuild: ‘We’re moving in the right direction, we just have to keep it going’

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For Greg Schiano in his second tenure as head coach of Rutgers football, the bumps and bruises of his first go-around with the program are helping guide this second rebuild of the Scarlet Knights. It is this experience, Schiano says, that will help this go-around with Rutgers.

It is a point that is certainly timely, given the obvious frustration of the season so far.

Following a first season back in charge with Rutgers that exceeded expectations (3-6 in 2020 with an all-Big Ten schedule due to COVID-19), this second season for Schiano’s team has had some expected ups and downs. But some of the losses this year have been tough, including Saturday’s 52-3 home loss to Wisconsin.

Rutgers is 4-5 (1-5 Big Ten) and faces a crucial game at Indiana (2-7; 0-6 Big Ten) this weekend. With games at a ranked Penn State (6-3; 3-3 Big Ten) and then Maryland (5-4; 2-4 Big Ten), winning this weekend is a pivotal step for the program to return to a bowl game.

A bowl game appearance, something that hasn’t happened for the Scarlet Knights since 2014 coincidentally.

“Experience is a good thing for sure the only thing the first time is, when you don’t know what you don’t know – you keep swinging harder and harder. Sometimes you’re swinging harder and harder in the wrong direction,” Schiano told reporters on Monday.

“That’s the beauty of youth. Experience though outweighs that. At least I hope it does. Not only my own experience but also a lot of the coaches on our staff have been through it. We’re moving in the right direction, we just have to keep it going.”

Rewinding back to 2002, Rutgers was 1-11 in what was Schiano’s second season in charge at Rutgers during his initial tenure with the program. That season was a step back from his inaugural season prior when Rutgers went 2-9.

It is a natural and important reminder of how difficult a rebuilding project can be.

Nine of the 11 losses for Rutgers in 2002 came by 20 points or greater. Four of the losses were by more than 30 points. Rutgers was twice shutout and their season opened with a home loss to Villanova, then a 1-AA program (now FCS).

This season’s struggles seem mild in comparison, perhaps pointing towards Schiano’s experience point.

Saying that “the consistency is what lacks in a program when you’re building,” Schiano pointed towards needed time to continue to develop a foundation for the program that includes learning how to win.

“Because it becomes the expectation, it is not the exception,” Schiano said. “When you win a game in the Big Ten, that’s become the expectation and we’re not there yet.”

By 2005, Rutgers made just its second bowl game in program history. In 2006, the Scarlet Knights won their first-ever bowl game and would make the postseason every year till 2009, winning all four appearances.

Beginning with that 2005 season, Rutgers made a bowl game nine times over the next decade. They won six of those games with Schiano 5-1 in his six bowl berths with the Scarlet Knights.