PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) -- Students camping out. Temporary
bleachers to accommodate the overflow crowd. Tickets that usually
sell for $28, going for $200 on eBay.
Rutgers football sure has come a long way in a short time.
No long ago it was hard to give away tickets to a Scarlet
Knights game. Now, seats for Thursday night's battle of unbeatens
between the No. 15 Scarlet Knights and No. 3 Louisville are so
scarce that even Gov. Jon S. Corzine appealed to athletic director
Robert Mulcahy for an extra pair.
"He said, 'I'm sending a check,"' Mulcahy said.
The game is being billed as the biggest ever played by the
school that was part of the first college football game in 1869.
"I think it's a reaction that's in many ways almost an
overreaction," Mulcahy said. "They wanted this for so long, the
minute they could taste something, it was, 'Boom."'
It is an understatement to say even the most ardent Rutgers
followers probably could not have envisioned this level of hysteria
when head coach Greg Schiano took over in 2001 and proceeded to
lose 34 of 46 games, including 17 consecutive in Big East play.
The former University of Miami defensive coordinator gradually
built a winner out of a program with only three above .500 seasons
since 1984. In 2005, Rutgers went to a bowl for the first time
since 1978 and this year crashed the Top 25 for the first time in
"When I would sit up here and start talking about how we're
going to win this and we're going to build this, I'm sure people
would think, 'What's this guy smoking today?"' Schiano said this
week. "But the alternative is to sit there and say, 'Well, I don't
know, we'll see.' So I think that kind of thinking is what carries
you through the tough times, and it gives you a consistency that in
the athletics world is hugely important."
Thursday's game will be the second in consecutive weeks that
pits two undefeated Big East teams, after Louisville's 44-34 defeat
of then-No. 3 West Virginia last Thursday. The win vaulted
Louisville to third-place in the Bowl Championship Series
standings, but detractors still question the conference's strength.
"What we feel is that we went out on the field and played great
football," Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said. "We've played
everybody we went up against and did a nice job. Our players here
listen and are certainly motivated. We probably need to get (ESPN
analyst) Lee Corso to keep talking about us."
Louisville (8-0) has already entered uncharted territory with
its highest ranking and spot in the thick of the national title
A win by Rutgers (8-0) would dash Louisville's title hopes and
move the Scarlet Knights into the national championship discussion.
While Louisville's win over West Virginia is viewed as a
defining moment in the program's history, Rutgers is coming into
the game off one of its worst performances of the season. The
Scarlet Knights beat Connecticut 24-13 two Sundays ago with only
one offensive touchdown.
Rutgers is 4-1 against Louisville, but the last meeting was a
humiliating for the Knights.
The Cardinals won 56-5 in Louisville last year and held the
Scarlet Knights to nine first downs.
"You pretty much use it as a positive," Rutgers defensive
tackle Ramel Meekins said. "It's in the past and it happened. You
take it and you run with it. You take the good and the bad, and you
turn the bad into good and make the good even better."
The Louisville offense, averaging 492 yards and 39 points per
game, will be the toughest test of the season for a Rutgers'
defense ranked No. 2 in the country and allowing nine points per
Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm has recovered from a thumb
injury this season to lead the Big East in passing and total
offense. Schiano put him among the best he has coached against, a
group that includes Michael Vick and Kerry Collins.
Rutgers counters with a rushing attack led by sophomore running
back Ray Rice, the nation's third-leading rusher with 1,203 yards
who is recovered from an ankle sprain suffered against UConn.
Despite losing featured back Michael Bush to a broken leg in the
first game of the season, Louisville rushes for 203 yards per game,
10 more than Rutgers.
Top 25 Overview
The Cardinals are 8-0 for the first time since 1925. The Scarlet Knights are 8-0 for the first time since 1976. Could the winner end up in Glendale?