But Schiano has not lost faith.
"We've built tradition here. We've built something that's going to last,'' Schiano said. "And although we had a little adversity that kind of got us down a little bit, we'll be back. And this is a step in us coming back.''
The greatest bit of adversity - coincidentally or not - came during Rutgers' last win, a 23-20 overtime victory against Army at the new Meadowland Stadium on Oct. 16. That's when defensive tackle Eric LeGrand was injured on a kickoff and paralyzed from the neck down with a spinal cord injury. It was only last week that LeGrand was taken off a ventilator and became able to breathe on his own.
Schiano has shied away from discussing LeGrand since the incident, and to Rutgers' credit the Knights have not used it as a crutch. But whether it was that tragedy or merely a collapse once the schedule became more difficult, Rutgers has been free falling ever since.
Quarterback Tom Savage, who started all but one game last season as a true freshman and was the Big East's most experienced starting QB, has been in and out of the lineup and has now disappeared behind freshman Chas Dodd. The offensive line has been horrific, allowing five sacks per game, dead last in the country. And while the defense's national rankings are only mediocre and not awful, much of that is due to the early-season performances. In the last five games Rutgers is allowing 442.4 yards and 38.2 points per game, which would rank No. 108 and No. 114, respectively, over a full season.
And now the Scarlet Knights have to play a West Virginia team that needs a win to clinch a share of the Big East title. To the Mountaineers in the long run, though, that will be secondary to earning the Big East's BCS bowl berth. But that won't happen unless WVU wins Saturday afternoon and then is able to see Connecticut lose at South Florida that night.
By then, win or lose, Rutgers' season will be over.
"I hope that our guys - I know they do, I don't hope - I know our guys see [that this is a chance to end on a good note],'' Schiano said. "We've got a great group of people here. We're going to come out and fight.
"But this is a very talented West Virginia team. Our best might not be good enough. I don't know. We'll find that out.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com.