MORGANTOWN - Greg Schiano is probably better equipped than anyone to document West Virginia's rise to prominence in the Big East.After all, he's seen it first hand.The Rutgers coach has battled West Virginia in each of his previous 10 years at the school. He's the only coach who has faced the Mountaineers that frequently during the last decade.And he's never won. Not once. The guy is 0-10.That's three different WVU coaches who have beaten him - Don Nehlen, Rich Rodriguez and Bill Stewart. He will face a fourth, Dana Holgorsen, when the teams meet Saturday in Piscataway, N.J.The players have changed many times over. He's seen six different starting quarterbacks - Brad Lewis, Rasheed Marshall, Adam Bednarik, Pat White, Jarrett Brown and Geno Smith. Brown even beat Rutgers once as a backup when the game was for a potential BCS bowl berth (although neither team wound up getting it).Schiano has lost by embarrassingly lopsided scores (a combined 120-7 in his first two tries) and in agonizing fashion (the game Brown won as a backup went to three overtimes).Yet if you try to pin Schiano down on just what it is that has allowed West Virginia to dominate the series so thoroughly, his answer is ridiculously simple.
"No,'' he said when asked if he had an explanation, "other than they beat us.''Oh, and how West Virginia has beaten Rutgers.It's not just Schiano, of course. It would be unfair to tag him with all the responsibility. Rutgers has lost 16 straight to West Virginia. It is 4-32-2 all-time against WVU and 0-17 in Morgantown.The Scarlet Knights have lost when they would finish a season with 11 wins (11-2 in 2006, 41-39 in three overtimes) and with 11 losses (0-11 in 1997, 48-0 and 1-11 in 2002, 40-0). Rutgers has lost when the Mountaineers were very good (three straight 11-win seasons in which only the overtime game was close) and very bad (3-8 in 2001, by a ridiculous 80-7 score).
It was a game in 2003, though, that probably typifies the way things have usually gone for Schiano's teams against West Virginia. It was his third year at Rutgers and Rich Rodriguez's third at West Virginia. Their first two matchups had produced that 120-7 score differential.The 2003 game was supposed to be different, though. Rutgers was 3-2. WVU was 1-3 and reeling with a three-game losing streak. As halftime approached, the Mountaineers seemed fortunate to lead 10-7. Some players on both sides had begun to walk toward the locker room with the clock winding inside 10 seconds and the Mountaineers facing a fourth down at their own 17.Schiano, though, had the bright idea that maybe he could make West Virginia punt and perhaps block it or run it back. It was worth a shot.
Except that he didn't call time until four seconds remained."I can run any play and take four seconds off the clock,'' Rodriguez would say later.And so he did. And it wasn't a punt.Instead, he lined up Chris Henry wide to the right and no Rutgers player covered him. Marshall took the snap and threw an 83-yard touchdown pass to Henry. West Virginia used the momentum to go up 24-3 on the first possession of the second half and then, after Rutgers cut it to 24-13, the Mountaineers scored the clinching touchdown on a drive Rutgers kept alive by sending 12 men out to receive a punt. WVU would go on to win 34-19.This year the teams go into the game with roughly the same 2011 pedigrees. Both are 5-2 and both were seemingly on rolls until last Friday night, when Rutgers was beaten 16-14 at Louisville, just as WVU was being hammered by Syracuse."I don't know if that matters,'' Schiano said, referring to both teams trying to recover from a loss. "It's a big football game in the Big East Conference. Every game is a championship game since we don't have one at the end of the year. I don't know if it really matters whether they're coming off wins or losses. It's a big game for us, I know that.''
And the kind in which Rutgers usually doesn't fare well, especially when it comes to playing West Virginia. After all of these years and all the losses, is it perhaps a mental block?"Yeah, you don't know. I don't know,'' Schiano said. "I mean, they've been one of the best teams in the league throughout [his tenure], at least in the new Big East, so ... But I don't know why.''Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org