Excitement builds for Rutgers first Big Ten game against Penn State
Some have been waiting since May 2013 when the Rutgers 2014 football schedule was announced. Others have been waiting since the Scarlet Knights were first announced to join the Big Ten Conference.
Some loyal Rutgers fans have been waiting since 1988, the last time that the Knights earned a victory against “that team from Pennsylvania.”
The wait for the Week 3 matchup against Penn State is over now, and all that is left is a week of preparation and game planning until the Nittany Lions face the Knights Saturday at High Point Solutions Stadium.
For the players and fans, the excitement for Penn State culminates with the new identity of Rutgers as it is a member of one of the Power 5 conferences.
The Nittany Lions represent the first opponent that the Knights will play in their new conference.
Junior wide receiver Leonte Carroo explained how much anticipation is leading up to this game.
“A lot of New Jersey natives have been dying and waiting for this game, and we’ve been waiting ever since last year. It’s finally here,” Carroo said. “The first Big Ten opener could possibly be against someone that could be a rival one day. So that’s very exciting.”
While fans and some players have been waiting for this matchup, head coach Kyle Flood is only interested in going 1-0 this week but acknowledges the buzz surrounding the game.
“I want the team to be excited about this game. Games like this are the reason you play college football at a place like Rutgers,” Flood said. “I don’t want to temper the excitement in any way because I think the excitement is good as long as we are going through the process that we go through every week in preparation.”
While recounting pivotal games in Rutgers football history, similar to the matchup Saturday, many current Knights go back to a game against Louisville in 2012 where Rutgers became Co-Big East Champions.
Flood recalled the 2006 game where the Knights upset the then-No. 3 Cardinals in the “Pandemonium in Piscataway” upset.
Senior right tackle Taj Alexander doesn’t remember this type of eagerness before any game prior.
“It’s very exciting to open up Big Ten play. This is a different level of excitement than what I’ve ever experienced in college,” Alexander said. “The only thing that I can compare it to is two years ago when we played Louisville knowing that we had a chance to be the first conference champs in Rutgers history. Now we’re excited to perform and show the Big Ten that we belong.”
Carroo noticed that fans seem to overlook all prior games leading up to the matchup against the Knights' “neighbors to the west,” as Flood described Penn State in Sunday's conference call. Carroo also said that a win against Penn State could impact the region and the program.
“It seems like fans just skipped over our first two games that we had on our schedule and have just been dying for this game,” Carroo said. “We have guys back in January [who had] a lot of fans [send] messages on Facebook saying, ‘I hope you beat the crap out of Penn State. We hate Penn State.’ I feel like this [game] is gonna change New Jersey and Rutgers football forever.”
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