Struggling Hokies offer only brand
Following a 12-game season spanning more than four months, Rutgers head football coach Kyle Flood adds another task to his meticulous daily schedule. He must convince the Scarlet Knights a Dec. 28 matchup with a mediocre Virginia Tech team in the Russell Athletic Bowl is not a demotion.
“I think it is going to be a great experience for our team and a challenge for us,” Flood said Sunday.
The Hokies, whom Flood referred to as a traditional power, are 6-6 and failed to win the ACC’s inferior Coastal Division. Quarterback Logan Thomas, whom NFL scouts initially projected leaving following this season, completed only 52.6 percent of his passes and threw 14 interceptions.
Head coach Frank Beamer, the Football Bowl Subdivision’s active career wins leader, is only 3-6 in the team’s last nine bowl games.
“When I got the chance to see the players [Sunday], they were excited about the opportunity that’s ahead of us,” Flood said. “We certainly have proven over the years — the last seven years specifically — our track record in terms of getting ready for these bowl games is pretty good.”
The Knights are 5-0 in their last five bowl matchups, which equals the longest current bowl streak nationally. But they have yet to face a program with name-brand appeal like Virginia Tech — even in a down year.
Each opposing coach during Rutgers’ bowl resurgence pales in comparison to Beamer’s football lifeblood.
“I’ve never met Coach Beamer, but I certainly know enough about him from being in this business to know how he values special teams and how his football teams embrace special teams,” Flood said. “I would like to think that we do that here as well at Rutgers.”
Arguably none were better on special teams in the pre-expansion Big East than Virginia Tech, which last lost to Rutgers in 1992. Former head coach Greg Schiano likely took cues from Beamer’s Hokies, who defined aggressive defense and special teams play during the early 2000s.
But Beamer’s 2012 team lacks the same luster.
It sits in a tie for 39th nationally in scoring defense, surrendering nearly 24 points per game.
Its rushing offense, once a program staple with a mobile quarterback, is No. 64 in the country.
And Rutgers has overtaken Virginia Tech as the nation’s marquee kick-blocking unit.
“Certainly [Beamer’s] track record speaks for itself,” Flood said.
Despite an underachieving opponent, a desirable host site and time slot could set Rutgers up for favorable attendance numbers. Flood had not talked specifically to Athletic Director Tim Pernetti about ticket allocation, but several draws could entice a decent following.
“Orlando certainly is as great a destination as there could be for a bowl game … between the game itself and then Disney and the surrounding opportunities you have in that city,” Flood said. “We’ve had very good turnouts in the past for these games. I have no reason to believe we won’t have the best turnout we’ve ever had for this one.”
Following flirtations with a BCS bowl berth — negated by a 20-17 loss Thursday to Louisville — the Knights next practice Saturday, the first of 14 before taking Orlando’s Citrus Bowl Stadium against Virginia Tech.
Flood’s sights now turn to the team’s 17 redshirting freshman instead of dealing in the hypothetical.
“There’s no doubt that as a football program, we were disappointed at the outcome of the [Louisville] game,” he said. “I think the bowl season is a new season, and we’ve always approached it like that.”
For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow Tyler Barto on Twitter @TBartoTargum.