By Matt Sugam
“It’s funny, because sitting here with you guys [the media] it’s ‘is this the week they lose?’ You guys are not looking for us to lose, but [ask] ‘how do we avoid the letdown?’” Vallone said. “I understand where you’re coming from and we’re cognizant of it too.”
They know that a good 6-1 MAC team is coming to Piscataway in Kent State. The fact that Big East foe Cincinnati just lost to a MAC team in Toledo this past week is fresh in their minds.
Still, this is Rutgers team that’s 7-0 and ranked No. 15 in the BCS standings with a bye week after this Saturday’s game. Because of those factors, the thought of a letdown game arise for a team that’s taking a three-week break from conference play in the middle of the season.
And they hear those whispers.
“It’s hard to avoid because you’re going to hear the he say she say and all that,” Jamil Merrell said. “But you just have to understand the big prize at the end of the day which is the national championship and winning the Big East, so if we just keep that mindset we’ll be straight.”
And the seniors will be there to keep them in line. After all, they’ve experienced those head scratching losses, most recently a September home loss to Tulane last season.
“They’re very dangerous, because for some reason teams don’t take them very seriously,” senior linebacker Steve Beauhrnais said. “And that can really creep up on you if you don’t take it one game at a time.”
Which is Rutgers’ mantra. Each week is it’s own one game season. Sticking to that mindset is as important as ever this week so Kent State doesn’t put a blemish on Rutgers perfect season. And they know that’s exactly what Kent State is trying to do.
“This is like their championship. That’s like us playing an SEC school,” Beauharnais said. “This a big game for them, and if they take it way more serious than you and you’re looking at the week ahead they can really beat you.”
To make sure that doesn’t happen, Rutgers doesn’t have to just look at what happened to other teams. They can just look in the mirror.
“It’s happened in our past. Tulane two years ago, we lost to Syracuse when they were 3-7 in 2009 when they played us, last in the big East. We’ve seen it. We’ve seen it happen to other people,” Vallone said. “We’d be foolish to let it happen again.”