By Matt Sugam
PISCATAWAY – To call it a trap game would be giving a school that’s known more for its band than its football team a little too much credit. But with Howard traveling to Piscataway five days before the Scarlet Knights open up conference play at USF, it’d come as no surprise if Rutgers was caught looking ahead.
Fortunately for Rutgers, they can refer to recent history for why they can’t overlook an FCS opponent. And they don’t have to look further than this past Saturday.
“I think when you look around the country, it’s not hard to find motivation for every football game when you see what happened out in Western PA with Pitt and Youngstown State, what happened a couple years ago with Michigan and App State, and certainly what happened in our past,” Flood said earlier this week. “We have games like that in our history. It was a little prior to when I got here, but they’re there and they’re on the record.”
Which is why the players insist that they’re not taking Howard lightly.
“We’re not overlooking anybody,” R.J. Dill said. “At any given week in this game at this level, anybody can beat anybody. And I think when you start overlooking people, that’s when bad things happen.”
So even with conference play opening up with a quick turnaround, Rutgers isn’t fretting about their trip to Tampa Bay yet.
“We can’t worry about South Florida because we’re not playing South Florida right now. We’re playing Howard and that’s all we’re focused on — playing Howard — and doing what we got to do against Howard,” Khaseem Greene said. ”At the end of the day the South Florida game is going to come regardless, but we can’t think about that one or Howard will hit us in the mouth.”
Still, these are 18 to 22-year-old kids. With that, can comes a temptation to overlook such an inferior an opponent.
However with a senior laden team, that’s something Flood isn’t worried about.
“I think we have a mature team. I think when you have an immature football team, you might be fighting that,” Flood said. “I think we’ve got a mature football team that understands we’ve got an opportunity this week to go from 1 and 0 to 2 and 0 and to keep all of our goals for this season alive by doing it. I think that’ll be motivation enough.”
And if for whatever reason they happen to need any extra reminder to focus on Howard and not what lies ahead, they can just look to their conference foe Pitt.
“When it happens to someone in your own conference, obviously it’s a wake up call,” R.J. Dill said. “I think that those guys [Howard] are just as talented. I’m sure there are some guys on Howard who have made it to BCS programs and then transferred down. So I’m sure they have talent on their team…They deserve all our respect just like every opponent does every week.”