By Matt Sugam
PISCATAWAY – Robb Smith still can’t figure out what happened. Despite pouring over the film, the defensive coordinator is still unsure what exactly went wrong on the final Saturday in November. The day that’s haunted Rutgers all offseason.
Why didn’t Rutgers look like Rutgers? How did the stout defense get shredded by UConn for 40 points?
Khaseem Greene has no answers. Quite frankly, he’s still unsure how the team sputtered in all three phases with a win giving them a share of the school’s first Big East Title.
“In a nutshell,” Greene said, “that wasn’t us.”
No, Rutgers wasn’t overlooking a lowly UConn team. Not with them being a rival that they’ve had such close tussles with in recent years.
“We didn’t expect to go out there and kill them and get a share of the Big East Title,” Greene said. “But regardless of what’s going on at that particular time, it’s more about us than them.”
Which is why that loss felt different than most.
“That one hurt a lot,” Greene said, adding, “I hate losing in general, but that one — it was hard for me to shake that one off, so that was a stinging one.”
So despite head coach Kyle Flood insists last year’s loss won’t serve as motivation — with many players followed suit on Monday — there’s no question it’s one of the moments that stuck with every one of them throughout the offseason.
“Being so close last year and not making it [to a Big East Title] is definitely motivation to get going and wanting to actually get it this year,” Jawan Jamison said.
Which seems to be the case. No. 21/22 Rutgers is off to a 4-0 start (1-0 Big East) and poised for a run to that elusive Big East Championship.
But first, they have to make sure they don’t have a hiccup when UConn comes to town. Something Greene insists won’t happen.
“We’re not going to let it happen,” the fifth-year senior captain said. “This team is focused on the task at hand and that’s being 1-0 after playing these guys and we know we can’t get to our ultimate goal without being 1-0 after this game.”
And Greene will will his team there if he has to.
“As a player, as a leader, as a captain, I’m not going to let any dip or anything happen. Whether it’s from the offense, defense or special teams, while we’re practicing all week and during the game, that’s just the approach that I’m taking,” Greene said. “I can’t live with myself if I don’t say anything or I allow stuff to happen. So yeah, that’s not going to happen.”
Of course what exactly happened last season is still lost on Greene and the rest of the team.
“I still can’t put into words what exactly happened that day, but I know that on all sides of the ball that was just not us,” Greene said. “That wasn’t Rutgers at all. And you can expect that to happen again while I’m here. That won’t be happening.”