PISCATAWAY, NJ – Justin Davidovicz’s 44-yard kick sailed through the uprights and the smattering of Rutgers faithful who had stayed into the fourth quarter finally had something to cheer about Saturday.
The smoke from the cannon, fired in the corner of the end zone by some overzealous re-enactors after each Rutgers score, had not yet settled when the referee began signaling a holding call against the Scarlet Knights.
Rutgers fans were left wishing Saturday if they should turn the cannon on the whole season and blow it up.
Their team's season ended with a 27-0 loss to Michigan State at SHI Stadium on Saturday.
That’s 27-0 and that includes two fourth-down stops by the Scarlet Knights defense in the first half, an interception in the end zone to thwart another touchdown and a Matt Coghlin field goal attempt that doinked off the left upright.
The Scarlet Knights didn’t cross midfield in the first half under the direction of fourth-string quarterback Johnny Langen, who went 8-for-20 for 57 yards and an interception in the air.
Hanging over the half-empty stadium like the cannon smoke was the specter of Greg Schiano’s return to coach the team.
In fact, the loudest cheers of the day were reserved for Eric LeGrand, the former linebacker who is paralyzed after suffering a spinal cord injury in 2010.
The team’s unofficial biggest cheerleader spoke from the field and from the heart at halftime, saying, “To the board of governors, you guys know what you need to do.”
He didn’t say Schiano’s name, but the crowd knew he was talking about the coach that had led the team to six bowl game appearances over a seven-year stretch starting in 2005. The only thing apparently holding up Schiano's return to The Banks on the Old Raritan is the governors to approve the construction of a fieldhouse.
It’s unclear if even Schiano could help Rutgers compete in the Big Ten. The Scarlet Knights went 0-8 in the conference this year, including a 52-0 loss to Michigan, a 48-7 loss to Maryland and a 56-21 loss to Ohio State.
Rutgers’ only two victories came against Massachusetts and Liberty. Oddly, deposed coach Chris Ash and his successor, Nunzio Campanile, each claimed a victory.
On Saturday, Rutgers was at its worse offensively in the first half It didn’t earn a first down in the first half. The Scarlet Knights totaled 30 yards on 19 plays.
And, the only time the cannon fired was to mark the end of the first half.