Today will probably end with Maryland taking Rutgers out to the woodshed.
In the Terrapins, you have a talented group getting more cohesive by the game. In Rutgers you have a struggling squad that’s suddenly without its defensive-minded coach and its offensive coordinator. Oh and also down its top 2 quarterbacks due to injury and desire to preserve a redshirt year, respectively.
Yeah, the odds are stacked heavily against the Scarlet Knights, but we could be looking at the biggest win in Rutgers history in over a decade.
Let’s take a look at why.
Chris Ash, Coach Emeritus
We respected and rooted hard for Coach Ash, because of what he was. He was a hard-nosed, defensive minded coach with unimpeachable credentials. He was our coach and we were going to go to battle with him.
Go back to the historical record and look at the coverage, the social media response and the early ticket sales. By every metric, objective or subjective, we were all in on #ashera.
However, he was never truly one of us. He was a stoic, proud Midwesterner from Iowa, who built a staff of stoic, proud Midwesterner types. This was a Big Ten hire through and through and he made a respectable face of the program when we really needed one. The Flood Era and its amateur-hour secret agent routine was such an embarrassment, we were happy to have a coach who was a little bit staid.
That said, he ain’t one of us.
We’re fiery. We’re full of passion. We let it all hang out and yeah, we take risks but we go down swinging. We celebrate big shots on offense and aggressive, risk-taking, blitz-heavy defense. cough Schiano cough cough
Chris Ash worked his tail off for the program and left with class. We’ll always appreciate him and his family and the work they poured into this program along with Pat Hobbs to bring it up to par with its operating colleagues in the Big Ten. We closed the gap with facilities and procedures during his tenure in a meaningful way.
Ash took this job because it was the best opportunity out there and both parties benefited from the arrangement, even if the on-the-field results weren’t the best.
“One of the things that I was told a long time ago, if you’re going to take a job, make sure it’s a job that you’re willing to run to,” Ash said. “And this was a job, I don’t care what’s happened in the past, this was a job I’m willing to run to. This is a job that has tremendous potential.”
These are the words of someone excited to take on a new job because of the job. These are the words of a passionate professional ready to go all in on a big career move. Let’s compare them to...
Nunzio Campanile, Coach Du Jour
We respected and rooted for Coach Ash because of what he was. We love Coach Campanile because of who he is.
This is a guy who is Jersey through and through.
He worked his tail off in the NJ high school football circuit, finding Folk Hero-level success. Every word he speaks is from the heart and full of passion, even at the risk of saying too much or being too candid. He’s an open book with the background and love of Jersey that our entire fanbase gravitates towards.
Hell, he’s an offensive coach who runs the spread offense. This is what the Rutgers faithful have been asking for for years.
We’re fiery. We’re full of passion. We let it all hang out and so does this guy.
“I would tell that you I’ve worked my entire life to prepare myself for this opportunity and to me, this is like the Holy Grail...As a guy that’s from New Jersey and loves New Jersey to have the opportunity to represent Rutgers and represent New Jersey is really special for me and it’s an unbelievable opportunity.”
This ain’t a guy just taking the best gig out there. This is a guy who is intrinsically motivated to do an amazing job for the program he grew up rooting for. This is a guy who lives and breathes football taking on his dream job right in his backyard.
Looking at the Rutgers fanbase right now, there’s genuine excitement for the first time in years. Yeah, it might go sideways in a hurry, but the fire is real. Everyone from High Point to Cape May is talking about Rutgers Football again and they’re excited to see what this Campanile guy can do. They’re excited to see what this Langan guy can do.
That alone is a breath of fresh air for a fanbase that’s been gasping for years.
Johnny Langan, The Hero (Maybe)
In the northeast especially, the backup quarterback is the most popular player on the team, at least on the comment boards and in the punditry. We all love Sitkowski and everything he’s done and endured for the team. This guy won’t pay for a pint within state lines for the rest of his life.
That said, there’s something about this Langan kid that has everyone fired up.
We’ve all regarded Langan as an athletic QB with tons of potential who could do amazing things if he just got the chance. Just like Campanile, he’s a Jersey boy. His high school heroics are stuff of legend.
He might stink. There might be a reason why he couldn’t get on the field at BC.
Or, he could be the greatest dark horse QB in the 150 years we’ve played college football. The phoenix from the ashes who takes Rutgers to the next level after barely being eligible to play this year.
Let’s Put It All Together
The hometown hero coach going against the odds. The local boy done good at Quarterback who just needs a lucky break. A roster full of players easy to root for who have endured too many losses, too many shutouts, too many memes. A down-south rival with just enough moxy to be annoying and a history that borders on Lawful Evil is coming to town, desperate for a win and talking a lot of smack about last year’s lopsided affair.
If you pitched this storyline to Hollywood, they would say it’s unrealistic.
The real world don’t happen that way kid. Go back to Jersey.
Let’s say they pull off the improbable. Let’s say the offense clicks under Campanile and Langan gets going on the ground and through the air. Let’s say POTY candidate and Aussie phenom Adam Korsak has another pin-em-deep-10-times game. Let’s say the defense makes just enough plays to pull out a thrilling victory and the game is sealed on an electric hold by HOTY candidate Cole Murphy.
He does that electric sizzle celebration with Davidovicz. The announcers yell with breathless enthusiasm. Langan charges the field. The fans follow. Campanile hugs his 18 cousins who are also football coaches. The secondary busts out some of their sick dance moves.
This would be the greatest win since Pandemonium.
Is it likely? Probably not.
But what if...