The electricity, the tension, the stress and relief of watching the final 13 seconds from the sidelines – quarterback Mike Teel remembers Nov. 9, 2006 vividly.
Seen as a turning point for Rutgers football and the day the Scarlet Knights truly introduced themselves to the nation, everything comes full circle in Piscataway in two days.
The stakes and expectations are higher than ever for the Scarlet Knights, destined to join the Big Ten and simply put, a win Thursday sends Rutgers to the BCS. According to a harbinger of one of the great moments in Rutgers history, the 2012 squad is more than capable of “Pandemonium Part III” with the Big East title up for grabs.
“They can definitely do it,” Teel said. “Just look at the way they’ve played all year. I was talking to someone that said it’s been an up and down season. I said, ‘up and down? They’re 9-2. They’re playing on national TV with a chance to go to the BCS. How is that an up and down year?’ It’s crazy. From talking to the guys when I’m around at practice or on the sidelines, I know this team has responded to coach [Kyle] Flood’s style really well and there’s a calmness there that comes with confidence.”
Playing on a short week, Teel does not see focus or energy as concerns for the Scarlet Knights.
Rutgers already has one short-week under its belt, South Florida, and the way practices are run in Piscataway does not allow for much distraction time.
“As a player, there is so much stuff going on that you need to do,” Teel said. “You need to be in class, do your school work, study your film, study the game plan. The hard part is when you leave the football facility and you go out into the general public at the school. Those are the people who are all fired up about the game and want to talk about it. When you’re just around the guys in the program, it’s business. You go out and you execute it and then enjoy it after.”
In 2006, Teel went 8-for-21 with a touchdown and a pick against Louisville. He finished the season with 2,135 yards, 12 touchdowns and 13 picks.
Those stats, playing in his second full season, are exactly why Teel sees criticism of quarterback Gary Nova as unfair.
Nova, another Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.) product, already has 20 touchdowns on the season and 13 interceptions. Teel sees Nova as being “100 percent” over-criticized by the public through some slow games offensively.
As a sophomore, Nova is neither as good as his Arkansas game nor as bad as Kent State.
“All of a sudden he was NFL ready and he was a first-round draft pick because he played really well,” Teel said of fan perception. “At the end of the day, the kid is still only a sophomore and he’s having a heck of a year.
“Obviously you’re going to make mistakes and things are going to go wrong and it’s not always going to be like it was at Arkansas. If you look at the quarterbacks in the Big East or the track record of quarterbacks at Rutgers, myself included, he’s far beyond any sophomore quarterback that we’ve ever had. He’s obviously further along than I was at that time. It’s always going to be like that. That’s how the quarterback position works.”
The same goes for the offensive scheme, Teel said.
A multi-year captain, NFL draft pick and short-lived quarterbacks coach, Teel said he has no right to comment on the play-calling of coordinator Dave Brock because he is not there in the Hale Center every day.
“The one thing that I’ve learned from being a player and coaching for a year is that there’s always a reason why things are done,” Teel said. “You don’t just say, ‘let’s run the ball here.’ There are reasons behind everything and I don’t know what they are because I’m not in the meetings and I’m not breaking down film.
“I just think people need to trust what the coaches do. I know it can be frustrating. I’ve seen it this year from the outside of things. Not throwing down the field or whatever it is, there’s a reason why things are done and people and us as fans need to trust that the coaches are going to put the players in the right position to win.”
Teel will have to watch instead of participate this time, but said he is as ready as ever to cheer on his alma mater.
“It’s my first time on the outside looking in where there’s major significance,” Teel said. “It’s an opportunity for coach Flood and my guys down there to finally break through and get to their first BCS game. It’s an opportunity for the people in New Jersey to see what Rutgers football is all about.”
But will he storm the field should Rutgers clinch its first undisputed title?
“I already have my two times there,” Teel said. “I’ll just kind of hang out and watch.”