WHO: Maryland Terrapins @ Rutgers Scarlet Knights
WHAT: Men's soccer B1G Conference final regular season game
WHERE: Yurcak Field, Rutgers University, Piscataway Township, NJ
WHEN: Wednesday, November 5, 2014 at 7:00 pm Eastern
WATCH: In person
In our preview of Maryland's game against Ohio State, we described the Big Ten men's soccer standings as "a jumble out there." Since then the picture has, in one respect, sharpened considerably. Sunday's losses by Penn State and Michigan State opened a door to the Big Ten Championship for Maryland. To walk through that portal, the Terps need to win at Rutgers Wednesday night.
If the Scarlet Knights manage to tie or upset the Terrapins, the title picture stays clear but it will be Penn State posing with the trophy. Maryland would then be looking at a finish as high as second or as low as fifth. That would be determined by the outcome of the three other regular season conference finales being contested that night.
What's a Scarlet Knight?
First, a little history. Rutgers was originally chartered in 1766 as Queens College. Between that date and 1825, the campus twice closed due to financial difficulties. Upon its reopening in 1825, it was renamed Rutgers College in honor of Colonel Henry Rutgers who had fought in the American Revolutionary War. Colonel Rutgers was so flattered that he donated a $5,000 bond that placed the college on sound financial footing.
It was named New Jersey's sole land grant college in 1864 and gained university status sixty years later. The New Jersey Legislature enacted laws in 1945 and again in 1956 officially designating it as "The State University of New Jersey."
Rutgers is known as the birthplace of college football because of a game played on its campus in 1869 between the host school and neighboring Princeton University. In a tip of the cap to its original name, Rutgers athletic teams were initially called the Queensmen. Beginning in 1925, the school adopted another campus symbol the chanticleer (a type of fighting rooster) as a new symbol and team nickname.
Rutgers remained the Chanticleers until the early 1950s when "a campus-wide selection process changed the mascot to that of a Knight" and by 1955 the Scarlet Knight had become the new Rutgers mascot. So why scarlet? Well, the short answer appears to be because orange was hard to find.
The Dutch Reformed Church founded the original Queens College and the student body initially wanted the color orange to symbolize the ties to its Dutch heritage. But, according to the Rutgers athletic website,
"An orange flag,however, could not be found in the New Brunswick area. The students settled for an available scarlet flag. Scarlet soon became symbolically appropriate, for it was discovered that the Dutch Prince of Orange actually used red, not orange, in his family coat of arms. The trustees adopted scarlet as the school color in 1900, making Rutgers one of the first colleges in the US to have an official school color. From the time of its choice by the students, the scarlet has been the Rutgers color."
So there you have it, folks. The history of the Scarlet Knights in a nutshell.
Scarlet Knights on the pitch
Like Maryland, Rutgers is in its first year in the Big Ten. In 2013, the Scarlet Knights played in the American Athletic Conference (also deserted by Louisville) where they finished with an overall record of 7-11-2 and were 2-5-1 in conference play. They upset Louisville in the conference tournament quarterfinals but lost in double overtime to the University of South Florida in the semifinal to end their season.
The Scarlet Knights' first B1G season has been quite comparable to their final AAC season. Entering Wednesday's game with Maryland, Rutgers is 5-10-1 and 1-5-1 in conference play. Rutgers played Michigan State to a 0-0 tie and their lone conference win came at Wisconsin in double overtime. Rutgers is a scoring challenged team that has managed only 16 goals in its 16 games. Three of those came in the win at Wisconsin and four in their win over Penn.
One obstacle Rutgers had to overcome in entering the Big Ten was the loss of a player by transfer who tied for the team lead in 2013 with 20 points. He led the Scarlet Knights with six assists and was second in goals scored with seven. He also converted Rutgers' only penalty kick of the season and was named first team All-AAC. That player leads his new team with 17 points on a team high seven goals and is tied for the team lead with three assists. He is a perfect 4-4 on penalty kicks for his new squad. The player's name: Mael Corboz. His new team: The University of Maryland.
Players to Watch
Jason Wright, #20, freshman, forward. Wright, who played on both the Jamaican U-17 and U-20 national teams, is by far the Scarlet Knights' leading scorer. He has notched half of the team's 16 goals and has assisted on two others. He leads the team with 40 shots.
Erik Sa, #10, sophomore, midfielder. Sa scored one goal and had two assists while starting all 20 games for Rutgers as a freshman. He has two goals and two assists thus far this season and is one of only two players other than Wright to have scored more than once for Rutgers. The other, JP Correa, hasn't played in the last three games.
Wednesday will mark the seventh meeting between Maryland and Rutgers and their first as conference foes. The Terrapins hold a 5-1 advantage in the series with their most recent meeting in 2012 ending in a 2-1 Maryland win in a game played in College Park. The Terps last played at Rutgers in 1997 coming away with a 1-0 win.
A few days short of a month ago, the Maryland Terrapins had just dropped a 3-2 overtime game at Northwestern. Their record stood at 3-5-2 and 1-2-1 in the Big Ten. The Terps had scored only ten goals and had been shutout four times. For many, the season outlook appeared bleak.
Since then, Maryland's record is 7-0-0 a stretch that includes two wins over opponents ranked in the top five at the time the game was played. During this time, the Terrapins have outscored their opponents 18-5 and have registered four shutouts of their own. In his post game remarks following the Ohio State game, Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski said, "We always say we want to be good in September. This year we weren't that good in September. We want to be better in October and we want to be great in November. This is a good start."
With a win, the Terps can continue their strides toward November greatness. With a win, the Terps can fulfill a preseason prediction. With a win, the Terps can become the first men's team to claim a B1G Championship for the University of Maryland.
The most recent RPI released Tuesday morning features five Big Ten teams in the top twenty-five. Indiana continues to hold the number two spot with Maryland moving to number 17 - up six spots from last week's ranking. Michigan State (19), Penn State (21), and Northwestern (22) round out the quintet. After their loss to Maryland, Ohio State dropped three spots to number twenty-six.
Wednesday's game against number 94 Rutgers won't improve Maryland's position and, should the Terps win that game, they Will Likely face an immediate rematch with the Scarlet Knights in the first round of the B1G Tournament. Maryland looks to have secured its spot in the NCAA Tournament. Barring an upset winner in the B1G Tournament five other conference schools look poised to be "dancing." Only the ACC, with five schools in the top thirteen and seven in the top thirty looks to be positioned to place more teams than the B1G in the NCAA Tournament.