Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Fresh off a 12-10 victory over UConn in which he employed two quarterbacks, Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano says he is open to doing it again this Saturday at No. 23 Pitt.
Redshirt junior Domenic Natale played on several series against UConn to spell starter Mike Teel, and that process could repeat itself in an effort to spur a sagging offense when the Scarlet Knights (2-5, 1-2 Big East) visit Dave Wannstedt’s Panthers (5-1, 2-0).
Rutgers ranks last in the Big East in scoring and seventh among eight teams in total offense. The Knights are ranked No. 97 nationally in total offense and 115 in scoring.
“Dom can run our entire offense,” Schiano said. “That’s the good thing. It’s not where Dom’s in there and he’s a mobile guy that’s going to just move around. He can do everything in our offense in addition to the things that you saw Saturday and some things that you didn’t see Saturday, he’s capable of doing. So that’s a positive.”
After elevatingthe 6-foot-2, 210-pound Natale, a redshirt junior, to the No. 2 spot on the depth chart last week, Schiano played both Natale and Teel, a fifth-year senior who entered the game with three touchdowns and seven interceptions. Teel completed 17 of 30 passes for 192 yards and no INTs, while the more mobile Natale was 2 of 5 for 26 yards.
Still, Teel was booed several times, both when he entered the game after Natale played and when a couple of his passes were batted down on the line of scrimmage.
“It’s their right to boo,” Schiano said of the fans. “They pay money, they come here. But I just think it’s critical that everybody understands No. 1 these are college kids. I know a lot of people, they’re immediate response, ‘Yeah, we’ll they’re on scholarship.’ But if you take the cost of attending Rutgers and you break it down to an hourly wage, there are very few people who boo who would do that job for that hourly wage. That’s for sure. So they’re not professional athletes, and that’s what concerns me. If the guy up the road in the Meadowlands isn’t playing well, that’s a different story. He’s getting millions of dollars. These guys are college kids. Now they want to boo me, that’s fine. I’ve said that many times. But it is their privilege, that’s their right…I understand frustration, sometimes I want to boo myself. Sometimes I do boo myself inside my head.”
Natale said he heard the boos but didn’t understand them.
“Obviously, I hear it,” he said after the UConn game. “(Teel) goes out there and for the last two years he’s done what he’s done. I respect the guy tremendously. That’s their decision to do that, I guess, but he’s been our leader for two years. I respect the guy, I don’t know how they could do that.”
Natale, a native of Warren, N.J., did not play the last two seasons after transferring from Michigan State. He sat out a year per NCAA regulations and was injured in 2007. Prior to Rutgers, he was listed nationally among the Top 15 pro-style/drop-back quarterbacks by Rivals.
Yet Schiano likes the fact that he’s more mobile than Teel and can do some things with his legs that Teel cannot. While Schiano wouldn’t commit to playing Natale against Pitt, he did lament the offensive performance of his team.
“Look, we’re not generating offense right now,” Schiano said. “For whatever the reason is. So we’re going to do whatever we have to do to generate offense.”
Schiano said backup QB Jabu Lovelace could return in November from a broken leg. “I’m not sure exactly where he is, but he’s doing things now and he’s on schedule. We’re hoping he can be back here sometime in November.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.