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Dyer: Rutgers Faithful Must Will The Scarlet Knights In The Game Of The Year

By Kristian Dyer
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It could be a special night on Thursday in Piscataway for Rutgers, who faces Louisville in what essentially becomes the Big East championship game. With a win, Rutgers wins the conference outright for the first time in program history. With a loss, Rutgers heads to a second-tier bowl game and remains in the limbo as a team that is consistently good but not great.

The feel around this game should be like 2006, when the Scarlet Knights upset the Cardinals, then the No. 3 team in the nation. Now, on Thursday night, Rutgers needs that same special moment created by the best atmosphere in program history.

The fans need to do the same thing tonight.

How this game plays out will depend on more than anything head coach Kyle Flood can scheme up, or if the Scarlet Knights can pressure Teddy Bridgewater, or if Gary Nova is a smart, efficient quarterback. No amount of big hits from Khaseem Greene, tight coverage from Logan Ryan or hard running from Jawan Jamison will make as big a difference as creating the same big atmosphere from six years ago.

There are no excuses for Rutgers, not this year. They have a home game to close out the season with everything on the line and that chance at a first ever BCS game.

Win this game and they're relevant. Win this game and the program means something locally and nationally.

There was something special about that game six years ago, an electric atmosphere that circled around what was then known as Rutgers Stadium. The place filled up quickly when the gates opened that night, including the temporary bleachers put in behind the open end of the horseshoe design. That part of the end zone is filled in now, part of the stadium expansion that was inspired by that historic upset over Louisville. The crowd seemed to will Rutgers to a win.

The fans need to do the same thing tonight.

For one game, for one night, the magic needs to come to Central Jersey and what is now called High Point Solutions Stadium. A national television audience will be watching Rutgers, perhaps for the first time since that game in 2006, and they will want to see if midnight has struck for that Cinderella team six season ago.

The fans in that game were something else. Despite falling down early, the crowd never stopped cheering, never stopped willing the fledgling team along. Dressed every last one of them in scarlet, they stood and waived white towels to create a fearsome and intimidating scene.

The fans need to do the same thing tonight.

Science has yet to find a reason why Rutgers fans forever are late to their games, the seats often looking half empty until midway through the first quarter. Something about finishing that last drink or having one more hot dog in the parking lot before heading into the game appeals to the Scarlet faithful.

That can't be the case this time, not with so much on the line. For once, Rutgers fans need to greet their team along the Scarlet Walk and then head into the stadium early. There's other days where tailgating is an important part of the game day experience. But six years ago, the game itself was the focus of every ounce of energy in that stadium.

The fans need to do the same thing tonight.

There are really no excuses for the team, not this time around. Things are lining up again for Rutgers, and although neither team is ranked or undefeated like the last time these two met on a grand stage, this game means so much more.

Flood has done a tremendous job in his first year with the team, striking all the right chords in transitioning from the Greg Schiano era. He has taken this next step, and now the fans need to step up and change this game against Louisville. Everything is on the line for the Scarlet Knights, who have never finished a season atop the Big East. The time is now for Rutgers, the self-proclaimed "Birthplace of College Football."

After the game in 2006, the Louisville players admitted that they were surprised by the atmosphere and the intensity of the crowd, and that it played a major role in their second-half difficulties on offense.

The fans need to do the same thing tonight.

Kristian R. Dyer covers college football for Metro New York and also contributes to Yahoo! Sports. He can be followed on Twitter here for insight and snarky comments.

Will that magical night in 2006 be recreated, or will Rutgers fall short in its biggest game in six years? Sound off with your thoughts and predictions below...

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