Norfolk State is excited, but realistic

Rutgers kicks off its 2010 football season at home Thursday night vs. Norfolk State, a Division I-AA squad.

The teams have met once before, in 2007, when the Scarlet Knights pummeled the Spartans, 59-0.

This year's contest will likely have a similar result. But the Norfolk State players are still excited, according to head coach Pete Adrian. I spoke with Adrian early Wednesday afternoon, as his team was traveling north via bus.

"As players at a Division I-AA school, I think you always likes the idea of getting a chance to go up against a true D-1 team, and see how you stack up," Adrian said. "They are bigger, and stronger, and have more of everything. ... But that's why you play a game between the lines."

Norfolk State went 7-4 last season, 5-3 in the MEAC conference. They returned 14 starters, including seven All-MEAC performers, and Adrian said he expects his team to be in the running for a conference championship this season.

That said, he knows beating Rutgers is a very tall order indeed.

"[Tom] Savage is an NFL quarterback, just waiting for more experience," Adrian said. "What he was able to do last year as a true freshman, it just shows you how much he understands about the game."

"[Mohamed] Sanu does everything except sell popcorn, I think," he added. "What a talent."

On the bright side, Adrian said he has 16 players back who were on his team three years ago, when Norfolk State last faced Rutgers. So they shouldn't be quite as intimidated Thursday night.

But the fact remains, the Spartans are huge underdogs.

"We know this is the best team we will play all year, without question," Adrian said.