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Know Your Foe: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

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After a historically bad stretch, the Scarlet Knights are starting to tick in the right direction.

NCAA Football: Indiana at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers University

Location: Piscataway, NJ

Enrollment: 67,556

Rutgers Football Facts:

Home Stadium: SHI Stadium (52,454)

Head Coach: Greg Schiano (70-71) two tenures (2001-2011; 2020)

Conference: Big Ten

Conference Titles: 1 (Big East)

Overall Bowl Record: 6-4

Series History:

These two programs have met 30 times in the past with Penn State dominating the all-time series 28-2. The Nittany Lions have won each of their last 13 showdowns with the Scarlet Knights dating back to 1989. The last time Rutgers was able to beat Penn State was in the 1988 season, a 21-16 win under then head coach Dick Anderson. The Scarlet Knights only other win against the Nittany Lions came back in 1918, a 26-3 win.

Last Season (2-10, 0-9)

The Scarlet Knights had their sixth consecutive losing season last year under head coach Chris Ash and interim coach Nunzio Campanile. Their lone wins of the season came against UMass and Liberty. They went winless in Big Ten play for the second straight season and third time in four seasons.

Recruiting and Offseason:

Rutgers 2020 recruiting class was ranked 61st nationally and 13th in the Big Ten only ahead of Illinois. They did, however, bring in 11 transfers in Greg Schiano’s first offseason including nine Power Five transfers.

What they did last week: 37-30 win over Purdue

Rutgers got their second win of the season last week over Purdue thanks to a strong offensive performance. The Scarlet Knights had a total of 412 yards in the game and punted just once in the game. After trailing at halftime, 23-13, the Scarlet Knights used a big second half, outscoring Purdue 24-7 to take down the Boilermakers.

Offense:

Since we’re late on this week’s know your foe, this will be an abbreviated offensive and defensive previews.

Offensively, the Scarlet Knights this season have been much improved from last season. They’re averaging 368.8 yards per game and 30.8 points per game. A majority of their offensive success has come through their air, where they’re averaging 233 yards per game and completing just under 66% of their passes for the season.

As a team they have 14 passing touchdowns to eight interceptions. Noah Vedral, a transfer from Nebraska has been their starter, he’s 110-for-172 for 1,1101-yards and eight touchdowns. He has, however thrown eight interceptions as well.

In terms of receiving threats for Rutgers, the major threat will be senior wide receiver Bo Melton who has 29 receptions for 471 yards and five touchdowns. He was their best wide receiver last year arguably but has been dynamite this season for them and has already posted a career high in receiving yards and touchdowns. With two more receptions he’ll record a career high in catches as well. Other names to know are senior Shameen Jones who has 27 receptions for 307-yards and three touchdowns as well as junior Aron Cruickshank, a former Wisconsin Badger, who has 30 receptions for 216 yards and one score.

Their rushing attack has not had the success their passing attack has had this season, on the ground they’re averaging a considerable 135.8 yards per game but are averaging just 3.5 yards per carry. Junior Isaiah Pacheco is their leading rusher this year, picking up 392 yards and two touchdowns on 85 carries. Sophomore Aaron Young, a recruit that Penn State fans may remember, has the second most carries of their running backs with 27 but has managed just 78 yards. Additionally, there’s fellow sophomore Kay’Ron Adams who 17 carries for 100 yards.

Defense:

Defensively, Rutgers is still struggling this season even under such a strong defensive coach like Greg Schiano. The Scarlet Knights are surrendering 35.7 points per game and are allowing 434.7 yards of total offense. Teams have had success both through the air and on the ground, allowing 260.2 passing yards and 174.5 rushing yards per game. Opposing offenses are averaging 5.9 yards per play this season.

While Rutgers has been good this season in wrapping up ball carriers behind the line of scrimmage with 41 tackles for a loss, they have struggled to get to the quarterback with just nine sacks on the season. Sophomore linebacker Mohamed Toure is their sack leader with three.

Their secondary as you can tell by the stats above hasn’t been stellar this season but have been able to break up 16 passes while intercepting three additional passes on the season. Senior Tre Avery is their best corner by far with 23 tackles, five pass deflections, and one interception.

As a team, the Scarlet Knights have forced ten turnovers, with seven fumbles and three interceptions.

Special Teams:

They’ve been strong at kicker with their two kickers Valentino Ambrosio and Guy Fava going a combined 16 for 17 in extra points and 7-for-8 in field goal opportunities. Punter Adam Korsak has been solid this season as well, averaging 42.6 yards per punt on 27 attempts.

In terms of their return game, the Scarlet Knights are quite dangerous on kick returns thanks to Cruickshank whose averaging 24.1 yards per return and he’s already housed one return this season. Avery Young will also return some kicks and a majority of punts, he’s averaging 16.5 yards per kick return and 1.8 yards per punt return. Finally, Bo Melton, could be back there now and then, he’s returned one kick for 65-yards and appears to have returned one punt for 58-yards and a touchdown. All in all, the Scarlet Knights special teams this year are pretty good.