GAMEDAY PAGE 2
OCTOBER 5, 2012
KNIGHTS GAMEDAY RUTGERS VS. CONNECTICUT
GAME 3: High Point Solutions Stadium, noon TV: ESPNU RADIO: 1450 AM
INSIDE the NUMBERS
SCARLET KNIGHTS (4-0, 1-0)
PASSING CMP YDS TD INT. AVG. 2 240.5 G. Nova 59.7% 962 9
Senior linebacker Khaseem Greene tackles Arkansas tight end Brandon Tate on Sept. 22. Greene trails UConn’s Yawin Smallwood by 12 tackles for the Big East lead. NOAH WHITTENBURG, PHOTOGRAPHY EDITOR
UConn game carries history BY JOEY GREGORY ASSOCIATE SPORTS EDITOR
After watching Connecticut single-handedly destroy the Rutgers football team’s bid for its first ever share of a Big East Championship last season, sophomore safety Lorenzo Waters has one outstanding memory. “A lot of points,” he said. “Too many points. I remember just being a spectator on the sidelines just hopelessly watching our defense.” The Huskies (3-2) put up 40 of them, 23 more than any team currently on Rutgers’ Big East schedule. That point total would be considered uncharacteristic for any game for the Scarlet Knights (4-0, 1-0), let alone when they were fresh off one of their best defensive performances of the season. “[Defensive coordinator Robb Smith is] still trying to figure out what was going on in that game,” said senior linebacker Khaseem Greene. “That was just not us. That wasn’t us. In a nutshell, that wasn’t us.” Rutgers managed 22 points, 12 of which came in the fourth quar-
ter, when the game was largely out of reach. Sophomore Gary Nova entered the game in the fourth quarter and threw for 298 yards, with then-freshman receiver Brandon Coleman catching 178 of them, including a 92yard touchdown connection. “I was just trying to go in there and … give a spark, anything,” Nova said. “Obviously Brandon, he made me look really good. Brandon really came onto the scene after that game.” Despite the fourth-quarter effort, the Knights fell short and failed to reach their goal of a Big East title. “That was hard for me to shake that [loss] off,” Greene said. “That was a stinging one.” If head coach Kyle Flood were to ask his players what kind of motivation that game gives the team for tomorrow’s matchup with the Huskies, he would likely receive mixed responses. Players like Nova prefer not to let it linger, stressing there is a difference between the 2011 teams and the two that compete tomorrow at High Point Solutions Stadium.
Junior defensive lineman Jamil Merrell has a different take. “Just playing UConn itself, with what they did to use last year, just gives us motivation to just bring it Saturday,” he said. “That’s all the motivation we need, just know we’re playing UConn and how they’re going to come in here and try and take it from us.” Greene has a similar mentality, having taken the loss personally because of his role on the team. “As a player, as a leader, as a captain, I’m not going to let … anything happen, whether it’s on offense, defense, special teams, while we practice all week or during the game,” he said. “That’s the approach that I’m taking.” He says it is more important to focus on what the Knights do as a team rather than what the opponent does. Waters agrees, believing the defense needs to keep things simple. “We’re going to do what we can to limit the run, of course,” he said, “and prevent them from having any big plays, but we’re going to just use our fundamentals and stick to our defense and do what we need to do.”
RUSHING NO. YDS TD LNG AVG. J. Jamison 4.8 102 491 2 64 S. Huggins 3.3 21 70 1 31 RECEIVING NO. YDS TD LNG AVG. T. Wright 18 228 0 46 12.7 M. Harrison 17 165 2 60 9.7 B. Coleman 12 207 5 43 17.2 DEFENSE TKL SCK INT 2 K. Greene 41 0 Jamal Merrell 32 0.5 1 0 L. Ryan 27 1 INJURIES Probable — DE M. Booker, RB S. Huggins, DT Kenneth Kirksey Doubtful — WR M. Shuler OUT — DT A. Page
PASSING CMP Whitmer 61.9% McEntee 50% RUSHING NO. L. McCombs 122 M. Hyppolite 10 RECEIVING NO. G. Davis 19 N. Williams 12 L. McCombs 12 DEFENSE
YDS 1051 6 YDS 452 65 YDS 268 158 129
TD 4 0 TD 4 1 TD 1 0 0 TKL 53 37 31
INT. AVG. 6 210.2 6 0 LNG AVG. 3.7 28 6.5 50 LNG AVG. 26 14.1 30 13.2 43 10.8 SCK INT 0 4 0 0 0 0
Y. Smallwood J. Johnson B. Jones INJURIES Probable — FS T. Brown, C A. Mateas
SCHEDULE Sept. 1 Sept. 8 Sept. 13 Sept. 22 Oct. 6 Oct. 13 Oct. 20 Oct. 27 Nov. 10 Nov. 17 Nov. 24 Nov. 29
CONNECTICUT (3-2, 0-0)
Tulane Howard South Florida Arkansas Connecticut Syracuse Temple Kent State Army Cincinnati Pittsburgh Louisville
W, 24-12 W, 26-0 W, 23-13 W, 35-26 noon noon TBA 3:30 p.m. TBA noon TBA 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 30 Sept. 8 Sept. 15 Sept. 22 Sept. 29 Oct. 6 Oct. 13 Oct. 19 Nov. 3 Nov. 9 Nov. 24 Dec. 1
UMass NC State Maryland W. Michigan Buffalo Rutgers Temple Syracuse South Florida Pittsburgh Louisville Cincinnati
W, 37-0 L, 10-7 W, 24-21 L, 30-24 W, 24-17 noon 1 p.m. 8 p.m. TBA 8 p.m. TBA TBA
Key Matchup RUTGERS OFFENSIVE LINE VS. UCONN FRONT SEVEN Connecticut linebacker Yawin Smallwood leads the Big East in tackles and has a team-high 10 tackles for loss. The Huskies recorded 16 sacks in their first five games, while Rutgers’ offensive line has yet to allow a sack — barring intentional grounding.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP : OFFENSE
BRANDON COLEMAN WIDE RECEIVER
KALEB JOHNSON TACKLE
ANTWAN LOWERY GUARD
BETIM BUJARI CENTER
ANDRE CIVIL GUARD
R.J. DILL TACKLE
D.C. JEFFERSON TIGHT END
TIM WRIGHT WIDE RECEIVER
GARY NOVA QUARTERBACK
SAM BERGEN FULLBACK
JAWAN JAMISON RUNNING BACK
Sophomore 6’-6”, 220 lbs.
Sophomore 6’-4”, 300 lbs.
Junior 6’-4”, 305 lbs.
Sophomore 6’-4”, 290 lbs.
Junior 6’-3”, 275 lbs.
Senior 6’-7”, 310 lbs.
Senior 6’-6”, 250 lbs
Senior 6’-4”, 220 lbs
Sophomore 6’-2”, 225 lbs
Sophomore 6’-0”, 235 lbs
Sophomore 5’-8”, 200 lbs
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP : DEFENSE
MARCUS THOMPSON RIGHT END
SCOTT VALLONE TACKLE
JAMIL MERRELL TACKLE
KA’LIAL GLAUD LEFT END
JAMAL MERRELL LINEBACKER
STEVE BEAUHARNAIS LINEBACKER
KHASEEM GREENE LINEBACKER
MARCUS COOPER CORNERBACK
LORENZO WATERS STRONG SAFETY
DURON HARMON FREE SAFETY
LOGAN RYAN CORNERBACK
Junior 6’-2”, 260 lbs
Senior 6’-3”, 275 lbs
Junior 6’-4”, 255 lbs
Senior 6’-2”, 230 lbs
Junior 6’-4”, 220 lbs
Senior 6’-2”, 230 lbs
Senior 6’-1”, 230 lbs
Senior 6’-2”, 190 lbs
Sophomore 6’-0”, 200 lbs
Senior 6’-1”, 200 lbs
Junior 6’-0”, 190 lbs
OCTOBER 5, 2012
GAMEDAY PAGE 3
KNIGHT NUGGETS BY THE NUMBERS Connecticut punter Cole Wagner averages only 40.1 yards per punt this season, second to last in the Big East. Only Rutgers punter Justin Doerner, a firstteam Big East punter last season, is behind him.
The Connecticut defense held sophomore running back Jawan Jamison to only 19 rushing yards last season before Jamison began a five-game streak with more than 100 yards on the ground.
Results from six games between Rutgers and the Huskies have come down to seven points or less since 2001. Rutgers has won three of the last four games by four points or less.
The Knights have scored in the first quarter only once this season — a touchdown by sophomore running back Savon Huggins against Howard on Sept. 8. They look to improve the trend tomorrow.
BIG QUESTION CAN RUTGERS’ ‘O’ MOVE THE BALL EFFICIENTLY VERSUS UCONN’S DEFENSE? The Huskies are first in the Big East in total defense, surrendering only 242.6 yards per game. Rutgers failed to sustain GARY NOVA drives against UConn in last season’s Sophomore Quarterback 40-22 loss in East Hartford, Conn.
THE ADVANTAGE GOES TO... OFFENSE Rutgers has far more options on the perimeter, and Lyle McCombs has not sustained his output from last year.
DEFENSE UConn posted twice as many sacks and has shown an ability to play behind the line of scrimamge.
COACHING Head coach Kyle Flood has the Knights off to their best four-game start since the 2006 season.
SPECIAL TEAMS Returner Nick Williams burned Rutgers in two previous meetings and could determine this year’s outcome.
X-FACTOR Rutgers’ defense faces a quarterback making his first appearance in a Big East game in Chandler Whitmer.
MOMENTUM A likely sell-out and blackout are in store for the Knights at home following a banner win at Arkansas.
RUTGERS WINS IF...
CONNECTICUT WINS IF...
IT FINDS WAYS TO LIMIT BIG PLAYS FROM MCCOMBS, UCONN RUN GAME
RUTGERS COMES OUT SLUGGLISHLY FOLLOWING ITS BYE WEEK LAYOFF
The Knights lead the nation in rush defense, surrendering only 62.5 yards per game. Sophomore Lyle McCombs, meanwhile, has struggled after a strong season.
Head coach Kyle Flood said he was pleased with the Knights’ focus during practice, but a slow start — like last season — could be all UConn needs in its opener.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK “As a player, as a leader, as a captain I’m not going to let ... anything happen, whether it’s on offense, defense ... [in] practice all week or during the game.”
KHASEEM GREENE Senior Linebacker
TARGUM’S FINAL VERDICT RUTGERS WINS, 20-13 The Knights manage to make more plays through the air en route to a third blackout victory.
Connecticut head coach Paul Pasqualoni is the Big East’s all-time winningest coach with 55 wins, and Rutgers is his first chance this season to add another to his total. GETTY IMAGES
Huskies face changed team BY JOSH BAKAN ASSOCIATE SPORTS EDITOR
The Rutgers football team made its presence known by beating Arkansas, 35-26, Sept. 22 to push itself into the national rankings for the first time since 2009 and steal some of Arkansas’ national prominence. Now Connecticut has the chance to steal a little from the Scarlet Knights tomorrow when it visits Piscataway. The Huskies enter High Point Solutions Stadium with a blank slate in conference play. Even though UConn’s first Big East test is against the second-highest ranked team in the Big East, head coach Paul Pasqualoni is ready. “Certainly you want to do well in your conference. To say anything less would be minimizing,” Pasqualoni said. “But when you talk about the work to play any game, it doesn’t matter who the program is.” When the two teams last faced off, the Huskies beat the Knights, 40-22, in Rutgers’ regular season finale. That occurred in Pasqualoni’s first season with Connecticut, and Rutgers has changed since then under an even newer head coach in Kyle Flood. Rutgers also had a different starting quarterback with thensophomore Chas Dodd in the second-to-last game he started. Dodd played only three quar ters in the game, completing 11-of-22 passes for 141
yards — an average of 6.4 yards per pass. Now-sophomore quarterback Gary Nova entered in the final quarter and threw for 298 yards, even though he threw two interceptions after Dodd only tossed one. Now the Rutgers offense is in Nova’s control, and he broke out against the Razorbacks for career highs of 397 passing yards, 25 completions and five touchdowns in the Knights’ 35-point effort. “They’re going to make some plays, and you have to be able to tackle it and keep it in front of you,”
“You want to do well in your conference. To say anything less would be minimizing.” PAUL PASQUALONI Connecticut Head Coach
Pasqualoni said. “They have good balance, and they’re certainly putting up good numbers against, I think, some pretty good teams.” UConn’s biggest tacking threat is linebacker Yawin Smallwood, who leads the Big East with 53 tackles,12 tackles ahead of Rutgers senior linebacker Khaseem Greene, who sits in second. The Connecticut defense is also the best in the Big East when it comes to yardage, and it is not even
close. UConn allows 242.6 yards per game, and Rutgers holds second place with 310 yards allowed per game. That is the least of Pasqualoni’s concerns. “We’re capable of playing pretty good defense, but we have areas where we need to continue to improve upon,” he said. Pasqualoni is the Big East’s career leader with 112 wins and 65 conference coaching wins — mostly from his coaching stint with Syracuse from 1991-2004. But Pasqualoni has not yet had an opportunity to add to his Big East win total this season. Rutgers begins a chain of seven conference games for UConn. Flood won his only Big East game as a head coach in a 23-13 win Sept. 13 at South Florida. But all that matters for UConn is this season, when it looks to equal Rutgers’ Big East win total by defeating the Knights. Even though USF was Rutgers’ most important victory since it was in conference, the win against Arkansas was the one that got the nation to notice in a nationally televised game that put the Knights in the top 25 UConn can gain some glory in its own right with a win, and the whole nation can witness it on ESPNU. “It’s an easy one to get up for since we haven’t won in the Big East, but I think there’s a lot more to it,” Pasqualoni said. “It’s a big game.”
GAMEDAY PAGE 4
OCTOBER 5, 2012
Harrison, Knights wide receivers settle into roles as pass game develops under first-year offensive coordinator BY TYLER BARTO SPORTS EDITOR
As Mark Harrison peered into the Arkansas night Sept. 22, he had an opportunity to accomplish something he had not in nearly two years. The moment he had waited for since then lasted only eight seconds. But after staring back to the line of scrimmage following a 60yard touchdown catch against the Razorbacks, Harrison understood its worth. “I feel like it was something I needed and my team needed,” he said. “My team held my back through thick and thin with what I was going through. My confidence level now is really shooting to the sky.” Through four games, Harrison has 17 catches for 165 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He caught only 14 passes and scored as many touchdowns last year in 12 games. He struggled with confidence, purpose and most often the deep pass. And yet Harrison was only a year removed from a career season in which he led the Rutgers football team with 44 catches, 829 yards and nine scores. So he bided his time in the offseason, when a new coaching staff took shape with new evaluations. “I stayed patient, waited on my moment and my chance and my opportunity,” Harrison said. “I really felt like, ‘OK, this is my time. This is my year to really show people that I’m back, and I’m here for my team.’” The Harrison that emerged in 2010 was a perennial deep threat, averaging 18.8 yards per catch — second-best on the team — and becoming a reliable target despite working with two quarterbacks. But after Mohamed Sanu’s banner 2011 season and a string of drops in meaningful games, Harrison was a shell of his former self on paper. Despite setting a career high with 22.8 yards per catch, he started only four games. He dropped a pair of passes at Louisville — one a sure-fire touchdown — and promptly answered questions from the
Senior wide receiver Mark Harrison runs into the Arkansas end zone Sept. 22 following a 60-yard catch, his longest reception since a stat-packed sophomore season. He says he now has the most confidence since then. NOAH WHITTENBURG, PHOTOGRAPHY EDITOR media afterward. He responded the next week against West Virginia with a 45-yard touchdown, but those moments were few and far between. “I’m always confident, but sometimes there’s a little doubt when you miss a ball,” Harrison said. “It’s how you build on it and how you get through it. The last time I was that confident was my sophomore year, to be honest.” Teammates continue to take notice. “Coming off the past years and the success that he’s had, you just want to … keep building on the things you’ve done in the past,” said senior wideout Tim Wright. “I feel it’s very important for his confidence and pride, and for the team to trust him.”
Wright, meanwhile, is enjoying the best season of his career. He leads the Scarlet Knights with 18 receptions for 228 yards after a 2011 campaign in which he recorded only 11 and 147. A knee injury in training camp cut his 2010 season short. He has become the Knights’ most viable third-down receiver, Harrison said. “Everybody’s getting their identities,” he said. Sophomore Brandon Coleman continues to emerge as one of the Big East’s most dangerous deep threats. He has 11 touchdowns in 17 career games, and he averages 41.7 yards per score. Junior Quron Pratt materialized as a steady receiver a year ago, and he enjoyed his most productive
game of the season at Arkansas with five catches for 85 yards. And while Harrison’s identity is still being scripted, his early showing is encouraging. “It’s so reassuring when you know doing your job is helping your team win,” he said. “It gives you a better feeling about what you’re doing and how you’re executing.” Rutgers’ per-game pass average still hovers around last year’s mark of 241.2, but the Knights have become more efficient. They rank third in the conference in pass efficiency and are on pace to cut their interceptions in half. Offensive coordinator Dave Brock deser ves the credit, Wright said.
“Coach Brock does a good job of putting the receivers … in their strengths,” he said. “That’s how we’re operating right now. I feel like we all bring some good stuff to the table.” None was more important than Harrison’s re-introduction to the national stage. With Rutgers nursing a twopoint lead, Harrison collected sophomore quarterback Gary Nova’s pass at Arkansas’ 35-yard line, evaded a diving tackle 20 yards later and left a defender behind him. Time will tell if his checkered past follows suit. “That was clutch,” Coleman said. “For him to come through is big for his confidence. I was so happy. That sealed the deal.”
8 receptions, 125 yards @ South Florida No Receptions vs Ohio
A comparison of Rutgers’ three leading receivers so far this season with their performance from one year ago
6 receptions, 89 yards @ Arkansas No Receptions vs Syracuse
3 receptions, 29 yards @ Tulane 1 reception, 13 yards vs NC Central
6 receptions, 16 yards vs Howard No Receptions @ NC
Offense 9/1/12 @ Tulane
GAME 1 9/1/11 vs NC Central
9/8/12 vs Howard 9/10/11 @ North Carolina
9/13/12 @ South Florida 9/24/11 vs Ohio
9/22/12 @ Arkansas 10/1/11 vs Syracuse
GRAPHIC BY HAKAN UZUMCU
OCTOBER 5, 2012
GAMEDAY PAGE 5
Experienced Rutgers secondary prepares for balanced Connecticut attack, decreased number of pass attempts BY JOEY GREGORY ASSOCIATE SPORTS EDITOR
The Rutgers football team’s secondary is among the most experienced groups on the field. Of the starting four, sophomore safety Lorenzo Waters is the only one not to have played in all 13 games last season. Senior cornerback Marcus Cooper, who backed up classmate Brandon Jones a year ago, also appeared in ever y game of the 2011 campaign.
Cooper believes the unit is reaping the benefits of that experience. “The more experience [and] the more game time you get, the more comfortable you are out there, the more confident you are in the play,” he said. “Just that everybody has that experience level … it helps out the unit, definitely.” Waters has undergone a different sort of season. He is the only member of the secondary new to a starting role. He is undergoing an adjustment period the others are far beyond.
The team’s last contest against Arkansas was a huge stepping stone in his growth, said junior cornerback Logan Ryan. “Your first year as a starter, there’s nothing like playing in front of 70,000 fans,” Ryan said. “That’s something everyone has to get used to and he’s doing a great job. He’s taking coaching, he’s getting better week to week. I think you should really grade him after the season. No one is great after four weeks.” Ryan, a preseason All-Big East first team member, has his own
role to play in defensive coordinator Robb Smith’s scheme. He is largely regarded as one of the best cover corners on the team. But head coach Kyle Flood stresses there is no such thing as a cover corner. All cornerbacks have to be able to stop the run as well as the pass. Ryan is no exception. “Logan [because of his place on the field] has a lot more responsibility when it comes to the run,” Jones said. “As a whole unit we pride ourselves in being
Junior cornerback Logan Ryan intercepts a pass from Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson intended for wideout Cobi Hamilton in the end zone. Ryan leads the Rutgers secondary in tackles this season with 27. NOAH WHITTENBURG, PHOTOGRAPHY EDITOR
able to stop that pass and the run, and that’s been since Day 1, since we been here.” Judging by statistics, the secondary is having more success at stopping the run than the pass. Rutgers ranks first in the nation in run defense while it is 80th against the pass. Part of that, Ryan believes, deals with where the defense’s main focus lies. “Stopping the run is our biggest concern, and the secondary needs to be involved in that and we’re doing a good job,” he said. “That’s making people pass about 50 attempts, 40 attempts, switch their game up, which we want [them] to do. But when they are passing about 50 times, we want to do a better job of playing pass defense.” The Knights’ last opponent did not help the numbers, either. Razorback quar terback Tyler Wilson was an all-conference selection last year and was on target Sept. 22, despite taking the loss. But many of his passes went in the direction of wide receiver Cobi Hamilton, who caught half of Wilson’s 20 completions for an SEC-record 303 yards. In contrast, Connecticut quar terback Chandler Whitmer, who the Knights face tomorrow, completed 15 passes to eight different receivers in his last performance. But the difference between the two signal callers in terms of targets will not cause much of a dif ference in the secondar y’s focus. “We play each receiver honestly,” Waters said. “We’re not going to spend any special attention to one specific receiver. We’ll have them all covered. Hopefully that’ll take care of it.” If statistics are any indication, the Knights secondar y will likely not face the sort of air attack it did nearly two weeks ago, as the Huskies have 54 more rushing attempts than passing. But UConn also has yet to face a defense ranked as high Rutgers’.
Defense A look at how Rutgers’ Pass Defense has fared against their opponents so far in the 2012 season compared to the average passing yards per game of each opponent in the 2012 season
9/8/12 Game 2 vs
9/1/12 Game 1 @
254 Pass Yards 182.2 Avg. Pass Yards
75 Pass Yards 164.9 Avg. Pass Yards
9/13/12 Game 3 @
242 Pass Yards 260.4 Avg. Pass Yards 9/22/12 Game 4 @
419 Pass Yards 310.4 Avg. Pass Yards GRAPHIC BY HAKAN UZUMCU
GAMEDAY PAGE 6
OCTOBER 5, 2012
BIGEAST GAME OF THE WEEK PITTSBURGH
SOUTH FLORIDA at TEMPLE Temple plays in its first Big East game since its departure from the MAC against a South Florida team that has lost three in a row. But a trip to Philadelphia might cure the Bulls’ woes.
PREDICTION: South Florida, 28-10
MIAMI (OHIO) at CINCINNATI
Senior running back Ray Graham leads Pitt into Syracuse and the Carrier Dome tonight. DAILY TARGUM / OCTOBER 2011
Syracuse, which joins Pitt in the ACC next season, looks to avenge a 33-20 loss to the Panthers in last year’s season finale. Ray Graham, who continues to recover from a torn ACL he suffered last season, is No. 4 in the Big East in rush yards this season with 362 under Paul Chryst.
’Cuse QB Ryan Nassib vs. Pitt pass defense
The Panthers have allowed opponents to convert each time they enter the red zone this season, while Nassib, a senior under Doug Marrone, leads the Big East in passing this season 1,367 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Chryst’s developing offense outlasts a reeling Syracuse program.
A trap game awaits the Bearcats after they upset top-25 Virginia Tech last weekend at FedEx Field in Washington, D.C. Quarterback Munchie Legeaux continues to develop. PREDICTION: Cincinnati, 31-24
BIG EAST STANDINGS Football
TEAM 1. RUTGERS 2. Cincinnati 3. Louisville 4. Connecticut 5. Temple 6. Syracuse 7. Pittsburgh 8. South Florida
RECORD PRE-RANK 2011 4-0, 1-0 3rd 9-4 3-0, 1-0 4th 10-3 5-0, 0-0 1st 7-6 3-2, 0-0 6th 5-7 1-2, 0-0 8th 9-4* 1-3, 0-0 7th 5-7 2-2, 0-1 5th 6-7 2-3, 0-1 2nd 5-7
*Temple played in the Mid-American Conference last season before accepting an invitation to rejoin the Big East beginning this season.
GAMEDAY PAGE 7
OCTOBER 5, 2012
Linebackers Steve Beauharnais, top, and Kevin Snyder wrap up Howard running back William Parker in the Knights’ 26-0 win Sept. 8. Senior Ka’Lial Glaud credits the team’s active linebackers for its No. 1 national ranking against the run. JOVELLE TAMAYO / EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Jury remains out on RU run ‘D’ catalyst BY TYLER BARTO SPORTS EDITOR
Khaseem Greene earned Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year honors last year, posted a career high in tackles and is the emotional leader of an undefeated team. But for all of his exploits, the senior linebacker still owes Scott Vallone. “I just told Scott the other day in practice that I was going to take him out to eat,” Greene said. “Some of the things he does up front, and some of the problems he presents … is stuff that doesn’t get penciled down on the stat sheet.” Greene credits the Rutgers football team’s front four for its No. 1 run defense nationally, but like the Scarlet Knights’ 4-0 start, the answer runs deeper. After entering the season as arguably the Knights’ biggest hole, the defensive line has found its own answers. Vallone, a senior defensive tackle, worked beside new starter Isaac Holmes and a host of rotating defensive ends. Junior linebacker Jamal Merrell emerged in the same breath as Greene and senior Steve Beauharnais. And per Rutgers’ defensive philosophy, its cornerbacks enter the fold in rush defense, as well. But which level of defense deserves the most credit remains up for debate. “[The linebackers are] all doing a great job this year, and that’s why I think we stop the run,” said senior defensive end Ka’Lial Glaud. “If we mess up on one of our jobs, we always have people behind us that have our back that are great tacklers.” Glaud points to former head coach Greg Schiano for setting run defense expectations. Vallone says it comes down from the cur-
Senior defensive tackle Scott Vallone, who has started 42 consecutive games, is a key cog in the Knights’ run defense, which has held its first four opponents under 100 yards for the first time since 1980. LIANNE NG, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER rent staff, which sets goals for opposing rush totals each week. And Greene insists it is the defense’s execution of coordinator Robb Smith’s scheme. The numbers, meanwhile, give the most clarity. “Sixty-two-and-a-half yards a game, that’s big stuff,” Vallone said. “We need to continue to do that, but it’s only four games in. There’s times in games where we feel like … we gave them runs. That number could be even less.” By all accounts, there have been few opportunities to do so. Of the top-10 rush defenses nationally, only Oregon State (74) has faced fewer rush attempts than Rutgers (102). Of the 64 first downs the Knights have allowed this season, only 19 came on the ground. Two of its opponents — Tulane
and Arkansas — ran fewer than 20 times and threw the ball twice as often. The number figures to change in the final two-thirds of the season. Seven of the Knights’ eight remaining opponents — and their final six — run more than they pass. “We know the championship defenses as you look around the country are all top inside stopping the run,” Glaud said. “You stop a team from running the ball, it equates to winning games.” They will have to do so without Holmes. The starting nose tackle suffered a season-ending wrist injur y Sept. 22 at Arkansas, leaving a position of strength to a host of questions. Holmes’ emergence led to Vallone’s return to the three-technique,
but Vallone figures to play both spots now. Several Knights could enter the fold in Holmes’ wake, as well. “They have to build it in practice,” Vallone said. “Obviously those guys have been back for a couple weeks now. They need to show they can add the depth, and there’s not going to be a huge drop-off when we come out.” Holmes was one of those players last year, spelling Vallone between series. His loss adds a new wrinkle after Holmes earned a bulk of the credit for demanding double teams against the run. “Ike was playing top notch if you ask me, that’s no bias,” Greene said. “I’ll be the first one to say it: I don’t make 140 tackles [last year] without Scott and guys like Ike. This year, I don’t make as many tackles as I make without those guys up front.”
Vallone estimates he sees 90 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. He could be in line for more, depending on Smith’s approach. Smith could turn to junior Jamil Merrell, whose 6-foot-4 frame could warrant a return to a hybrid end-tackle role. He could also seek out junior Michael Lar row, who recently returned from a fourgame suspension. And sophomore Kenneth Kirksey, who has yet to see the field because of a training camp injury, could earn a call. “The toughness of your football team,” Glaud said, “is on your nose guard and on your three-technique, the guys who are really inside to fight every single play.” Whoever it is will have to earn Greene’s offer.