EMERGE KEITH FREEMAN
GAMEDAY PAGE 2
NOVEMBER 29, 2012
KNIGHTS GAMEDAY RUTGERS VS. LOUISVILLE
GAME 12: High Point Solutions Stadium, 7:30 p.m. TV: ESPN RADIO: 1450 AM
INSIDE the NUMBERS
SCARLET KNIGHTS (9-2, 5-1)
LOUISVILLE (9-2, 5-2)
PASSING CMP YDS TD INT. AVG. G. Nova 59.7% 2282 20 13 207.5 RUSHING J. Jamison S. Huggins RECEIVING B. Coleman M. Harrison T. Wright
NO. 227 101 NO. 37 37 35
Head coach Kyle Flood looks on in Saturday’s 27-6 loss at Pittsburgh. Flood has created a players-first culture in Piscataway, the host of tonight’s ESPN contest with Louisville. JOVELLE TAMAYO, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Uncertainty clouds RU finale
K. Greene L. Ryan Jamal Merrell
YDS TD 1004 4 362 2 YDS TD 563 9 429 5 422 2 TKL 115 77 70
LNG AVG. 64 31
LNG 43 71 46 SCK 5.5 0 0.5
4.4 3.6 AVG. 15.2 11.6 12.1 INT 2 4 1
INJURIES Probable — RB Jawan Jamison Doubtful — RG Andre Civil
As the Rutgers football team began preparation for tonight’s nationally televised season finale against Louisville, Steve Beauharnais found inspiration from an unlikely source: the Scarlet Knights scout team. “I tell them, ‘If we win, we’re not going to Florida without you. We need your help.’ We need 100 percent effort [from] the whole program, from the cleaning lady up until the head coach,” said Beauharnais, a senior linebacker. “We need everybody in this one.” By now, the scenarios have played themselves out repeatedly. A win cements the Knights in a BCS bowl game for the first time in program history. A loss could set into motion a four-way tie for first place in the Big East, leaving Rutgers’ bowl destination in question. The Knights (9-2, 5-1) want to leave little to chance. “We feel like this is our year, our conference championship to take,” said senior linebacker Khaseem Greene. “We’re going to go out, and we’re going to do everything possible to win it.”
The biggest question swirls around Louisville (9-2, 4-2) quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who suffered a sprained ankle and fractured left — non-throwing — wrist Saturday against Connecticut. Cardinals head coach Charlie Strong said Monday that Bridgewater, arguably the frontrunner for Big East Player of the Year, will play. But Bridgewater’s effectiveness remains to be seen. Similar doubt follows the Knights offense, but for different reasons. It scored only six points Saturday in a loss at Pittsburgh and recorded only 207 yards of total offense. It did not look better the previous week against Cincinnati, and an early deficit Oct. 27 against Kent State proved insurmountable. Sophomore quarterback Gary Nova threw six interceptions that day, which head coach Kyle Flood said skewed Nova’s numbers. “I think his learning curve is moving in the right directions,” Flood said. “He doesn’t have any confidence problems — that’s just not Gary. You spend five minutes with him, [and] you know he’ll be confident when he comes out on the field [tonight].”
Flood has become defined by his commitment to his players. He named Nova the team’s permanent starter Aug. 20 after a culture of indecision at quarterback troubled the program for two seasons. He has barely altered the Knights’ starting lineup through 11 games, with the exception of injury. And he has become every bit the relationship builder he promised when Athletic Director Tim Pernetti announced Flood’s hiring Jan. 30. “He just told us we deserve it,” Greene said of Flood’s message to the team. “We work so hard for it. We put ourselves in this position for this to be a conference championship game, and now it’s time for us to go take it.” Flood spoke Monday of his experience in big games, winning a national championship in 2004 as an assistant at Delaware. He referenced his time at Division-II C.W. Post in 1996, when as offensive line coach he faced Bentley in an ECAC bowl game. But tonight proves the biggest test of Flood’s mettle. The Knights have waited for it. “Now it’s time to take that next step,” Greene said, “and win it.”
Sept. 1 Sept. 8 Sept. 13 Sept. 22 Oct. 6 Oct. 13 Oct. 20 Oct. 27 Nov. 10 Nov. 17 Nov. 24 Nov. 29
CMP YDS TD INT. AVG. 6 289.9
Bridgewater 68.8% 3189 23
RUSHING NO. YDS TD LNG J. Wright 164 723 9 32 Bridgewater 64 68 1 17 RECEIVING NO. YDS TD LNG D. Copeland 42 539 1 59 E. Rogers 38 387 4 44 D. Parker 35 683 8 75 DEFENSE TKL SCK 0 P. Brown 90 0 C. Pryor 87 0 H. Smith 61 INJURIES Probable — QB Teddy Bridgewater Questionable — LB Daniel Brown
AVG. 4.4 1.1 AVG. 12.8 10.2 19.5 INT 1 2 0
SCHEDULE BY TYLER BARTO
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 W, 19-3 W, 23-15 W, 35-10 L, 35-23 W, 28-7 W, 10-3 L, 27-6 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 2 Sept. 8 Sept. 15 Sept. 22 Sept. 29 Oct. 13 Oct. 20 Oct. 26 Nov. 3 Nov. 10 Nov. 24 Nov. 29
Kentucky Missouri St. N. Carolina FIU Southern Miss. Pittsburgh South Florida Cincinnati Temple Syracuse Connecticut Rutgers
W, 32-14 W, 35-7 W, 39-34 W, 28-21 W, 21-17 W, 45-35 W, 27-25 W, 34-31 W, 45-17 L, 45-26 L, 23-20 7:30 p.m.
Key Matchup LOUISVILLE RB JEREMY WRIGHT VS. RUTGERS FRONT SEVEN Without the services of backfield mate Senorise Perry, who is out for the season with a torn ACL, Louisville’s Jeremy Wright has taken on the Cardinals’ full rushing load. The Knights allowed 138 rushing yards last week in a 21-point loss at Pittsburgh.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: OFFENSE
BRANDON COLEMAN WIDE RECEIVER
KALEB JOHNSON TACKLE
ANTWAN LOWERY GUARD
BETIM BUJARI CENTER
TAJ ALEXANDER GUARD
R.J. DILL TACKLE
D.C. JEFFERSON TIGHT END
MARK HARRISON WIDE RECEIVER
GARY NOVA QUARTERBACK
BEAU BACHETY FULLBACK
SAVON HUGGINS RUNNING BACK
Sophomore 6’-6”, 220 lbs.
Sophomore 6’-4”, 300 lbs.
Junior 6’-4”, 305 lbs.
Sophomore 6’-4”, 290 lbs.
Sophomore 6’-4”, 290 lbs.
Senior 6’-7”, 310 lbs.
Senior 6’-6”, 250 lbs
Senior 6’-3”, 230 lbs
Sophomore 6’-2”, 225 lbs
Senior 6’-4”, 255 lbs
Sophomore 6’-0”, 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
NOVEMBER 29, 2012
GAMEDAY PAGE 3
KNIGHT NUGGETS BY THE NUMBERS The Knights allowed 187 yards on the ground the last time they played the Cardinals in 2011. Rutgers has allowed more than 100 rushing yards in four of the last five games.
Louisville currently sits atop the conference in scoring offense, averaging 32 ponits per game. The last time the Knights took on the Big East’s top scoring offense, Cincinnati scored only three points.
Khaseem Greene needs 26 tackles tonight and in a bowl game to equal his total of 141 tackles from last season. The senior linebacker is tied for the lead in tackles among Big East players.
The Cardinals allow slightly more than 185 pass yards per game, the best mark in the Big East. Rutgers, meanwhile, is next to last in the league with an average of 208.9 passing yards per game.
BIG QUESTION HOW EFFECTIVE WILL BRIDGEWATER BE WITH LINGERING INJURY ISSUES? Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is arguably the most refined passer in the T. BRIDGEWATER Big East, and he is only a sophomore. But wrist and ankle injuries could have a Louisville Quarterback signficant effect on Cardinals play-calling.
THE ADVANTAGE GOES TO... OFFENSE Louisville has one of the Big East’s most dangerous passing attacks, led by the poised Bridgewater and three wideouts.
DEFENSE Despite recent struggles, the Knights still hold opponents to only 13.7 points per game, fourth best nationally.
COACHING Head coach Kyle Flood and Louisville’s Charlie Strong remain Big East candidates for Coach of the Year.
SPECIAL TEAMS Despite a questionable kicking game, the Knights’ coverage and block units could have a noticeable impact.
X-FACTOR Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s health could determine how one-dimensional Louisville’s offense becomes.
MOMENTUM Both teams lost last week, but Louisville almost mounted an overtime comeback, while Rutgers treaded water.
RUTGERS WINS IF...
LOUISVILLE WINS IF...
ITS OFFENSE PUTS AN END TO EARLY RUST, SEES VARIED CONTRIBUTIONS
IT TAKES CONTROL OF THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE, PLAYS BALL CONTROL
History says the Knights’ first-half doldrums — 24 points in the last four games — will continue, but they likely will not be able to afford them against Louisville.
Rutgers has not done well when its lines have been overmatched and opponents kept its offense on the sidelines for long stretches. The Cardinals have potential.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK “We need 100 percent effort [from] the whole program, from the cleaning lady up until the head coach. We need everybody in this one.”
S. BEAUHARNAIS Senior Linebacker
TARGUM’S FINAL VERDICT RUTGERS WINS, 14-10 The Knights shake history of late shortcomings, advance to first BCS bowl game in school history.
Senior wide receiver Mark Harrison runs his career-long 71-yard touchdown catch at Cincinnati on Nov. 17 into the end zone, marking the 17th of his career. CONOR ALWELL, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Senior overcomes struggles BY JOEY GREGORY ASSOCIATE SPORTS EDITOR
Mark Harrison still jokes with former teammate Mohamed Sanu about the drink they had in the years they were both on the Rutgers football team. “Gatorade on the rocks,” Harrison said. “Put a little ice in and a little G2. We definitely laugh about it all the time. That’s my little joke with him. Back in the day, we roomed together when he was here. We would always have it right before our pregame meal.” Those days are now in the past. Sanu is now a member of the Cincinnati Bengals. while Harrison is the Scarlet Knights’ most experienced wide receiver. Harrison has played in 43 games for the Knights, six more than the next closest wideout. But he has not lost the lessons Sanu or any of his other former teammates taught him. “[It helps] just being able to watch guys that are so close to you and you talk to them all the time,” Harrison said. “Just seeing how much time and effort they put into it, it shows you what you need to do to get to that high level.” Harrison has climbed into Rutgers’ record books in receiving touchdowns. His career-long 71-yard touchdown catch Nov. 17 at Cincinnati was the 17th of his career. That places him in a tie with Kenny Britt and Chris Brantley for second place in Rutgers histor y. Only Tim Brown, who has 20 touchdown receptions, sits above him. “[Harrison] played early. He had a lot of success in his
career,” said senior wideout Tim Wright. “He’s a guy that fed off of that and he definitely put a lot of work in.” Wright has played alongside him throughout Harrison’s career. In those nearly four seasons, the two have forged a bond that has translated to the field. “We definitely had some times where we had to get to know each other more and help each other on and off the field,” Wright said. “We’ve been two guys that have been in the same class the whole time and we’ve been learning from each other, growing as friends and growing as people.” Harrison mirrors Wright’s feelings. He said it was refreshing to have someone going through the same trials to be there and help him along a notso-smooth career. As one of the team’s deep threats, he has seen his share of downfield passes. He has also dropped his fair share of passes, perhaps most notably last season at Louisville and Connecticut, when the Knights had a chance to earn a share of a Big East title. A potential touchdown catch slipped through his hands and the game continued to turn in UConn’s favor, ultimately ending in an 18-point Husky victory. But his experience has helped him keep his composure. “I’m a more mature player now,” Harrison said. “I feel like I go out there every day and just try to get better at something no matter what. I’m having fun and I’m just being myself.” That is something Harrison was worried about as he made his transition to Rutgers.
He said sometimes people lose themselves and their work ethic. He is glad he maintained his focus through his career and gives much of the credit to the people around him. “That’s what I felt like I’ve developed a lot more,” Harrison said. “I have structure in my life because of the coaching staffs that take care of us and are able to treat us like men and develop us as men.” Now Harrison and the Knights have to go through their biggest test tonight against Louisville. Should Rutgers come away with the win, it will go to a BCS game for the first time in school histor y. Harrison is not concerned with any alternative. “I’m not taking losing as a second option just because everybody is telling us we could share the title,” he said. “We’re not trying to share it at all. We’re trying to take the title for ourselves and make history.” He said these type of games are the ones players dream about when they sign up to play football: a high-stakes game with everything to lose. This, to him, is the ideal way to end his home career at Rutgers. “This year, it’s about us winning that Big East Championship,” he said. “It’s not about who we’re playing or the stakes of the game. It’s about going out there, doing our job and playing our game. We did make history [already], but we’re not settling for shares. We’re settling for keeps.” For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow Joey Gregory on Twitter @JGregoryTargum.
GAMEDAY PAGE 4
NOVEMBER 29, 2012
Greene overcomes injury history, later emergence at Rutgers to become one of program’s top defensive players
Senior linebacker Khaseem Greene pressures Pittsburgh quarterback Tino Sunseri in the Knights’ loss Saturday. Greene tied for a team high in interceptions as a freshman safety before leading Rutgers in tackles during the last two seasons, when he moved to weakside linebacker. NELSON MORALES, SENIOR STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
BY TYLER BARTO SPORTS EDITOR
For a moment Saturday in Pittsburgh, all eyes were on Khaseem Greene, but not the way he is accustomed to. Members of the Rutgers football team’s training staff stood over Greene, who had suffered a nasty head-on collision with Pittsburgh punt returner Cameron Saddler. Steve Beauharnais crouched down to see him. Pitt running back Ray Graham, Greene’s half brother, met Greene at the 35yard line. “I just had to shake it off,” Greene said Monday. “Once I did that, I was right back out there.” No series of events have encapsulated Greene quite like that sequence. Given recent efforts from the NCAA and NFL to minimize the impact of head injuries, speculation remains if Greene should have returned to the field. Team trainers OK’d Greene’s status, and that was the last word Greene needed. The senior linebacker has tied or held sole possession of team highs in tackles, sacks or inter-
ceptions during each of his four seasons in Piscataway. He recorded a Big East-best 141 tackles last year en route to earning conference Co-Defensive Player of the Year honors. And he is the emotional leader of a defense that ranks fourth in the nation in scoring. But Greene’s ability to beat the odds has always been his calling card. “He’s the guy, he’s the playmaker,” Beauharnais said. “He’s the guy everybody relies on.” They could not rely on Greene in the spring, when a gruesome ankle injury Dec. 30 in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl against Iowa State sidelined him. Despite Greene’s prodding, Flood held him out of contact drills until training camp. Greene entered the season on the heels of a banner 2011 campaign in which he became a playmaking linebacker the Scarlet Knights sorely needed. Beauharnais was forced to return to the middle following failed experiments to find a proper replacement. So Greene, following a move from safety, continued to make plays. Only Beauharnais could
not tell if Greene actually meant to do so. “He kind of just glides to the ball without even really reading anything,” Beauharnais said. “When he first started out, I didn’t know if he had his eyes in the right place, but he always ended up in the right spot because his natural instincts just take over.” But more of Greene’s prepara-
“We don’t want a share [of a Big East title]. Sharing is not a good feeling. KHASEEM GREENE Senior Linebacker
tion went largely unseen. Beauharnais did not work with Greene much immediately after Greene’s 2011 position change because of the newness of the Knights’ offseason schemes. So Greene ran with the team’s defensive backs. He lifted weights with Rutgers’ defen-
sive linemen. And he became the poster boy of former head coach Greg Schiano’s defensive overhaul. “He’s always the same person,” said junior linebacker Jamal Merrell. “That’s something I really take from him. Just stay the same person no matter what you do, no matter if you have the highest accolades or the lowest accolades.” It is a trait Greene likely learned at Elizabeth (N.J.) High School, where he was a lightly recruited safety. He earned offers from only six schools, according to Rivals.com, but only one other — Connecticut — plays in a BCS conference. He watched Rutgers’ program-defining 2006 game against Louisville on TV. The Cardinals step onto the High Point Solutions Stadium turf again nearly six years later, and Greene finds himself in the thick of the Knights’ BCS hopes. “We don’t want a share [of a Big East title]. Sharing is not a good feeling,” Greene said. “I know firsthand from last season, sharing Big East [Defensive] Player of the Year. It was horrible. It was almost sickening.”
It is par t of a deeper conviction Greene and the Knights share. They experienced an 18point loss at UConn last season, shattering their chance at a first-ever share of a Big East title. They settled that score last week, when Louisville’s loss to the Huskies softened the blow of Rutgers’ shortcomings at Pitt. More is at stake tonight, but Greene has faced worse odds. He spent a prep season at Avon Old Farms (Conn.) before finally arriving at Rutgers in 2008, when he promptly redshirted. Forced to deal with constant contact after moving from safety, he bulked up to 230 pounds during the last two seasons. And a collapsed ankle against Iowa State nearly threatened his NFL aspirations. “I just trust my training,” Greene said. “I trust what I work hard in the offseason to do, and that’s be the best football player I can be.” For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow Tyler Barto on Twitter @TBartoTargum.
NOVEMBER 29, 2012
GAMEDAY PAGE 5
Linebacker earns chance to bring conference title to only school that offered him scholarship in high school
Senior middle linebacker Steve Beauharnais ranks fourth on the Knights with 68 tackles this season and has one fumble recovery and an interception. Beauharnais is the only member of the Knights’ linebacking corps to have spent his whole Rutgers career at the position. CONOR ALWELL, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
BY JOEY GREGORY ASSOCIATE SPORTS EDITOR
The last time the Rutgers football team had as high-profile of a game at home, Steve Beauharnais was attending his first college football game. He traveled to Piscataway in 2006 as a sophomore in high school to watch the Scarlet Knights — the only team that offered him — take on then-No. 3 Louisville. The atmosphere and the end result, a 28-25 score in Rutgers’ favor, had a profound impact on him. “It was definitely a magical moment, and I never experienced something like that,” Beauharnais said. “To this day it was one of the most exciting days of my life and I didn’t even play.” The senior middle linebacker has the opportunity six years later to play in his own version of that game, but with the added implication of a BCS bowl berth on the line. The team must wait until tonight, and its patience wears thin.
“[Former] coach [Greg] Schiano used to say, ‘You can’t wish away time,’” Beauharnais said. “Everybody wants to play right now and that can’t happen. We just have to keep preparing for the game and just go out there [tonight] and play our game.” For Beauharnais, it is the end of a career at Rutgers spanning four seasons, many ups and as many — if not more — downs. Although he has put up solid individual numbers throughout his time with the Knights, the team has not been as consistent, making tonight’s game that much more meaningful. “I know what it’s like now to play in big games,” he said. “I’ve been on both sides of the fence. I’ve been in seasons that we haven’t done so well, seasons that we did OK and seasons that we’re doing well, [like] right now.” As far as conference competition is concerned, Beauharnais had to wait until his junior campaign to see a winning Big East record.
In his first two seasons, the Knights ended with conference records of 3-4 and 1-6, respectively. He credits those years for helping mold him into the player he is now, especially his freshman season.
“I’ve been on both sides of the fence. I’ve been in seasons that we haven’t done so well. STEVE BEAUHARNAIS Senior Linebacker
“I think 2009 definitely shaped who I am,” Beauharnais said. “It was such a tough, hard, really brutal camp that [Schiano] put us through. That’s why this game and this moment is so important for us, because everybody that is in my class, or a little higher that redshirted, have been through [that season].”
Following that season, Beauharnais cemented his position on the team as the defense’s middle linebacker. His position makes his role unique. “He’s our quarterback on the field,” said senior linebacker Khaseem Greene. “Guys look to him for leadership. I follow behind him. He’s such a great leader, and it’s so natural. It’s not like he’s being fake because he’s our [middle] linebacker.” But Beauharnais would be the first one to say any stats he picks up are not an individual ef for t. “They play off of me, I play off of them,” he said. “I always have a saying ‘the strength of the pack is the wolf, the strength of the wolf is the pack.’ We just play off of each other, nothing more, nothing less.” Even though the Knights emphasize playing as a unit, they acknowledge Beauharnais as one of their most important cogs. Part of that came from his statistical contributions. But
perhaps more important are his contributions as a leader. “He brings tremendous emotion to the field, and that’s something you need on the team,” said junior linebacker Jamal Merrell. “You need people that bring emotion and play good, as well. For him to be a good player and good on the emotional side of things, that’s huge to be able to play next to him.” Merrell said Beauharnais is also the same person off the field that he is on it, which increases the level of respect his teammates have for him. Possibly the biggest way Beauharnais influences the team is the way in which he leads by example. “He’s just smar t. He demands your best,” Greene said. “He brings it hard ever y day, ever y game. He’s going to give you his best.” For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow Joey Gregory on Twitter @JGregoryTargum.
Steve Beauharnais SENIOR LINEBACKER
TACKLES FOR LOSS
11 2012( games )
GAMEDAY PAGE 6
NOVEMBER 29, 2012
BIGEAST GAME OF THE WEEK CINCINNATI
If Louisville wins tonight, Cincinnati has a chance to win a share of the Big East Championship, even though it has almost no chance to make a BCS bowl. Connecticut gets one final shot to clinch a bowl berth. The Huskies enter their regular-season finale with momentum, fresh off last week’s win against Louisville, which gave them five for the year.
USF at PITTSBURGH Despite an up-and-down season, Pittsburgh can end its season on a high note with wins against Rutgers and then South Florida. Pitt clinches a bowl berth with a victory. The Bulls will fight to not be last place in the Big East after dropping eight of their last nine. PREDICTION: Pittsburgh, 28-17
GEORGIA at ALABAMA Georgia and Alabama face off in the SEC Championship. The winner remains in the conversation for the BCS Championship. PREDICTION: Alabama, 20-17
BIG EAST STANDINGS Football
Cincinnati running back George Winn saw only 11 carries in the Knights’ Nov. 17 win at Nippert Stadium. CONOR ALWELL, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Bearcats RB George Winn vs. UConn defense
The second-leading rusher in the Big East meets the conference’s best rushing defense. Winn averages 103.1 yards on the ground per game while the Huskies allow only 100.3 rushing yards per game.
Connecticut’s defense is not enough to topple Cincinnati.
TEAM 1. RUTGERS 2. Syracuse 3. Louisville 4. Cincinnati 5. Connecticut 6. Pittsburgh 7. Temple 8. South Florida
RECORD PRE-RANK 2011 3rd 9-4 9-2, 5-1 7th 5-7 7-5, 5-2 1st 7-6 9-2, 4-2 4th 10-3 8-3, 4-3 6th 5-7 5-6, 2-4 5th 6-7 5-6, 2-4 8th 9-4* 4-7, 2-5 2nd 5-7 3-8, 1-5
*Temple played in the Mid-American Conference last season before accepting an invitation to rejoin the Big East beginning this season.
GAMEDAY PAGE 7
NOVEMBER 29, 2012
Senior defensive tackle Scott Vallone keeps Pittsburgh running back Ray Graham in his sights in the Knights’ loss Saturday at Heinz Field. Vallone is on the verge of making his 50th career start tonight and has not missed a game during the last four seasons. JOVELLE TAMAYO, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Lineman leaves legacy of toughness BY JOSH BAKAN ASSOCIATE SPORTS EDITOR
Senior defensive tackle Scott Vallone redshirted in 2008 as a freshman following season-ending foot surgery. NELSON MORALES, SENIOR STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Senior defensive tackle Scott Vallone had lofty goals when he joined the Rutgers football team in 2008. “I wanted to play in championship games and championship-implication games,” he said. Vallone gets another chance tonight against Louisville, a year after his first chance did not materialize how he wanted. Instead the Scarlet Knights fell to in a 2011 season finale at Connecticut, 40-22. Tonight’s finale has been in front of Vallone for 49 consecutive starts, beginning in his first game of his redshirt freshman season. The 6-foot-3, 275-pound tackle plays in the trenches, the most violent part of the field. Almost all opposing offensive linemen outsize Vallone, yet he often faces a double team. On the cusp of his 50th straight star t, Vallone’s durability confounds head coach Kyle Flood. “To me, it’s unheard of. You just don’t see it,” Flood said. “At some point, a guy who plays in there and goes to war the way he does every game, they generally get nicked up a little bit and they’re going to miss some time.” If he were to miss time, the Knights likely would not want to picture where they would be this season without Vallone. Rutgers already lost a starting defensive tackle in junior Isaac Holmes this season after four games. Junior Jamil Merrell switched from defensive end to
tackle, a position he did not play at Hodgson Vo-Tech (Del.) High School, to fill Holmes’ void. That subtracted 20 pounds from the starting line, making Vallone the biggest threat despite not being the prototypical size for his position. The St. Anthony’s (N.Y.) Prep product simply has too much to think about before his durability. “I wasn’t thinking, ‘I might get injured here,’” Vallone said. “No one ever thinks like that or ‘I’ll get benched’ or whatever.” Rutgers’ four captains consist of two linebackers, a safety and a wide receiver. One of them, senior linebacker Khaseem Greene, had a ver y dif ficult time voting for them before the season, but he said Vallone was as deserving of the title as anyone. “He’s a tremendous leader on and off the field,” Greene said. “His résumé goes without saying. I don’t have to tell anybody about Scott Vallone. It shows in his play. It shows off the field all the time.” Vallone has been more vocal and flexible under Flood’s regime. Defensive coordinator Robb Smith and defensive line coach Jim Panagos trust their seniors more than during former head coach Greg Schiano’s tenure, Vallone said. “Just certain things that we’re able to do maybe on third down and doing things that he may trust a guy [and say], ‘I don’t have to call this in the game. You know what we have to have here,’” Vallone said of the change in game management under Smith. Vallone said involvement on third downs is where he has
improved the most since joining the Knights. As a first line of defense in situations more likely to be shortyardage, Vallone is arguably the most critical defender on the field on third down. Offenses also have a tendency to pass if a first down is not close, and Vallone is involved in that pass rush, as well. He has averaged more than a sack per season during his career. He has helped the defense only allow 36.9 percent of thirddown conversions, which is second in the Big East. Former Rutgers defensive tackle Charlie Noonan gave Vallone advice as an underclassman when Noonan was a senior in 2010. Even though Vallone has played in every game and now plays almost ever y defensive down, he still agrees with every word Noonan told him. “‘You’re not going to know how much it means to you until you’re a senior and it’s your last chance,’ and I definitely realize what he was saying,” Vallone said. “In the last game, you definitely take each one, and you definitely appreciate it more and more.” Vallone said he wants to be known as someone who was there for every game, but Flood sees more to his legacy. “This guy is a tremendous example for our program of how to be tough,” Flood said. “He really sets … the standard for toughness in our program for defensive linemen.” For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow Josh Bakan on Twitter @JBakanTargum.
NOAH WHITTENBURG, PHOTOGRAPHY EDITOR
Published on Nov 29, 2012