Game Preview: Penn State vs. Rutgers
The Penn State Nittany Lions (2-0, 0-0 B1G) travel to New Jersey Saturday night to take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (2-0, 0-0 B1G) in the program’s first ever Big Ten clash.
It has been a good start to the season for the Lions, winning the first game against UCF thanks to a late field goal by Sam Ficken and then beating Akron fairly easily last week. They hope to extend their win streak against the Scarlet Knights.
Rutgers is in their first year in the Big Ten and also started off the season with two wins over Washington State and Howard. They look to make a statement to the Big Ten when they take on James Franklin’s club.
Penn State has not played Rutgers in nearly 19 years. They have had 24 matchups, the earliest stretching all the way back to 1918. Penn State has been dominant winning 22 out of 24 games.
The Nittany Lions offense has had their ups and downs this season. In the two games combined they have scored 47 points. Sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg has thrown for an impressive 773 yards, four touchdowns and has a completion percentage of 64.1 percent. The problem is Hackenberg’s decision making. He has thrown four interceptions all of which came from trying to force balls into areas that he shouldn’t have attempted.
The receiving core has done a solid job so far. The top three receivers - Geno Lewis, Daesean Hamilton and Jesse James - have caught 41 catches for 622 yards.
The cause for concern is the Nittany Lions’ run game. The two main running backs, Zach Zwinak and Bill Belton are averaging less than three yards per carry and have combined for only 114 yards and one touchdown.
The Scarlet Knights offense has put up good numbers, putting up 79 points in the first two games. Senior quarterback Gary Nova has thrown for 563 yards, six touchdowns, and has a completion percentage of 67.4 percent. He has only thrown one interception in the two games, a stat that he has struggled with throughout his career.
The Scarlet Knights also have a strong running game that compliments the passing game. Junior Paul James has already racked up 216 yards and four touchdowns on the season. Not only is James their leading rusher, he is also second in receiving yards and has tacked on two receiving touchdowns.
Both these defenses will have their hands full with the other’s offense on Saturday. In the first two games the Nittany Lions have surrendered 27 points and the Scarlet Knights have let up 63. The Rutgers defense in two games has given up 700 passing yards so look for Hackenberg to have a solid day. On the other side, the Nittany Lions will have to be sure not to give up big plays because the Scarlet Knights will capitalize. The Scarlet Knights have a couple of big playmakers so the Nittany Lions will have to play sharp on defense.
The Nittany Lions have some extra motivation this Saturday due to the NCAA’s lifting of the bowl ban. But, just because the Nittany Lions are eligible for a bowl game does not mean Rutgers will just let them have the win. It should be a good, hard fought game. This could be a start to something new for Rutgers or maybe a start to a bowl season for the Nittany Lions.
Penn State takes on Rutgers on ComRadio on Saturday at 8 p.m. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. with The Opening Drive.
Abhar Shah is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.