Penn State vs. Rutgers Preview
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pennsylvania- Last year, we saw Christian Hackenberg pull off a game winning, 80-yard drive against the Rutgers defense. We also saw the Penn State defense intercept then quarterback Gary Nova five times. This year, Penn State faces a new quarterback in Chris Laviano. They also face the explosive Janarion Grant, who returned two touchdowns and had 339 all-purpose yards in Rutgers’ loss vs. Washington State.
Another player that Penn State will have to watch out for is sophomore tight end Matt Flanagan. He has been very effective on third downs and in the red zone with five catches for 52 yards and two touchdowns. Rutgers ground game has also been very effective, as Josh Hicks totaled 209 yards on 34 carries with two touchdowns so far this season.
Penn State is coming off of a win against Buffalo, their first win of the season. Hackenberg was pretty accurate in the win, going 14 of 27 for 128 yards. Penn State has two things going for it this year compared to last year’s game. This Rutgers team is one of the most inexperienced team in college football, losing six starters on offense and defense. Not only that, but Rutgers has lost five more players after recent criminal changes were taken out against them. They will be without defensive back Andre Boggs, Nadir Barnwell, defensive tackle Razohnn Gross, corner Ruhann Peele, and safety Delon Stephenson.
Along with those suspensions is the suspension of captain Leonte Carroo, who has had a huge impact in both of Rutgers games this season. Carroo has had 181 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns, with the next receiver after him gaining only 71 yards. Rutgers need another receiver to step up in his place.
Rutgers leads the Big Ten in point production with 97 points in their first two games. Penn State, however, is in last place with only 37.
Another tough loss for Rutgers is the loss of coach Kyle Flood for three games. The University suspended and fined Flood $50,000 for contacting a faculty member over a player’s grade. President Robert Barchi announced the punishment Wednesday and said, “I believe that the discipline is severe and justified for his failure to follow policy.”
The report from the investigation found that Coach Flood met with a faculty member, even though he was aware of the school’s policies regarding coach-initiated contact with faculty members about students’ academic standing.
Penn State has over 16 returning players from last year’s team, including almost every player on the offense line.
That same offensive line had a chance to redeem itself after letting Hackenberg get sacked 10 times vs. Temple, and did a great job of doing just that. Against buffalo, Penn State had zero turnovers for the first time since their win at Wisconsin in 2013. Less turnovers and more protection is vital for the Penn State offense to thrive. The other thing that Penn State has going in their favor is their running backs Akeel Lynch, Saquon Barkley and Brandon Polk. They all combined for 206 yards, doing a great job of splitting the running back burden amongst themselves.
Finally Rutgers has to deal with a stingy Penn State defense, led by Carl Nassib. Nassib led Penn State's defense with three sacks while tackle Austin Johnson led the Nittany Lions with nine tackles. They held Buffalo to 14 points, forced their quarterback Joe Licata to throw an interception, and made the Bulls punt nine times.
Brandon Stewart is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.