Rutgers aims to correct mistakes
No member of the Rutgers football team will admit how crucial a win in tomorrow’s game against Temple is.
“A victory is important against anybody,” said redshirt freshman middle linebacker Steve Longa. “Every week we prepare to be 1-0 and that’s out main focus right now.”
But a loss to the Owls (1-7, 0-4) will push the Scarlet Knights (4-3, 1-2) to its first .500-or-worse record after eight games since the 2008 season, when they finished 4-8.
Though Temple possesses the worst record of any Knights opponents this season, head coach Kyle Flood was quick to point out whatever positives he could about the Owls.
“They’ve got a new coach there, Matt Rhule, who has done an excellent job,” Flood said. “Unfortunately for them, their record doesn’t show it yet. But I will say this, you watch them on film go through the year and what you see in every phase of their game is a football team that’s getting better.”
Flood’s team seems to be moving in the opposite direction.
Rutgers’ defense produced its worse performance of the season last Saturday against Houston yardage-wise, as the Cougars went up and down the field at High Point Solutions Stadium with ease to the tune of 611 total yards.
Four hundred of those resided through the air. Houston quarterback John O’Korn tossed five touchdowns — three to wide receiver Deontay Greenberry — against the Knights’ inexperienced secondary.
“It sparks a heavy fire,” said junior cornerback Gareef Glashen on the secondary’s most recent outing. “It’s embarrassing.”
Rutgers also allowed 211 rushing yards, the second time in two games the nation’s No. 12 rush defense allowed more than 150 yards on the ground. Louisville produced 151 yards Oct. 10 against the Knights.
But the defensive woes may not even be Rutgers’ biggest problem.
For the first time since 2010 training camp, junior quarterback Gary Nova’s starting job behind center is in jeopardy.
Nova tossed seven interceptions to just one touchdown in his past two games. Against Houston on Homecoming, Flood pulled Nova in the third quarter for senior Chas Dodd after his third interception.
Flood opened up the position this week before naming Nova the starter late last night. He also said both could see time against Temple’s 119th-worst pass defense.
Temple’s poor output against the pass could bode well for Rutgers’ receivers, who have proven to be one of the deepest units for Rutgers this season.
But whether a quarterback can get them the ball consistently is one of many questions facing Rutgers as it tries to avoid losing three conference games for the first time since 2011.
It hopes to get some answers tomorrow when the Owls visit Piscataway.
“We’re certainly not changing a culture here,” Flood said. “I think they have expectations to win, and we have expectations to win. So we’re looking at a great challenge this week as we get ready to play a good football team.”