Rutgers turns page from Penn State, sets sights on Kansas
Perhaps this is just what the doctor ordered.
On the Monday after its 28-3 nightmare in Happy Valley this past Saturday night, the Rutgers football team turned the page to begin anew.
With homecoming weekend and a date with Kansas lingering, there’s no doubt the Scarlet Knights are ready to shift their sights on a team facing more problems than them — well, at least on the field.
The Jayhawks (0-2) haven’t won a game away from home in their last 33 contests. That looks promising for Rutgers on the field, but interim head coach Norries Wilson knows a duplication of its efforts at Beaver Stadium won’t keep his team on the right side of that streak.
“Well, I'm not happy with the production that we had on Saturday, and I don't think that that was in whole on how they played,” Wilson said. “There was a lot more to just being the running back.”
Wilson, who oversees the running backs unit on suspended head coach Kyle Flood’s coaching staff, touched upon the lack of production on the ground — a pivotal factor to how the Knights operate on offense.
But when he broke down the factors that go into one of the team’s deepest position groups, Wilson reiterated that the 43 rushing yards on 32 carries don’t necessarily tell the entire story.
“We have to have some space to run. The offensive line has to play better,” he said. “We have to be better in the pass game to back some people out of the box. I'm not down on any of the young men in my room, however.”
Paul James, who scrounged up 7 yards on 10 carries, noted the different looks the Penn State defense gave throughout the course of game. Unable to move the ball effectively and stretch the defense out in the passing game, the senior running back said the ground game suffered.
As a result, the lack of balance effected each other.
“Really, it’s just kind of make plays in the passing game. It’s also just make plays in the running game,” James said. “When you can start opening up the seam, it kind of sets them back a little bit and then it makes them play back a little bit. They don’t want to pack the box. If you hit a big play, they don’t want to pack the box as much. So, it’s really about making plays out there.”
While Rutgers struggles to stretch the defenses after lacking the explosiveness necessary to find the end zone against Penn State, the most potent element to the offense remains in question.
Roughly one week after the fallout from Leonte Carroo’s arrest for simple assault under domestic violence, the Knights miss more than just their senior captain’s locker room leadership.
As the star wide receiver lets due process play out with his appearance in Piscataway municipal court scheduled for Oct. 1, Rutgers remains without the Edison, New Jersey, native for at least one more game. He was suspended indefinitely Sept. 13.
“That’s my brother,” said senior defensive tackle Darius Hamilton. “I love him. I know him like the back of my hand. And whenever he returns, he’s gonna be ready to play. And I knew that for a fact.”
Hamilton, whose playing days with Carroo date back to high school at Don Bosco Prep (New Jersey), said he stills stays in contact with his teammate.
“He texts me every day. I was actually with him yesterday,” Hamilton said. “I talk to him on the phone all the time and it’s hurting him being away from us. He gives me messages he wants me to relay to the team … and anything I can do. Any way I can be there for him, I’ll be there for him.”
Having Hamilton around the team, especially given the recent circumstances on and off the field, has been vital to keeping Rutgers together.
But after the West Paterson, New Jersey, native sat out the first two games of the season with a lower body injury — stemming from the summer — kept him sidelined, Hamilton made his 2015 debut when medical personnel upgraded him to probable hours before kickoff in an updated injury report.
While there’s no undermining the on-field presence of Hamilton as a leader, the veteran lineman didn’t do much to help slow down Penn State’s rushing attack at the three-point technique. The Nittany Lions rolled their way to 330 yards on 41 carries.
But on the latest injury report released by Rutgers on Monday, Hamilton was listed as questionable. The new status raises the question of whether or not the senior captain will appear return to the field in front a crowd at High Point Solutions Stadium for the first time this year.
Wilson didn’t disclose any further information.
“I think Coach (Flood) put out an injury report already this week and if there's any update to that, it will come out at the end of the week,” Wilson said.
Admitting he certainly isn’t close to 100 percent health after gaining some bumps and bruises in his season debut, Hamilton said Tuesday and Wednesday would be critical in determining the answer to that question.
Hamilton, who is still eligible to redshirt if he doesn’t play more than three of the first six games, said the idea has been kicked around.
“We’ve talked about it,” he said. “ … I know exactly what options are presented to me and, like I said, when we get to that point, we’ll worry about that.”
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