Rutgers returns to action after bye week, begins preparation for No. 4 Michigan State
For the first time this fall, Chris Laviano spent his Saturday watching football instead of playing it.
With the Rutgers football team taking its first and only bye week of the season, the sophomore quarterback flipped through the laundry list of college games on the television.
One that caught his attention — and with good reason — was the matchup between Purdue and Michigan State.
Up 21-0 at the half, the Spartans needed every last second of the game’s fourth quarter to stave off the Boilermakers’ second-half flurry for an upset bid. Michigan State managed to hold off Purdue (1-4, 0-1) to squeeze out a 24-21 survival on homecoming in East Lansing.
Laviano kept his overall impression of the Scarlet Knights’ next opponent simple.
“I think Purdue played pretty well,” he said. “I think they’re similar a little bit to what I watched a week before. I didn’t break it down fully, but I just watched it as a fan. It was a fun game to watch, I picked up some stuff.”
Senior strong side linebacker Quentin Gause, who also took in the game during the idle Saturday, broke down his take.
“I know (Michigan State) struggled a bit throughout the game and Purdue definitely capitalized off of some of the mistakes that (Michigan State) made,” the senior captain said. “But every game’s a Big Ten Championship game, so you’ve got to go out and play your hardest. No game’s gonna be easy in this conference.”
Even after the Spartans (5-0, 1-0) fell two spots in the AP Top 25 down to No. 4, the top-five caliber team brings what is by far the biggest challenge of the season for Rutgers.
Come Saturday night at 8 p.m. in their annual Blackout Game at High Point Solutions Stadium, the Knights (2-2, 0-1) know that they’ll need everything in their arsenal to have a shot at knocking off an improved version of the team that handed them a 45-3 embarrassment on the road last year.
Entering his third and final game day as the interim head coach for suspended head coach Kyle Flood, assistant coach Norries Wilson said Rutgers got back to work as soon as Sunday in its first workout since last Thursday’s practice.
“We did something every day,” Wilson said. “Every day we went out there with something on advance prep for Michigan State. We had a good three periods of good teamwork against the things they do on defense.”
As far as the overall preparation goes following the bye week, Wilson ensured that there wouldn’t be any drastic overhauls on either side of the ball.
“There may be a new wrinkle in there or here if we see that it fits into what we're doing, it's not very expensive for us to get taught in the time that we have available,” he said. “So we'll go out and see what's in our package that helps us best prepare to win the football game and we'll take it from there.”
As much as the bye week might have helped some ailing Knights recover, others found themselves less fortunate.
Out of the 16 players listed on Monday’s injury report, perhaps the most notable addition to be listed as out is John Tsimis.
After missing a majority of training camp and the first two games of the season with a lower body injury, the junior wide receiver made his season debut with two catches for 10 yards in Rutgers’s 28-3 road loss at Penn State on Sept. 19.
Tsimis, who emerged as a reliable option in the slot for the Knights after tallying 188 yards and three touchdowns on 19 catches, joins eight others to be sidelined for the second conference matchup of the year with Michigan State.
Past that, a pair of defensive backs remain questionable. Even after sitting out for Rutgers’ 27-14 homecoming win over Kansas and adding the bye week as an extension to his timeline for recovery, junior strong safety Davon Jacobs continues to battle an upper body injury.
Also listed as questionable with an upper body injury, true freshman cornerback Jarius Adams has seen some time in a depleted secondary. With his status unknown to begin the week, junior cornerback Brian Verbitski is listed as the co-backup in the two-deep depth chart on defense.
"Well, the injury report is what it is," Wilson We're going to coach the guys that show up out there that the trainer staff and medical staff say are cleared to participate and we'll drive on from there."
Sophomore defensive end Kemoko Turay (upper body), junior right guard Chris Muller (lower body), senior defensive end Djwany Mera (lower body) and true freshman cornerback Ronnie James (lower body) remain probable after being listed with the same status leading up to Kansas.
Senior punter Tim Gleeson and senior running back Paul James were both left off the injury report for the first time this season. True freshman wide receiver Jawuan Harris, who had been listed as out dating all the way back to training camp, was also removed from the injury report for the first time.
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