Score puts Harrison in elite company

<p>Senior wide receiver Mark Harrison, middle, celebrates with teammates following his five-yard touchdown reception Saturday in the third quarter at Temple. Harrison has 16 scores through 38 career appearances.</p>

Senior wide receiver Mark Harrison, middle, celebrates with teammates following his five-yard touchdown reception Saturday in the third quarter at Temple. Harrison has 16 scores through 38 career appearances.

Mark Harrison’s touchdown Saturday at Temple was so inconspicuous, not even Harrison knew its importance. But after a sliding five-yard grab, Harrison quietly moved into a four-way tie for fourth place on the Rutgers football team’s career touchdown receptions list.

He joined Tiquan Underwood, eighth all-time in receiving yards; Marco Battaglia, arguably the best tight end in Scarlet Knights history; and Tres Moses, Nos. 2 and 3 in yards and receptions, respectively.

“It means a lot,” Harrison said yesterday. “It shows what you put into it is what you’ll get out of it. Those are great guys.”

Harrison talks to Underwood, now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, regularly, he said.

“He’s always telling me things I need to learn and things I need to get better at,” Harrison said. “I look up to a guy like that, and to know I’m at that same caliber as him, it definitely means a lot. It’s something I take a lot of pride in.”

Harrison’s 16 career touchdowns are four more than Mohamed Sanu’s total, which occurred during a three-year period and an injury-plagued 2010 season. Harrison averages only 9.9 yards per catch, but he has emerged as arguably the Knights’ best red-zone weapon.

Three of Harrison’s four scores this season came inside an opponent’s 20-yard line.

“He’s been able to box people out, use his body as shield and put himself between the ball and the defender,” said sophomore wideout Brandon Coleman. “That’s a testament to what he’s been doing all offseason.”

Coleman could be in line to surpass Harrison’s touchdown total in due time.

He has 11 career scores in 16 games and is on pace to add at least three more during the regular season. Harrison sees it as a natural evolution at the position.

“There’s always a newcomer that has a chance if he’s a high-level player like [Coleman] is,” he said. “He definitely has a chance. I feel like he’s going to be up there in that same category. He has the potential to be high.”

Harrison flashed the same potential as a freshman before it materialized with a nine-touchdown sophomore season in which he became a feature receiver. He has hauled in six since after a self-described renewed offseason approach entering this season.

“It’s not surprising to me,” said head coach Kyle Flood. “I remember Mark Harrison catching a big touchdown his freshman year up at UConn. A post over the top — I can remember it like it was yesterday. … It doesn’t surprise me that he’s been that this year, and that his career numbers are what they are.”

Freshman kicker Kyle Federico practiced yesterday, the earliest he has done so since suffering a hip injury Oct. 6 against Connecticut, Flood said.

Despite waiting until Thursday or Friday to make a decision on Federico’s status, Flood viewed Federico’s appearance as an improvement.

Federico went 6-for-11 on field goals with a long of 52 yards before the injury.

“He made some kicks, and maybe there were a couple he didn’t make that he’d like to have back and he didn’t quite hit them right,” Flood said. “I never felt mentally or emotionally that he wavered. That’s one of Kyle’s strengths.”

Redshirt freshman Nick Borgese has handled extra-point and field goal duties in Federico’s absence, converting his only field goal attempt and seven of eight PATs.

The Knights opted to go for a fourth-and-1 against Temple from its 18-yard line — which they did not convert — rather than attempt a field goal.

Rutgers does not play another Big East game until Nov. 17 at Cincinnati. The Knights host Army on Nov. 10 after playing it on Nov. 12 last year, but they did not contend with another nonconference game late in the schedule — like they do Saturday with Kent State.

“It’s a little different,” Flood said. “To have nonconference games and a bye week, it’ll be really three weeks where the conference is playing without us.”

For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow Tyler Barto on Twitter @TBartoTargum.

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