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Rutgers Goes To ‘The Big House’

 14 / 18 Rutgers Scarlet Knights quarterback Chris Laviano (5) walks off the field after they lost 49-7 to Ohio State during their Big Ten game at High Point Solutions Stadium. Piscataway , NJ 10/24/15 (Saed Hindash | NJ Advance Media for

Rutgers Scarlet Knights quarterback Chris Laviano (5) walks off the field after they lost 49-7 to Ohio State during their Big Ten game at High Point Solutions Stadium. Piscataway , NJ 10/24/15 (Saed Hindash | NJ Advance Media for

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights will try to end a two-game losing streak tomorrow against the Michigan Wolverines at the Big House that fits 107,601, where they lost by a combined score of 97-17 to Ohio State and Wisconsin.

“Michigan (6-2, 3-1) season is upon us,” head coach Kyle Flood said in his weekly press conference on Monday. “An excellent football team. We’ll be traveling to Ann Arbor to visit one of the top defenses in the country. Very well coached. Some dynamic players in the return game as well, and an offense with eight seniors, two juniors and one sophomore. They play a very physical brand of football, which is what you would think you would get here in the Big Ten.”

Life will be tough for Rutgers (3-5, 1-4) quarterback Chris Laviano and his quartet of running backs as the Wolverines are No. 2 in total defense giving up only 241.9 yards per game through eight games. Michigan is also No. 2 in scoring defense giving up only 11.4 points per contest (Wisconsin leads at 11.0) and No. 2 in rushing defense allowing only 74.6 yards on the ground. Michigan also cracks the top-10 at No. 9 in passing yards given up per game at only 167.3.

Rutgers WR Leonte Carroo is questionable for this Saturday's game against Michigan (ankle) / Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers WR Leonte Carroo is questionable for this Saturday’s game against Michigan (ankle) / Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers struggled moving the ball last week against the Badgers and their tough defense netting only 165 total yards of offense. Their lone touchdown came off a pick-six from cornerback Blessuan Austin. The offense must get back on track and spread the ball around. The health status of star wide receiver Leonte Carroo is key, as it seemed Rutgers was content on just running the ball last week as the rushing attempts (38) nearly doubled the number of pass attempts (20).

When asked during the Big Ten coaches teleconference on Tuesday about what he’s seen on film on Michigan, Flood had this to say.

“Very tough, very physical on offense,” said Flood, who is in his fourth year at the helm in Piscataway. “They’re certainly dedicated to running the football, good playaction game to compliment it. On defense, I believe the No. 2 defense in the country. They’re top five in just about every category on defense, so they do an excellent job. They’ve got some spectacular players, a guy like Jabrill Peppers that’s impacting the game in all three phases. The last two games, they’ve started to use him on offense as well. That’s going to present some unique challenges.”

Michigan's Jabrill Peppers (5) /

Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers (5) /

Peppers was the consensus No. 1 recruit coming out of New Jersey in the class of 2014. The 6-foot-1, 208-pound redshirt sophomore starts at strong safety, but sees time on offense and special teams returning kicks a kickoffs and punts, something unique that makes him dynamic.

“They’re probably going to try to hand him the ball and they’re probably going to try to throw it to him at some point,” Flood said regarding the Don Bosco Prep/Paramus Catholic product. “It doesn’t really change structurally how you play defense. If they use him in the Wildcat situation, most defenses have some kind of Wildcat package that they use to defend it. What makes him tough to defend is he’s a spectacular athlete. That’s the part that makes him tough to defend. You better get multiple people to the ball. It’s tough for one guy to get him down, and they use him quite a bit on punt returns and kick returns as well.”

Peppers has compiled a stat line of four carries for 16 yards and a touchdown, two receptions for 35 yards, eight kickoff returns for 223 yards, 15 punt returns for 185 yards, 26 total tackles including 4.5 for loss, and seven pass breakups on the season.

On the flip-side, Rutgers has struggled on defense, giving up a whopping 454.8 yards per game and allowing 34.0 points per game. They must find a way to generate a pass rush, something that has been missing with only 11 total sacks. Redshirt sophomore Kemoko Turay, who was hyped coming into the season as a dominant pass-rusher, has dealt with injuries this season which has hampered his ability to be the force he was last year.

The Scarlet Knights beat the Wolverines last October to earn their first ever Big Ten Conference victory, where Turay blocked a kick late in the fourth quarter that kept Michigan from taking the lead. So what does Rutgers need to do to beat the surging Wolverines who will be looking to avenge the loss.

“The keys don’t really change when you are playing a football game,” Flood said during his weekly radio show at Quaker Steak & Lube in Edison, N.J. “What changes really are the matchups. For us, we’ve got to do a much better job than last week in our drive start, which means we’ve got to be better on special teams, we got to be more efficient on offense if we do get backed up. You know, when you start a drive inside the 10 or inside the 5-yard line, every drive you would love to score, but the first goal is two first downs to the 20. Because if you get two first downs to the 20 and then a good punt, you significantly flip the field.

“We’ve got to do a great job with that, we certainly need to take care of the football and take it away, and create explosive plays and minimize the explosive plays (on defense).”


Kickoff is slated for 3:30 p.m. and airs on Big Ten Network.

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