The Rutgers football team will take on Michigan State this Saturday in its 87th annual homecoming game. The No. 11 Spartans (5-0, 2-0) serve as the third consecutive ranked team the Scarlet Knights (3-2, 0-2) have faced this season in as many Big Ten conference games.
Rutgers will look to rebound after suffering their second consecutive loss of the season, this time against Ohio State. In the 52-13 loss, the Knights suffered injuries to two offensive starters: senior wide receiver Bo Melton and junior offensive lineman Raiqwon O’Neal.
“They’re both banged up. Hopefully, they’ll be able to go Saturday,” said head football coach Greg Schiano on Monday. “We're going to have to wait and see. They’re getting treatment, and hopefully, they’ll be good.”
Not much went right for Rutgers last week as the No. 7 Buckeyes (4-1, 2-0) took immediate control of the game and never looked back. C.J. Stroud threw for a career-high five touchdown passes while Chris Olave caught five balls for 119 yards and two touchdowns. The Ohio State defense also forced three turnovers.
Senior quarterback Noah Vedral finished with 152 passing yards and one touchdown but also threw three interceptions.
“I hope we can’t put it behind us quickly — that wasn’t a great outing,” Schiano said. “We have to get to work, and that’s what we did, right. You get to work, and hopefully, those kinds of things fuel you a little bit.”
Looking ahead to this weekend’s opponent, Michigan State has exceeded expectations up to this point in the season. Prior to the season, the Spartans were picked to finish near the bottom of the Big Ten East division standings.
Instead, Michigan State has yet to lose a game this season and recently defeated Western Kentucky 48-31. The Spartans’ two conference wins have come against Northwestern and Nebraska, and the program has turned the football over only three times, a number that ranks among the best in the nation.
“Michigan State is excellent with the football,” Schiano said when asked about how important winning the turnover battle will be to win. “We need to continue to work at it. We have not changed how we work at it.”
When the two teams matched up in the opening game of last season, the Knights defeated the Spartans 38-27 in a win that served as Schiano’s first win back as head coach at Rutgers.
In route to the win, Michigan was forced into seven turnovers, the most ever inflicted by the Knights in a Big Ten league game and the most since the team forced seven turnovers against Pittsburgh in 2000.
The game will kick off at noon and will be broadcasted on the Big Ten Network. The homecoming game also serves as the Rutgers Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Former Knights football player Eric LeGrand will be among several inductees honored in the festivities.
Over the course of the nearly nine decade-long history of the homecoming game, Rutgers holds a record of 53-32-1. In that time period, the Knights have held the event every season since 1933, except for 1943 and 2020.
“This is a one-game season,” Schiano said. “So we have to figure out (how we are) going to win the Michigan State game and be 1-0 in that season, and we put everything we got into it.”
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