The Rutgers football team will take on Penn State on Saturday in its last road game of the season. The game represents the 32nd all-time meeting between the Scarlet Knights (5-5, 2-5) and the Nittany Lions (6-4, 3-4).
Rutgers has entered its final stretch of the season on a high note. Winners of 2 of the last 3, the Knights have put themselves in a position to potentially compete in a bowl game with one more win.
If the program were to accomplish this, it would be the first time Rutgers has competed in a bowl game since 2014. Before this recent drought, the Knights had played in a bowl game in 8 of the last 9 pre-2014 seasons.
“I’ve educated them that there’s no such thing as multitasking. People who believe they can do that, you’re just average-tasking,” said head football coach Greg Schiano when asked about how he is keeping the team focused amidst the bowl talk. “I hope they trust and believe that what I’m telling them is the truth and that our whole focus has to be on Penn State.”
Rutgers picked up a crucial 38-3 win against Indiana in its last time out. The program forced a season-high six turnovers and allowed a program-low in points for a Big Ten game. The Knights also held the Hoosiers (2-8, 0-7) to 262 yards of offense, the lowest amount since joining the conference in 2014.
The win was achieved with the program missing its three starting linebackers. In their place, Rutgers got key production from players such as freshman linebacker Tyreem Powell, who had six tackles and an interception in the win.
“(Powell’s) a really, really good athlete that works really, really hard at becoming a good player,” Schiano said. "We have a few guys … that are just unbelievable workers, love the game of football and have instincts. They’re football players, and he’s one of them.”
Expanding on the good news for the program, senior wide receiver Bo Melton recently accepted an invitation to the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. Scheduled for Feb. 5, 2022, the Senior Bowl is the most prestigious college all-star game. The last Knight to play in the game was Kemoko Turay in 2018. Turay is now a member of the Indianapolis Colts.
Penn State will look for a win of its own this weekend after suffering another loss last weekend to No. 8 Michigan. Ranked as high as No. 4 in the nation earlier in the season, the Nittany Lions have lost 4 of their last 5 games and have fallen out of the Associated Press’ Top 25 rankings.
On the other side of the ball, Penn State’s defense allows the fifth-least amount of yards per game and fourth-lowest points per game in the conference. The Nittany Lions are ranked as the 42nd best defense in the country.
“Well, (Penn State) is really good. I mean, they’re a top 10 scoring defense in the country, so that means no one has scored,” Schiano said. “They’re really, really athletic, they run very well. I think their secondary is outstanding. They got very athletic linebackers and even though they’ve lost some guys to season-ending injuries on the defensive front, they are still very good.”
Rutgers vs. Penn State will kick off at noon and will be broadcasted on the Big Ten Network. Saturday will be the first time Schiano will lead the Knights against the Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium. Schiano served as a graduate assistant and defensive backs coach for Penn State from 1990-1995.
“Yeah, it means something but that’s not the job right now,” Schiano said. “The job for me is to stay focused on what we have to do and that’s what I will do, but it’ll be neat to go back there.”
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