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Three keys to Rutgers football's Saturday matchup at Michigan State

The Rutgers football team will look to get back in the win column when the team travels to Michigan State this weekend. – Photo by Matt Krohn /

This Saturday, the Rutgers football team travels to face Michigan State in East Lansing, Michigan. The Scarlet Knights (4-5, 1-5) need to win 2 of their final 3 games in order to become eligible for a bowl game. Here are three keys for the weekend matchup.

Special teams make teams special

Last week, against one of the best teams in the nation, Michigan, Rutgers went into halftime with a lead in big part due to its special teams play. Sophomore defensive back Max Melton blocked his third punt of the season, and fellow sophomore defensive back Timmy Ward returned it for a touchdown.

The Knights will need to renew these efforts against the Spartans (4-5, 2-4), who are currently first in the nation in net yards per punt. Rutgers counters by ranking second in the country and first in the Big Ten with five blocked punts.

Senior punter Adam Korsak is chasing individual history as he is just 414 yards away from the NCAA all-time record for punting yards in a career. The Australian has nearly placed 42 percent of his career punts inside the 20-yard line.

Reestablish the run game

Against the No. 3 Wolverines (9-0, 6-0) the Knights could not get anything going running the ball, gaining just 14 yards on 19 attempts. The best rushing defense in the nation stymied Rutgers, but the team faces a much easier task this week as Michigan State ranks 94th in the country.

Sophomore running backs Kyle Monangai and Al-Shadee Salaam will need to find and create space in order to make the defense guess and not just default to defending the pass. Sophomore quarterback Gavin Wimsatt could also see some rushing opportunities through options and designed quarterback runs.

Prevent mistakes

The Knights went into halftime against Michigan with a 3-point lead, but three second-half interceptions from Wimsatt ended any upset talk quickly into the second half. The Spartans only have two interceptions all season, so the young quarterback has a better chance of establishing a rhythm with his wide receivers.

Michigan State has found defensive success causing fumbles, with 10 so far this year. Rutgers has only surrendered three this season and must continue to protect the football. This is quite possibly the most winnable matchup left on the Knights schedule, and they cannot afford to risk another loss with turnovers.

Rutgers and the Spartans will kick off from Spartan Stadium at noon on Saturday. The broadcast will take place on Big Ten Network and 88.7 WRSU-FM.

For more updates on the Rutgers football team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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