GAME NOTES: Ameer Abdullah and the 16th-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers will be in
action once again this Saturday, as they host Big Ten Conference newcomers
Rutgers at Memorial Stadium.
Rutgers’ first season in the Big Ten has gone as well as could be expected.
The Scarlet Knights own a 5-2 overall record, although they have only managed
a 1-2 start in league play. The optimism for the team took a big hit last
weekend when Ohio State posted a 56-17 win over Kyle Flood’s team.
“Today is a great example that when you play a really talented football team,
the margin of error is very small,” Flood said following the loss. “We just
didn’t play very clean football. As a coaching staff, we need a better plan.”
The margin for error will once again be razor thin for Flood’s squad this
weekend, as it faces a powerful Nebraska team. The Cornhuskers bounced back
from their first loss of the season against Michigan State with a 38-17 road
win over Northwestern last weekend. They are now 6-1 overall and 2-1 in Big
This will be the first time these teams will square off as conference foes,
and just the second time they will have met overall. The first matchup took
place all the way back in 1920 when Nebraska earned a 28-0 victory at the Polo
Grounds in New York City.
Rutgers has actually done a solid job offensively in its first Big Ten season,
at least in terms of yardage. The Scarlet Knights rank sixth in the conference
in total offense (415 ypg). Unfortunately, that hasn’t always translated into
more points on the scoreboard, with the team ranked 10th in the league in
scoring offense (27.7 ppg).
Against Ohio State, Rutgers took a giant step backwards, finishing with only
345 yards. That performance ended a three-game streak with at least 430 yards.
Gary Nova continues to be an anomaly for the program. His inconsistencies as a
passer have become common place. This season he has thrown for 13 touchdowns,
but matched that with eight interceptions. He also threw for over 400 yards
against Michigan, but following a 192-yard showing against Ohio State, has
thrown for less than 200 yards three times. In all, he has amassed 1,793 yards
on 61.8 percent passing.
One constant Rutgers offense has been the play of wide receiver Leonte Carroo.
He leads the team with 648 yards and five touchdowns on 34 receptions. In the
loss to Ohio State, he had 100 yards on five catches, marking his fifth
straight game with at least 50 yards. Andre Turzilli has been exceptional when
he gets the ball, tallying 293 yards and three scores on only seven grabs.
The running game has been a bit disjointed following the season-ending knee
injury to Paul James. Desmon Peoples (409 yards, two TDs) and Justin Goodwin
(261 yards, TD) have shared the duties out of the backfield since, with
Peoples finishing with 83 yards and two scores against Ohio State.
Rutgers has not fit in all that well defensively, especially in a league full
of strong units. The Scarlet Knights rank 11th in the Big Ten in scoring
defense (26.6 ppg) and 10th in total defense (423.6 ypg). They were especially
ineffective against Ohio State, which rolled up 585 yards, the most RU has
allowed in a single game this season.
Nebraska is one two teams in the Big Ten ranked among the top-10 in the
country in rushing offense (293.6 ypg), and that is mostly thanks to Abdullah.
The Cornhuskers’ star running back has amassed 1,024 yards and 14 touchdowns
already this season, while averaging 6.4 yards per carry. It was business as
usual against Northwestern, as he finished with 146 yards and four scores.
“You just keep pounding it. You just keep running the football and you know
(Abdullah) doesn’t need a lot of room,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said.
While running the ball with Abdullah is the major strength of the team, the
Cornhuskers are solid in the passing game as well, as they rank third in the
Big Ten in total offense (523.3 ypg).
Tommy Armstrong, Jr. mans the quarterback position, and to relative success.
He has only completed 53.5 percent of his pass attempts, but has thrown for
1,546 yards and twice as many touchdowns (10) as interceptions (five).
Armstrong, Jr. brings more than his arm to the table, however, as he has
rushed for 482 yards and two scores. He even caught a 16-yard touchdown pass
As far as receiving threats go, Nebraska is heavily reliant on a pair of
targets. Kenny Bell (27 receptions, 509 yards, two TDs) and Jordan Westerkamp
(27 receptions, 502 yards, three TDs) are having identical seasons. Abdullah
(11 receptions, 143 yards, two TDs) is the only other player with more than
Playing a grind-it-out style on offense has translated to defensive success as
well. Nebraska is allowing less than 20 points and 340 yards of total offense
per game. Randy Gregory (28 tackles, 4.5 sacks) gives the pass rush a boost,
while Nate Gerry (42 tackles, two INTs), Trevor Roach (42 tackles, 6.0 TFL)
and Zaire Anderson (41 tackles, seven TFL) are also tough defenders.
As many positives as there have been for Rutgers this season, there is still a
long way to go for it to be a consistent force in the Big Ten. That will be
readily apparent against a Nebraska squad that is firing on all cylinders
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Nebraska 38, Rutgers 17