Game Preview: Norfolk State at Rutgers

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Rutgers returns to High Point Solutions Stadium for the first time since losing to Louisville in a game that would have sent the Scarlet Knights to the Sugar Bowl. On a four-game losing streak dating back to last season, Rutgers hosts Norfolk State looking to turn momentum in its favor.

Norfolk State at Rutgers

Time: Noon, High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, N.J.
TV/Radio: CBS Sports Network, 710-WOR, 1450-AM, 97.5 FM
Series: Rutgers leads 2-0
Last meeting: Sept. 2, 2010: Rutgers won 31-0
Coaches: Rutgers – Kyle Flood (2nd season, 9-5); Norfolk State – Pete Adrian (16th season, 84-80-1, 9th at Norfolk State, 48-43)

Storyline Central

  • Losing Streak -- With the last three in heartbreaking fashion, Rutgers has a four-game losing streak dating back to Pittsburgh last November. Hosting Norfolk State gives Rutgers a chance to get momentum trending in a positive direction and right the ship defensively before Arkansas comes to town in two weeks.

  • Slap in the Face -- Sophomore defensive tackle Darius Hamilton called it a slap in the face to give up more than 50 points to an opponent as a member of the Rutgers defense. The Scarlet Knights outscored Norfolk State 90-0 in the last two appearances and will have the chance to work out defensive issues before more strong spread teams arrive on the schedule. Look for Rutgers to bounce back and make impact defensive plays.

  • Fresh Faces -- Fresno State was debut day for three true freshmen and tomorrow could be the chance for as many as three or four others. Flood got significant looks at Janarion Grant, Andre Patton and Nadir Barnwell in game one and hinted that fans could see more true freshmen against Norfolk State. Defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph and tight end Nick Arcidiacono got mentions from Flood this week. Linebacker L.J. Liston and running back Justin Goodwin highlight the travel players most likely to see the field.

Matchup to Watch
Rutgers strongside linebacker Jamal Merrell against Norfolk State tight end Joseph Hawkins

Rutgers was vulnerable up the middle of the field in its opener against the spread offense and Norfolk State gives defensive coordinator Dave Cohen and Merrell to work on different coverage aspects. Merrell will continue to have a role in pass coverage and tests himself this week against starting tight end Joseph Hawkins, a fifth-year senior from Chicago. Hawkins is 6-foot-3, 250 pounds and represents the only points Norfolk State has to its name in 2013 with a 49-yard performance in the loss to Maine last week.

Scarlet Knights Win If…
Nothing crazy happens Rutgers does not need a foolproof game plan or stellar performances from its star players. As long as the Scarlet Knights show up in the right mind set, their athletes should be able to outperform whatever Norfolk State can throw at them. Rutgers has an opportunity to clean up mistakes from last week and get the game plans and personnel set for other opponents.

WR Ruhann Peele
Spartans Win If …
Rutgers stays in the car -- Norfolk State is going to give Rutgers everything it has, but it just is not the same level of competition. The MEAC is not as competitive as other 1-AA conference and Rutgers outscored Norfolk State a combined 90-0 in the last two meets and tomorrow does not project to be any different.


Impact Player
QB Gary Nova — Nova rose to the occasion yet again against one of the top quarterbacks in the nation. The junior captain matched Derek Carr shot for shot until his two-point conversion pass fell incomplete to Brandon Coleman in overtime. Nova has five touchdowns to his name this season. For future reference, Nova already has 38 career touchdown passes to Mike Teel's Rutgers record 59. The single-season record of 25 is in jeopardy at this pace.

QB Gary Nova
Something to Prove
CB Gareef Glashen — Glashen has the most experience in the Rutgers system of any cornerback and was admittately frustrated when watching his own film from the Fresno State loss. Glashen aims to play tougher at the line of scrimmage and improve his tackling in week two. Rutgers has never surrendered a point to Norfolk State and the Rutgers defense will look for a third consecutive shutout tomorrow afternoon.

Looking to Build
RG Chris Muller — Muller made his debut when Andre Civil went down with an injury and is now set for his first career start. Whether the credit goes to Muller, running back Paul James or elsewhere, the run game was significantly improved after Muller entered at the end of the second quarter. Muller now has two games to clean up the mistakes and prepare for a significant test against Arkansas.

Freshman to Watch
WR Janarion Grant — Grant introduced himself to college football in electric fashion against Fresno State. Taking a kick back 100 yards for a touchdown on his first career touch, Grant came back to earth with two muffed punts later in the game. Grant will remain the first-team punt returner this week and return kicks alongside Jeremy Deering. With the chance to try different personnel against a 1-AA foe, Grant could find a spot on the field at the line of scrimmage as well.

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