Game Preview: Eastern Michigan at Rutgers

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – A winning record is on the line for both Rutgers and visitor Eastern Michigan when the Eagles come to town Saturday for a battle at High Point Solutions Stadium. On what will be an emotionally-charged afternoon for Rutgers and former defensive tackle Eric LeGrand, previews the action.

Eastern Michigan at Rutgers

Time: 1 p.m., High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, N.J.
TV/Radio: ESPN3, 710-WOR, 1450-AM, 97.5 FM
Series: First Meeting
Last meeting: First Meeting, Rutgers is 13-5-1 all-time against MAC opponents.
Coaches: Rutgers – Kyle Flood (2nd season, 10-5); Eastern Michigan – Ron English (5th season, 11-39)

Storyline Central

  • 52 -- Rutgers retires Eric LeGrand's symbolic No. 52 at halftime of the Eastern Michigan game. Not worn since LeGrand's devastating injury in 2010, LeGrand's number will remain retired until he is able to walk. LeGrand became the Sports Illustrated moment of the year when he led the team out of the tunnel against West Virginia in 2011, and is in for another strong reaction at halftime.

  • Coaching Memories -- Eastern Michigan head coach Ron English and offensive coordinator Stan Parish both have experiences in Piscataway. For English, it is an experience he'd prefer to forget. English was the one-year defensive coordinator at Louisville before taking over at EMU. In his one game against Rutgers, his defense surrendered 63 points and seven touchdown passes to Mike Teel on Senior Night. For Parish, he returns to Rutgers where he was an assistant from 1990-95 under Doug Graber. Rutgers was 29-36 during the time Parish spent as an assistant.

  • Tune Up Game? -- Rutgers has to prepare for every game individually but Eastern Michigan has not had a winning season since 1995 and Rutgers has a major challenge the week after in Arkansas. Specifically in the ground game, look for Rutgers to build momentum and get ready for its SEC rematch with the Razorbacks.

Matchup to Watch
Rutgers defensive end Djwany Mera against Eastern Michigan right tackle Lincoln Hansen.

The Eastern Michigan line gave quarterback Tyler Benz enough time to make plays against Penn State, but he passing game could not get going. Rutgers has to get Benz uncomfortable early and that means beating linemen like Hansen, who is a three-year starter. Whether it is Mera, David Milewski or the injured Jamil Merrell, Rutgers needs to get production out of the position to make it a tough day for EMU.

Scarlet Knights Win If…
James and Huggins Keep Momentum Rutgers wants to run to open up the pass, but may not even need to turn to the pass if Paul James and Savon Huggins repeat what they did against Norfolk State. If Rutgers can get the same blocking efforts that it got inside from fullback Michael Burton and guards Kaleb Johnson and Chris Muller, the offense could end things early and dominate time of possession.

RB Paul James
Eagles Win If …
The EMU Defense Makes Plays -- There would have to be a significant offensive meltdown for Rutgers to let Eastern Michigan pull off a stunning upset at High Point Solutions Stadium. The young Rutgers secondary could be vulnerable to one or two big plays, but the Rutgers offense has the potency to win a shootout with east. For Eastern Michigan to pull it off, it has to make Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova revert to what he did against teams like Kent State and Virginia Tech last year.


Impact Player
RB Paul James — Rutgers plans to present a run-heavy offense against Eastern Michigan and James has a third-straight 100-yard game in his sights against a questionable defensive front seven. James is tied for fifth in the country in rushing and is the only tailback in the group over eight yards per carry.

DE Jamil Merrell
Something to Prove
DE Jamil Merrell — The injured fifth-year senior captain expects to play Saturday after returning to practice this week from a foot injury. Merrell missed the majority of training camp and spent the first two games of the season in street clothes. Merrell is an impact defensive lineman but has not played end in a live game in almost two years.

Looking to Build
P Nick Marsh — Marsh was lights out last week, as good as a college punter can play. His leg completely controlled field position. He boomed one punt 56 yards in the air that led to a fair catch. He also trapped Norfolk State inside the 5-yard line twice. Marsh proved early that he would be a significant upgrade in the kicking game and needs more performances like his last one.

Freshman to Watch
CB Anthony Cioffi — Flood gave Cioffi special praise for his accomplishments on special teams in his debut against Norfolk State. Cioffi recovered a blocked punt and trapped a punt inside the 5-yard line as a gunner. Looking for a deeper special teams role this year, Cioffi could also see some time at cornerback this week.

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