Game Preview: Temple at Rutgers

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Seeking a rebound after the embarrassing 49-14 loss to Houston on Homecoming, Rutgers and coach Kyle Flood opened up the quarterback competition for Temple game week. The 1-7 Owls come to town Saturday afternoon for the final time in conference play, sporting true freshman and Elizabeth native P.J. Walker at quarterback.

Temple (1-7, 0-4) at Rutgers (4-3, 1-2)

Time:Noon, High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, N.J.
TV/Radio: SNY, 710-WOR, 1450-AM, 97.5 FM
Series: Rutgers leads 20-15
Last meeting: Oct. 20, 2012, Rutgers won 35-10
Coaches: Rutgers – Kyle Flood (2nd season, 13-7); Temple – Matt Rhule (1st season 178)

Storyline Central

  • Quarterback Mess -- Three quarterbacks – Gary Nova, Chas Dodd and Mike Bimonte – took reps with the first team during practice after four interceptions took place against Houston. Nova appears in line to get the nod against the Owls, but had to earn his spot on the field after poor decision making and accuracy struggles against Houston and Louisville. Nova has seven interceptions in his last two games, and sat on the bench for the fourth quarter in favor of Dodd. Nova will start the game, but Flood has not ruled out playing multiple quarterbacks against the Owls.

  • Experience Lost -- When the depth seemed at its thinnest, a poor decision by true freshman starter Nadir Barnwell has Rutgers with even fewer options at cornerback. Barnwell, suspended for the week, is replaced by Gareef Glashen as a starting cornerback. Behind Glashen and Cioffi, Rutgers has nothing but questions. Tejay Johnson projects to move back to corner, where his speed is not the same as it was before injury issues. Red-shirt freshman Jevon Tyree and true freshman Delon Stephenson have minimal experience, but check in as the second-team corners on the depth chart. Red-shirt freshman Ruhann Peele made the move from receiver to cornerback this week. Though expected to be temporary, Rutgers has had success with similar moves – see Marcus Cooper.

  • Regional Rivalry -- There will be plenty of family, school and friendly ties that clash on the turf at High Point Solutions Stadium Saturday afternoon. Rutgers, in the early stages, recruited plenty of current Owls including starting quarterback P.J. Walker and running back Zaire Williams. Starting defensive back Abdul Smith came in the same Rutgers recruiting class as Logan Ryan and Darrell Givens before transferring. Names like Bryan Osei, Jihaad Pretlow, Chris Coyer, Nate D. Smith, Nate L. Smith, Khalif Herbin, Buddy Brown, Jahad Thomas and Jarred Alwan should also be familiar to fans on game day.

Matchup to Watch
Temple quarterback P.J. Walker against Rutgers corners Anthony Cioffi and Gareef Glashen

Make no mistake about it, Walker is a good fit for the Temple offense and off to a hot start. Walkers shredded the porous SMU defense, and faces the Rutgers defensive secondary at its most vulnerable. Walker threw for 297 yards, ran 92, logged five touchdowns and went turnover free against the Mustangs. Rutgers comes off a brutal defensive performance at home, and is as thin as ever in the defensive secondary. Cioffi and Glashen are the starting cornerbacks, where they simply have to execute better and win 1-on-1 battles. Rutgers has a talent advantage, and should not have a problem scoring offensively. Cioffi makes his second career start Saturday, and expects a target on his back after struggles against Houston quarterback John O'Korn and receiver Deontay Greenberry.

Scarlet Knights Win If…
Nova manages the game -- Rutgers does not need an electric passing performance from Nova like he had against Temple last season. Given his current struggles with game management and turnovers, Nova needs to slow things down. The best thing for Rutgers is to build back confidence offensively if Nova returns as the starter. If Rutgers limits turnovers, and pounds the ground game with Justin Goodwin, then the offense has its best chance of rebounding. The quarterback position does not need to win Rutgers the game, just keep things under control and not lose it.

QB Gary Nova
Owls Win If …
They spread it out -- Temple runs what it likes to call a "pro spread." If the Owls spread things out against Rutgers, it is their best chance to put themselves in position for an upset. Rutgers is thin at cornerback and safety, and did not cover well at the linebacker position against Houston. Temple fell short against SMU, but it was not for lack of offensive firepower.


Impact Player
RB Justin Goodwin — For the second week in a row, Rutgers needs big runs out of its starting running back. Nova is in a slump, and has seven interceptions in his last two games. The best thing for Rutgers is to run early and run often with Goodwin in the lead. Goodwin already has more 100-yard rushing games than any other player on the roster, and could steal the show from other class of 2013 New Jersey prospects like Walker, Williams, Cioffi and Stephenson.

RB Justin Goodwin
Something to Prove
QB Gary Nova — Obviously. Nova has something to prove to the coaching staff that stuck with him after two poor performances. He has something to prove to Rutgers fans that are losing confidence in the passing game after losses to Louisville and Houston. Nova does not need to prove anything by chucking the long ball or leading Rutgers to a victory. He needs to manage the game efficiently, and be turnover free.

Looking to Build
RT Andre Civil — Civil started over a banged up Taj Alexander at right tackle and was arguably the best offensive lineman on the field for the Scarlet Knights against Houston. Rutgers kept the pressure off its quarterback, and some of its most successful runs came to the right side between Civil and right guard Chris Muller. Civil will start again at right tackle and needs a big game to establish the run early.

Freshman to Watch
WR Ruhann Peele — The red-shirt freshman receiver suits up as a cornerback this week with the pressure on. Options are beyond limited for Flood in the secondary, making the temporary change to place a 6-foot-1, 185-pound slot receiver in the secondary. It is unclear how much time Peele will see against the Owls, but for someone with limited experience as a defensive back, it is a high-risk, high-reward move.

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