Game Preview: USF at Rutgers

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Senior Night descends on High Point Solutions Stadium with the pressure on Rutgers to come up with a win for bowl eligibility. Facing USF for the final football game as members of the American Athletic Conference, Rutgers looks to stop a three-game losing streak.

South Florida (2-9, 2-5) at Rutgers (5-6, 2-5)

Time:7:36 p.m., High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, N.J.
TV/Radio: ESPN2, 710-WOR, 1450-AM, 97.5 FM
Series: Rutgers leads 22-10
Last meeting: Sept. 13, 2012, Rutgers won 23-13
Coaches: Rutgers – Kyle Flood (2nd season, 14-10); USF– Willie Taggert (4th season 18-30, 1st at USF 2-9)

Storyline Central

  • Senior Night -- Always over-hyped and over-played, the final home game for the Rutgers senior class takes place against USF under the lights. Rutgers will honor 19 departing senior players, one graduating junior (Chris Fonti) and medically retired lineman Frank Quartucci. Flood made a point during the week to speak well of what each senior brought the program, and stated that the energy level for his seniors is right on track with his expectations going into an emotional night.

  • Distractions -- The off-the-field concerns at this point are well-documented, and lead to questions about how Rutgers comes out of the tunnel in terms of energy. Flood and his staff are on hot seats thanks to three straight losses and missteps in the recruiting game. Players are not immune to the conversations on social media and by fans, and some level of it is bound to seep into the locker room at High Point Solutions Stadium. It will be up to the four team captains and other leaders to keep Rutgers mentally focused in beating South Florida.

  • Stuck in the Mud -- The Rutgers running game continues to struggle with consistency. With Paul James (leg) unlikely for a full load, Rutgers will yet again look to get creative when it comes to establishing the run. The running game exceeded four yards per carry just once since James returned from his first injury, and wants to find better production from junior Savon Huggins and freshman Justin Goodwin. Huggins will again hold his third-down back duties, where he went for 13 yards on seven carries against Connecticut. Goodwin ran for the lone touchdown against Connecticut, but was inefficient between the tackles and missed assignments.

Matchup to Watch
USF receiver Andre Davis vs. Rutgers cornerback Gareef Glashen

Glashen returns as a Rutgers starter at corner with Ruhann Peele expected to see a lot more time at wide receiver. Davis is in the same toughness mold as other receivers that torched Rutgers this season like Jeremy Johnson and Deontay Greenberry. Davis is the kind of Florida athlete Glashen faced often in high school. He is also a former big-time recruiting target by the Rutgers staff. Davis caught eight passes for 84 yards against Rutgers in last season's USF loss, and is the top receiver option in 2013. Davis has a similar build and skill set to Rutgers' Leonte Carroo. He was a four-star receiver and No. 46 in the country in the class of 2011.

Scarlet Knights Win If…
Rutgers brings energy -- Rutgers has not played at the same intensity level as its opponents for three straight games and if it happens again, South Florida has a major advantage. Rutgers needs to play like it wants to win, and that starts with the seniors. Tonight is senior night, and leadership is the first step to bouncing back. Rutgers has two captains on its second team, and the other two have struggled to put up consistent numbers.

OLB Jamal Merrell
Bulls Win If …
White continues the trend -- The Rutgers pass defense did little to stop the last few quarterbacks, and freshman Mike White could be the next one. A week after Rutgers made UConn's Casey Cochran look like an NFL quarterback, White looks to do the same with more potent weapons around him. The former Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) University School quarterback has a healthier unit with more versatility, and that starts with Davis at wide receiver.


Impact Player
WR Brandon Coleman — If there is one game where Rutgers needs its big target to step up, this is it. Sophomore Leonte Carroo is injured and unavailable, and red-shirt freshman Ruhann Peele (questionable) can only do so much while also playing defensive back. Starting running back Paul James missed most of practice this week on top of it. Quarterback Chas Dodd has a history of big plays to Coleman. He will need to get it done again to beat USF.

WR Brandon Coleman
Something to Prove
CB Nadir Barnwell — This spot in the preview section has been a revolving door all season, and Barnwell is simply the latest with something to prove. Barnwell will see more time at cornerback because Peele has a bigger offensive role. Barnwell dropped an interception that could have been six points for Rutgers last week. Since Barnwell's week-long suspension, he has been less of a factor in the struggling defensive secondary.

Looking to Build
OL Betim Bujari — Bujari is back in action tonight, and it could be at left guard. Bujari practiced at left guard and center this week. He initially came in as a guard prospect, and could line up next to center Dallas Hendrikson instead of ahead of him. Bujari brings mobility and a different look in the run game, which struggled in his absence.

Freshman to Watch
WR Janarion Grant — Pasco High School is a half hour drive from Raymond James Stadium, and the electric kick returner will be amped up tonight to face his hometown school. Grant has been reliable at punt return, and his time at the line of scrimmage should be arriving soon. Rutgers is down John Tsimis and Carroo, and Peele is questionable. The play-makers at the position are limited, and Grant could get his chance tonight.

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