NEW YORK – The 2013 football season ends tomorrow for Rutgers with its second appearance in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. After a hot start and sluggish finish to the 2013 regular season, the Scarlet Knights set their sights on Notre Dame, last year's runner up for the BCS National Championship.
Rutgers (6-6, 3-5) at Notre Dame (8-4)
Noon, Yankee Stadium, New York
ESPN, 710-WOR, 1450-AM, 97.5 FM
Notre Dame leads 4-0
Nov. 23, 2002, Notre Dame won 42-0
Rutgers – Kyle Flood (2nd season, 15-10); Notre Dame – Brian Kelly (4th season 207-77-2, 4th at Notre Dame 36-15)
Matchup to Watch
Notre Dame receiver T.J. Jones vs. Rutgers cornerback Gareef Glashen
- The House that Ruth Built -- Being the head coach for a game in Yankee Stadium means a lot for Flood, who grew up a fan in New York and was an assistant for two Rutgers victories in 2011. The Scarlet Knights already have two wins at Yankee Stadium, both of which were led by starting quarterback Chas Dodd. The site has significance for Notre Dame as well, which will see Tommy Rees play his final game with the Fighting Irish. Rees made his first career start for Notre Dame in a victory against Army at Yankee Stadium.
- Postseason Changes -- The adjustments after a 2-5 finish to the regular season hit instantly when Flood fired three assistant coaches less than 24 hours after becoming bowl eligible. Rutgers enters the game with offensive coordinator Ron Prince as the lone quarterbacks coach, after the dismissal of Rob Spence. Flood has already hired Mitch Browning to replace Damian Wrobewlski as offensive line coach. Special teams coordinator Joe Rossi took over as interim defensive coordinator, and gets his biggest shot to make a statement about his abilities for the full-time position. Rossi re-energized the defense in bowl practice, but faces a tough challenge in Notre Dame in top receiver T.J. Jones.
- Health Questions -- Top receiving target Leonte Carroo has been inactive since the brutal hit taken against UCF, and remains doubtful for kickoff. Carroo represents 64 percent of scoring from the Rutgers receivers and 22 percent of receptions. An absence of Carroo changes the Rutgers look offensively by a significant amount, but so does the return of a healthy Paul James. James played the final four games of the regular season, but was not the same as he was during a torrid start against Fresno State and Eastern Michigan. James needs 167 yards to break 1,000 after Jawan Jamison did the same last season.
Glashen comes off his best game in a Rutgers uniform. He showed growth in his ball skills and aggression during bowl practices, and needs to play the best game of his career against the latest in a slew of NFL-caliber wide receivers Rutgers will see this season. The 6-foot, 195-pound Jones has 1,042 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior, and 176 career receptions. After struggles against similar receivers like Deontay Greenberry and DeVonte Adams earlier this season.
Scarlet Knights Win If…
Irish come out flat
-- This is not the BCS National Championship, nor is it a warm-weather winter game for Notre Dame. New York and Rutgers present excitement, but it is not playing against Alabama
in front of 26 million television screens. How do the Notre Dame players react to such a significant drop? For Rutgers, this is perhaps the most significant bowl game to date. It is not the most prestigious, but the chance to beat a national name like Notre Dame while defending their backyard is a big deal for the Scarlet Knights.
Fighting Irish Win If …
-- Rutgers was one of the worst pass defenses in the country in 2012, and although Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees is not Everett Golson
, he is the solid, experienced kind of quarterback that can be a nightmare for Rutgers. Guys like Blake Bortles
, Teddy Bridgewater
, Derek Carr
and Garrett Gilbert
can do the same things as Rees, who has 61 career touchdown passes for the golden domers.
RB Paul James — Starting with Ray Rice
, the key to every big program win begins on the ground. Former walk-on James needs to return to his impact ways for Rutgers to pull off an upset. James played only special teams in last year's bowl game, but exploded at the start of the 2013 season in replacing Jawan Jamison as the feature back. James missed four games with leg problems and is finally healthy after time to rest . He was one of the faces of Rutgers bowl activities this year, and has a bright future in scarlet regardless of how many yards he puts up against the Fighting Irish.
Something to Prove
WR Brandon Coleman — Coleman has something to prove to NFL scouts across the country, and those expected to watch in-person from Yankee Stadium. Coleman will be one of the combine heroes of the 2014 NFL draft almost by default. He checks in at 6-foot-6 and runs a 4.40 40-yard dash when healthy. His junior film, however, does not hold up. Coleman struggled with drops and was not aggressive in going after the football. He took a backseat in the red zone to other receiving options and scored just three touchdowns this season. Coleman has a lot to prove to his professional doubters and one final opportunity to do so as a Scarlet Knight.
Looking to Build
CB Gareef Glashen — Glashen is coming off the best game of his career, and needs to make it two in a row for a young secondary taking instructions from a new defensive coordinator. Fans have waited for the light to truly come on with Glashen for most of four years now, and doing it in the spotlight against Notre Dame bodes well for the 2014 defensive back situation.
Freshman to Watch
MLB Steve Longa — A freshman All-American selection, Longa is set for his first bowl game after a red-shirt year in 2012. Longa is the first Rutgers middle linebacker to exceed 100 tackles since Gary Brackett
a decade ago. Longa leads the communication on defense, and it will be his job to make sure the changes made by Rossi since replacing Dave Cohen at defensive coordinator get executed as planned by a young defense.