Game Preview: Tulane at Rutgers

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Rutgers returns home for the first time since a disappointing loss to Penn State in the Big Ten debut for the Scarlet Knights. This time the Scarlet Knights play host to Tulane, which embarrassed them out of the building on Homecoming in 2010. The Scarlet Knights look to go 1-0 this week with Michigan on the horizon.

Tulane (1-3) at Rutgers (3-1)

Time:Noon, High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, N.J.

TV/Radio: ESPNews, 1450 AM WCTC, 710 AM WOR

Series: Rutgers leads, 4-2

Last meeting: Sept. 1, 2012, Rutgers won 24-12

Coaches: Rutgers – Kyle Flood (3rd season, 18-12); Tulane – Curtis Johnson (3rd Season, 10-19)

Storyline Central

  • Next Men Up -- Rutgers has to move on from Paul James, who tore his ACL against Navy and is out for the year. Rutgers prepared for this and was well aware of the injury history for James. The sophomore duo of Desmon Peoples and Justin Goodwin steps in for James with the freshman duo of Robert Martin and Josh Hicks hungry for chances as well. With the offensive line catching its stride against Navy, the new-look rushing attack has the chance for big numbers against Tulane. The Green Wave gave up 203 rushing yards per game through the first third of the season.

  • Bad Memories -- Most of the locker room and coaching staff was elsewhere in 2010 when Tulane embarrassed Rutgers on its Homecoming. But that loss is still fresh in the memory of Flood and the fan base as one of the low points in the late Greg Schiano era. On the topic of bad memories, Saturday also marks the first matchup for Rutgers against its former conference.

  • Banged Up Secondary -- Smacked with injuries according to the Thursday report, cornerback becomes a significant position of concern for defensive coordinator Joe Rossi. Every defensive back sans Delon Stephenson saw his status improve as the week moved on, but nobody will be 100 percent. The pressure falls on banged up guys to play to the best of their ability. Sophomore Anthony Cioffi is the lone two-deep cornerback not on the injury report with Nadir Barnwell, Dre Boggs and Gareef Glashen all limited during the week. Starting safety Delon Stephenson is doubtful after a lower body injury put him on crutches last week.

Matchup to Watch

Rutgers cornerback Dre Boggs vs. Tulane wide receiver Justyn Shackleford

The options are severely limited at cornerback, and you can expect Tulane to target the ones that take the field. Tulane sees the same injury report that fans do and is well aware of the guys ailing for Rutgers. Shackleford is the top target for Tulane quarterback Tanner Lee. Shackleford is a 5-foot-11 receiver with 4.5 speed and the chance to give the new-look Rutgers secondary trouble. Boggs has a chance to make his second career start tomorrow with a lot of room for improvement after Penn State and Navy.

Scarlet Knights Win If…

They win the turnover battle -- Tulane averages three turnovers per game, and Rutgers is at its best when attacking the football. Quanzell Lambert came through with a fumble recovery that turned the tables on Navy. Glashen, Justin Goodwin and Lorenzo Waters all picked off passes during the first three games of the season. Pressure Lee early to force mistakes and the Rutgers defense is in position for a third straight strong showing.

Green Wave Win If …

Rutgers can’t stop the pass -- Run-heavy Navy showed no fear in testing the Rutgers defensive secondary and had the chance to force overtime with a Hail Mary. It is up to the Rutgers secondary to rise to the challenge in man coverage and close quickly on tackles when in zone. Opponents average 39 pass attempts per game and 310 yards against Rutgers. Hitting both benchmarks creates an upset scenario for Tulane.


Impact Player

WR Leonte Carroo — Multiple factors go into a potential big game for the impact junior. Tulane enters Saturday with goals of forcing Rutgers to pass, and quarterback Gary Nova has no hesitance in targeting his high school teammate to move the ball through the air. Rutgers also gets back Andre Patton. That benefits both Carroo and tight end Tyler Kroft immensely. Tulane cannot force double coverage onto both with the 6-foot-4 Patton lining up on the other side. Patton is not a lock to start with Janarion Grant and John Tsimis coming along, but his presence takes away coverage options for Tulane in trying to shut down Caroo.

Something to Prove

LB L.J. Liston — Saturday could be the first true opportunity for Liston, who missed the Navy game because of a one-game suspension. Liston moves to starting middle linebacker if Kevin Snyder remains out with injury, and the sophomore from Michigan takes on a significant role as Rutgers returns to its traditional defense. Liston arrived at Rutgers from prep school with high expectations. His role through 15 career games, however, is primarily on special teams. Liston has 16 career tackles and multiple personal foul penalties on kickoff coverage. Tulane represents a chance to change that. Snyder saw his status improve to probable by Friday morning, but missed a lot of action in practice during the week. Liston has to be ready to go.

Looking to Build

RB Desmon Peoples — Could this be the first 100-yard game for Peoples? The co-starter at running back showed tremendous improvement dating back to the spring and his time is now. Peoples is the best option in pass protection with James missing. He and Goodwin both excelled against Navy. That has to continue this week to take pressure off of Nova. Peoples set career highs in attempts (19) and yards (82) against Navy. With Goodwin nursing an upper body injury, Peoples may need a heavier workload.

Freshman to Watch

CB Kam Lott — The 5-foot-9 true freshman is the next man in with injury concerns to three key cornerbacks, said Flood. Lott is the farthest along mentally of the freshman cornerbacks that have not played. That comes after ending spring ball as a second-team guy in the spring game. Lott enrolled early at Rutgers for the chance to play as a true freshman. If that happens, Saturday is the most logical timing for his debut. Lott worked with the twos leading up to kickoff.

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