Game Preview: Rutgers at No. 16 Nebraska

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Rutgers faces its second straight ranked opponent on the road in No. 16 Nebraska, and has a rebound in its sights after losing by 39 points at the Horseshoe. The Scarlet Knights take on the Huskers for the first time since 1920 when Nebraska left the Polo Grounds with the win.

Rutgers (5-2, 1-2) at No. 16 Nebraska (6-1, 2-1)

Time:Noon, Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb..

TV/Radio: ESPN2, 1450 AM WCTC, 710 AM WOR

Series: Nebraska leads 1-0

Last meeting: Nov. 20, 1920, Nebraska won 28-0 at the Polo Grounds

Coaches: Rutgers – Kyle Flood (3rd season, 20-13); Nebraska – Bo Pelini (7th season, 64-25)

Storyline Central

  • Get Back to Basics -- The Rutgers defense is known as a sack machine and special teams threat when at its best. Rutgers did neither against Ohio State and suffered the consequences. The defense dropped to second in the Big Ten in sacks behind Michigan State, but remains first in the conference with five blocked kicks.

  • The Road -- Rutgers is halfway through what is arguably the toughest stretch in school history. Going 1-1 so far, the Scarlet Knights see their second straight ranked road foe tomorrow morning, and it comes in front of another massive crowd. The only other time Rutgers played back to back road games against ranked opponents, it lost to West Virginia and Miami 21 years ago in Big East play.

  • Abdullah the Butcher -- In the eyes of Flood, Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah is as good as any running back he’s seen since coming to Rutgers a decade ago. That includes names like LeSean McCoy, Ryan Matthews, Steve Slaton, Donald Brown and Isaiah Pead. Abdullah is the lone tailback in Husker history with three straight 1,000-yard seasons. He already has games of 208, 229 and 232 this season. Rutgers gives up 162 yards per game at 4.7 per carry in 2014. Howard’s Terrance Tusan, however, is the only opposing running back with more than 100 net yards against Rutgers this season.

Matchup to Watch

Rutgers linebacker Steve Longa vs. Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong

Armstrong can book it with his feet, and Rutgers needs to prove it can stop a mobile quarterback this week after struggles against Michigan and Ohio State. Abdullah will get his yardage, but it is up to Longa and the linebackers to stop Armstrong. Longa has spy capabilities as an athletic weakside option. He needs a bounce-back game after slow closing speed and a few bad angles against J.T. Barrett.

Scarlet Knights Win If…

They make Nebraska throw the ball -- Rutgers must contain two stellar athletes on the ground in quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. and Abdullah. Armstrong’s athleticism as a runner creates concern for Rutgers, which could not contain Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett or Michigan’s Devin Gardner on the ground. Abdullah’s threat is obvious, and the more third and long looks Rutgers forces, the fewer chances he gets to break the big play as he has done all season. Abdullah is already above 1,000 yards with two touchdowns per game. His game-winner against McNeese State was arguably the run of the year in the Big Ten.

Cornhuskers Win If …

They Stop the Shootout -- If Nebraska allows Nova to get into a groove, Rutgers has a chance to win. But in a low-scoring game, the Huskers are the better team on the ground, and can dictate a methodical pace to victory. The Rutgers defense did not tackle well enough the last two weeks to get off the field when it had to, and needs as much offensive support from Nova as possible.


Impact Player

WR Leonte Carroo — Carroo proved in the first half of the season that he can be a legitimate, dynamic threat in the Big Ten. Nobody in 2014 shut down Carroo to date – 100 yards against Ohio State, 73 against Michigan, 151 against Washington State and 84 against Penn State. At worst, Carroo caught four passes for 56 yards in a run-heavy look against Navy. At best, Carroo led Rutgers to a with 140 yards and three touchdowns against Tulane. Carroo is talented enough in 1-on-1 battles with any cornerback in the conference, and it is Nebraska’s job to shut him down.

Something to Prove

OLB Steve Longa – Longa’s role on the weak side did not go well against Ohio State. Execution issues with the linebacker group as a whole served as the harbinger for Barrett’s barrage against the Scarlet Knights. Longa’s role is equally important in stopping the two-pronged rushing attack of Nebraska. There is no better time to get back to what Longa showed as a freshman All-American.

Looking to Build

RB Desmon Peoples – Peoples and Justin Goodwin showed for the first time that the Rutgers running game has legs after losing Paul James in September to a torn ACL. Peoples led the way with the best game of his career – 83 yards and both Scarlet Knight touchdowns. The shifty sophomore finally passed James as the team’s leading rusher – 425 yards on 103 rushing attempts.

Freshman to Watch

RB Robert Martin – The five touches for 23 yards in mop-up duty at Ohio State showed Flood that Martin “absolutely” deserves a bigger chance with the football in his hands. The true freshman stepped in full time as the third running back after Josh Hicks moved to safety, and can expect an opportunity against Nebraska. Martin, 14 months off of a torn ACL, was a three-star recruit on out of Harrisburg (Pa.).

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