Norfolk State vs Rutgers
Time – Noon, High Point Solutions Stadium
TV/Radio – ESPNews, 1450 AM WCTC, 710 AM WOR
Series – Rutgers leads 3-0
Last meeting – Sept. 7, 2013, Rutgers won 38-0
Coaches: Rutgers – Kyle Flood (4th season, 23-16); Norfolk State – Latrell Scott (3rd season 25-9, 1st at Norfolk State)
Black Thursday – Five player arrests and two separate investigations into head coach Kyle Flood create quite the storm in the hours before kickoff. Police arrests five players, including two would-be Saturday starters, yesterday and the investigation into Flood’s email contact with a university professor continues. While a dark cloud sits above High Point Solutions Stadium those within the program remain focused on the game and their support of Flood.
Indecision 2015 – Instead of a clear-cut quarterback with a long leash, the battle wages forward for Hayden Rettig and Chris Laviano. Rettig has the start by default, but Flood did not express a long-term commitment to the LSU transfer. Which quarterback comes out in the second half says a lot for the Scarlet Knights.
Skeleton Crew – Since Rutgers fans last saw their Scarlet Knights, Gareef Glashen graduated, Darian Dailey was dismissed and three others face indefinite suspensions in the wake of multiple criminal charges. Rutgers does not have much of a defensive secondary with which to work. Blessuan Austin, Isaiah Wharton, Anthony Cioffi and Davon Jacobs are in line for starts and the rest falls to names like Andre Hunt and Jarius Adams.
Matchup to Watch
Rutgers Locker Room vs. Non-Football Noise
Let’s be realistic, Rutgers isn’t losing this game. But this offseason, particularly this summer, has not been a smooth one for the football program. A head-coaching investigation, player arrests, team suspensions, an armed robbery charge for Darian Dailey and injury concerns for star captain Darius Hamilton create plenty of excuses for a lackluster performance. Rutgers, like its fans, must embrace the return to the field and focus on football. Top all of that off with the five player arrests before Thursday’s practice and off-the-field issues approach an all-time high.
Scarlet Knights win if …
They Stay Healthy – The real victory for Rutgers won’t come in the final score. Do not risk injury for marquee players and figure out what works for when the more competitive games kick off. Rutgers needs a more permanent answer at quarterback and some experience for new starters. Get that done and it’s a win for the Scarlet Knights.
Spartans Win if …
Rutgers Melts Down – The only way Norfolk State escapes New Jersey with a win is if there is a Chernobyl-level meltdown both on and off the field over the next 24 hours.
LT Keith Lumpkin – While everyone else piles on yards and touchdowns and sacks, this hulking senior bookend gets no credit for what will certainly be a stellar performance. Lumpkin silently played through pain in both spring and summer without rest, and deserves partial credit for every rushing and passing touchdown of what will be a high-scoring affair for the new-look Rutgers offense.
Something to Prove
QB Hayden Rettig – Is Rettig the man? Not yet. Although Flood finally offered a real endorsement this week, the suspended Chris Laviano sits ready to take over after he got more opportunities in training camp. The best way for Rettig to lock it down for the next few games is with a controlled aerial assault.
Looking to Build
DT Julian Pinnix-Odrick – One of the stars of training camp, Pinnix-Odrick steps into a starting role that could last all season. Rutgers needs a strong season for Pinnix-Odrick, who steps into Darius Hamilton’s shoes on the defensive line and it starts against Norfolk State.
Freshman to Watch
CB Blessuan Austin – Rutgers hasn’t seen a true freshman start in a season opener since Kyle Federico kicked in Flood’s first season. Not only is Austin a special football player, but he comes at a major position of needs. Austin is an ultimate opportunist that came to play in spring football. The former New York quarterback puts it all together against Norfolk State as defensive backs coach Darrell Wilson’s top cover corner.