Washington State (0-1) vs Rutgers (1-0)
Time – 3:30 p.m., High Point Solutions Stadium
TV/Radio – ESPNU, 1450 AM WCTC, 710 AM WOR
Series – Rutgers leads 1-0
Last meeting – Aug. 28, 2014, Rutgers won 41-38
One QB to Rule Them All – Rutgers coach Kyle Flood stands behind Chris Laviano as his new starting quarterback. Laviano won the job Monday morning after a perfect statistical start to the season. Laviano received a starter’s share of reps in practice, and has the long leash Flood described in training camp. Now, the sophomore has to grow into an impact player. Washington State is vulnerable in the secondary but it may take more than the 41 points scored last year to get to 2-0 on the season.
Jersey Boys – After Wazzu coach Mike Leach’s disparaging comments about New Jersey football resurfaced this week, the 23 Garden Staters on the two deep will have something to say. Rutgers players and Flood both downplayed the comments publicly, but they certainly made their rounds in the Hale Center.
Galvanized – Rutgers responded well to distractions last week, and they continue with a behind-closed-doors Board of Governors meeting Friday and the arrest of fullback Lloyd Terry. It is up to the Rutgers team captains and the coaching staff to stay focused. Rutgers cannot afford to be less than 100 percent locked in against Washington State.
Matchup to Watch
Even in a disappointing offensive output against Portland State, Gabe Marks made plays at wide receiver. He averaged 12.6 yards per catch and scored a touchdown in the opener. Blessuan Austin is the Scarlet Knights’ top cover corner, and has to lock down his portion of the field with the inexperience in the secondary. Rutgers must better protect against the big play.
Scarlet Knights win if …
They Clean Up the Secondary – Norfolk State would have had a lot more points with better protection and down-field awareness because their receivers ran free often against the young Rutgers secondary. Rutgers simply has to play better because Leach’s offense will be out for blood after an embarrassment in week one. The Rutgers offense will be there with bailout points, but the best way to a win is if the secondary steps it up.
Cougars Win if …
They Smother Laviano – Washington State needs to be on Laviano like a blanket. Laviano struggled in the past with holding the ball too long, and there are going to be some jitters with his most important game to date. For the first time, Laviano takes the field with the game not yet decided, and the Cougars with a new defensive coordinator could be an equalizer.
WR Leonte Carroo – Carroo carved up Washington State last season, and was perfect against Norfolk State. The school’s all-time leading receiver should expect plenty of double coverage but that still may not be enough to contain the budding superstar.
Something to Prove
QB Chris Laviano – Laviano won the quarterback battle but the pressure is now on to perform. Laviano won over the locker room, and the starting job, but the execution on the field has to be there as well. A good showing against Washington State is exactly what he needs to win over the fan base that celebrated Rettig’s debut.
Looking to Build
NT Sebastian Joseph – Joseph did his job and controlled the line of scrimmage in his first career start. Joseph will not be a stat machine, but he was more than serviceable with the need to replace Kenneth Kirksey on the line of scrimmage.
Freshman to Watch
SS Kiy Hester – Rutgers expects the red-shirt freshman to debut against Washington State. Not only will Hester see a ton of action at safety, but he is athletic enough to move into a nickel role in defensive sub-packages.