Homecoming Game Preview: Kansas at Rutgers

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Rutgers brings its old-school look to the field Saturday with the hopes of a bounce-back victory. The Scarlet Knights host Kansas for Homecoming and seek a return to a .500 record after back-to-back losses to Washington State and Penn State.

Kansas (0-2) vs. Rutgers (1-2, 0-1)

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

TV/Radio – Big Ten Network, 1450 AM WCTC, 710 AM WOR

Series – First Meeting

Last meeting – First Meeting

Coaches: Rutgers – Norries Wilson (Interim 0-1, 17-43 in 6 seasons at Columbia); Kansas – David Beaty (1st season, 0-2)

 

Storyline Central

Laviano Leads – Wherever the perception stands outside of the program, Chris Laviano is the guy at quarterback and his teammates and coaches support him. Interim coach Norries Wilson has the power to make any personnel changes he deems necessary, but he explained Wednesday why he believes in a one-quarterback system.

“The quarterback is leading everybody,” he said. “He’s telling everybody what to do and how to do it and when to do it and what’s changing. At running back you can take a guy out and put another guy in, you calm him down. If you start moving quarterbacks around, you’ve got different cadences, the line gets accustomed to hearing a certain guy. There’s a lot of small details involved in it where you can’t just pull a guy out and put another guy in.”

Play or Sit? – Senior captain Darius Hamilton debuted against Penn State but was visible nowhere near 100 percent following lower body injuries. A red-shirt remains possible for the star defensive tackle, but that decision has to come soon. Rutgers releases its updated injury report before kickoff, and Hamilton’s status says a lot about his future with the program. Suspended coach Kyle Flood downgraded Hamilton from probable to questionable on Monday.

Homecoming Headaches – Rutgers has a history of disastrous homecomings, whether it be the boos for senior quarterback Mike Teel against Connecticut in 2008, the ridiculous Kent State loss to end Kyle Flood’s perfect first season or last year’s blowout against Wisconsin, fans are conditioned for a rough homecoming experience. Rutgers looks to get back on track for its alumni base tomorrow as heavy favorites over the Jayhawks.

 

Matchup to Watch

Rutgers WR Carlton Agudosi vs Kansas S Tevin Shaw

A Central Jersey rematch four years in the making, former Franklin (N.J.) star receiver Agudosi faces off against former impact running back Tevin Shaw of Piscataway (N.J.). Shaw had the last laugh with a Thanksgiving win at Piscataway before they departed for their respective colleges. They now face off on opposite sides of the ball with Agudosi in after the best game of his career.

 

Scarlet Knights win if …

They Ground and Pound – Rutgers has to stick to its guns, and that means powerful runs and tough defense. Sophomore Josh Hicks should be the workhorse, but there are roles for every healthy running back this Saturday. Hicks showed what he can do when he gets more than 10 carries per game, and should have twice that against Kansas. Rutgers has to play assignment football defensively, and rotate fresh bodies so nobody gets caught napping.

 

Jayhawks Win if …

They Make Big Plays – The big play doomed Rutgers against Penn State. Kansas averages three players per game of 20 yards or more. The best way to keep up with Rutgers as severe underdogs is with “chunk” plays when Rutgers goes safe on defense and shifty runs against a struggling line.

 

KICKOFF PRIMER

 

Impact Player

RB Josh Hicks – Hicks earned the right to be the feature back, and Kansas should be the start of his big season. Hicks outplayed Robert Martin and Paul James in the first three games. His non-safety run against Penn State was jaw-dropping. The Palmetto (Fla.) sophomore is a true gamer at the position, and he deserves more than 13 carries per game.

Something to Prove

QB Chris Laviano – Rutgers stands firmly behind its starting quarterback, and Kansas is the perfect defense against which Laviano can bounce back. Laviano’s last six quarters resulted in just 17 offensive points, and the leader of the offense needs to step it up on homecoming.

Looking to Build

FS Anthony Cioffi – the junior converted cornerback is the defensive MVP for Rutgers through three games, and he made yet another big play last week when he out-muscled PSU’s Saeed Blacknall for an interception. Cioffi simply keeps making plays and the Jayhawks’ fast-paced offense could be in line for a rough day if Cioffi catches it napping.

Freshman to Watch

SS Kiy Hester – Hester can expect a bigger role this week. The red-shirt freshman debuted a nickel role against Washington State, and his versatility makes him even more valuable against the Kansas offense. Rutgers needs a strong game from Hester, who could work in both nickel and at strong safety. 


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