WAR GAMES: Iowa at Rutgers

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- For the best insight and commentary from this week's build up to Iowa at Rutgers, Scarlet Report takes you directly to the sources. We hear from six Rutgers coaches, the top three quarterbacks, Hawkeye coach Kirk Ferentz and more.

Rutgers coach Chris Ash – “People talk about an upset. North Dakota State's an outstanding football team. You look at the history of that team, and they've beaten a lot of people. Whether you want to consider it an upset or not, that's a darn good football team that beat Iowa last week. And by no means does that diminish what Iowa's football team is or what they're capable of moving forward.”

Rutgers offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer – “You look at the body of work per practice, where [the quarterbacks] are throughout the week, who's going to be the guy that goes in that week. And for all of those guys, Chris included, the competition for that spot for the backup and starting spot never stops. You just go out there and earn your stripes every week. So we have a starting quarterback right now, and we've had three guys now go in and play, have some playing time. So they all got their feet wet. So going in will be a new experience for them, so it's something that they do this week and they have to come out and prove their worth to the team, to the offense every single time we go out there to practice, so week to week."

Rutgers defensive coordinator Jay Niemann – “For me, I'm just trying to keep it business as usual. There's nothing I can do from a family perspective about this one way or another. We've known for along time that this week and this game and this day was going to be coming. As I've said all along, the boys have to prepare like they have to and I have to prepare like I have to. My wife is caught in the middle. She's trying to be loyal to me, and to them. To me, she's got to be a mother first. I know she's going to be passionate about cheering for Ben [Niemann] and it's tough middle-ground place to be for her. That's what she's trying to do. For me, I hope we win the game and I hope he plays great.”

Junior quarterback Chris Laviano – “Whatever best of the team needs to happen. We have to play better offensively. It is what it is. They (the coaches) have got a job to do. I've got a job to do.”

Junior quarterback Zach Allen – “I think that's how a backup quarterback or a quarterback competition works every week. You go out there and you give it your all every week and if your name is called, then you go out there and perform for your team, for everything, for Rutgers and do what you can.”

Sophomore quarterback Giovanni Rescigno – “'I've never been this close to a group of guys like we are. We hang out with each other. We talk with each other. We mess around. We're really close. We're a really good group of friends. We have each other's back. Competition is part of it. I don't know where else competition wouldn't be a part of it. We all love to compete and that's a great thing because we push each other to get better and better.”

Junior defensive end Darnell Davis Jr. – “I was like, ‘Why not take that opportunity to play in one of the best leagues in the country?’ I took it, I had to go with it and I love Rutgers. I’m happy with my decision. It’s probably the best decision I’ve made in my life.”

Rutgers offensive line coach AJ Blazek – “To be the first Big Ten coaching game that I'm coaching in with the Big Ten, it's something that I'll always remember. I told some people in Iowa City last night that it was like going to coach against your dad or your uncles. … For me, I'm excited about it.”

Senior defensive tackle Darius Hamilton – “[C.J. Beathard] is what makes their offense go. They do a great job of, not only running the ball, but throwing the ball when they do. It's definitely going to be imperative that we put some pressure on him this week.”

Rutgers safeties coach Bill Busch – “When you start talking about the games that we played from what Washington did offensively to what Howard did had some carry-over with it to New Mexico, which is completely different. These guys are completely different, so a lot of times … there is a lot of carryover. Between what Iowa does and what New Mexico did. It's basically none. It would be nice if there is something that would carry over. It should be a rule. … It doesn't work that way:”

Rutgers defensive line coach Shane Burnham – “In a coach [Kirk] Ferentz coached team, it all starts up front on both sides of the ball. They're extremely physical up front. They're extremely sound. I told my guys when I got here and we started talking about this week, in my opinion, I don't know the Big Ten like I know the Big 12. Every year, this is one of the best offensive lines we played against. That's on both sides of the ball, you can say the same thing. It's extremely fundamentally sound. They play extremely hard.”

Sophomore left tackle Tariq Cole – “[I need to] certainly finish, still. Putting guys in the ground. I want to try and be the most physical player on the field when I’m on there. I still think my technique and my footwork need to get a lot better playing against guys that are much faster and better.”

Sophomore middle linebacker Deonte Roberts – “Starting my first Big Ten game mean’s a lot coming in, but I just treat it like every other game — non-conference or conference — and just prepare the same way and studying the film, just get extra reps and mental reps and everything. So that’s about it.”

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz – “The first memory I had was [AJ Blazek] came in for a recruiting visit and he wasn’t very smart. He was wearing an Arizona ball cap on there, so he must’ve had his schools mixed up because he had that on. And he also had cowboy boots. Trying to give you the appearance, he was like 6-4. So those are those first two things I remember.

But what really stood out about him was his personality. And if you’ve ever met AJ in business with him, it’s just very infectious. Tremendous person. Our goal was to redshirt him in ’99 and then have him for two years and we were pretty depleted, so we ended up playing him his first year. But just a great guy to have on the football team, stayed here and helped us out as an assistant coach and then has moved on. And I have — for obvious reasons, we stayed in touch. Just really admired the work that he’s done for all of his career and just he was a great hire (for Rutgers). Chris was a great hire at Rutgers, and I think AJ’s just a tremendous coach.”


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