RUTGERS REWIND – W/E September 3, 2005
Training camp ended on Friday and game week began on Monday. On Sunday, the Star Ledger featured an article about RS Sr RT Sameeh McDonald and The Home News Tribute provided a personal look at the matchup between Illinois and Rutgers, though the eyes of Illini Jr TB E.B. Halsey and Scarlet Knight FB RS Sr Ishmael Medley.
On Monday, Big Dog published an interview with Ryan D'Imperio (6-2 and 230) from Washington Township HS in Sewell, NJ. D'Imperio, plays HB and MLB and is projected at LB in college, has received offers from Rutgers and West Virginia. Ryan lists Rutgers in his top five. Tom Atkins starting Getting Ready for Game 1, taking an early look at the matchup between Rutgers and Illinois.
On Tuesday, Andrew Bone published an interview with John Ferrara (6-5 and 255) from Monsignor Farrell HS in Staten Island, NY. The three star prospect holds six offers – Duke, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ole Miss, Penn State, and Rutgers. Ferrara has not yet begun to narrow his list of suitors. Matei provided a glimpse into St. Joseph's HS recent scrimmage against Elizabeth HS. The Home News Tribune took a look at two freshmen safeties expected to play big roles in the season opener – Fr WS Courtney Greene and Fr FS Greg Lee. The Star Ledger focused on RS So LT Pedro Sosa, who made his first career start on Saturday. The Record spoke with Greg Schiano about defending the Illini no-huddle spread offense.
The Wednesday papers contained features about RS Jr FB Brian Leonard, So FS Ron Girault, RS Jr TE Clark Harris, and JUCO Jr C Darnell Stapleton. Trenton Times columnist Harvey Yaevener announced bowl or bust. With game day only three days away, Dan Welch switched gears with his annual preseason preview and took a look at the Illinois Fighting Illini, who are expected to finish at the bottom of the Big Ten in new Head Coach Ron Zook's first season. Zook returns 13 players – plus both kickers – from a demoralized team that had only two All-Big Ten players in 2004. Dan predicted the Fighting Illini will finish 2-9 (1-7 Big Ten). Illinois would drop the opener to more experienced, more explosive, and more talented Rutgers. The Illini will beat hapless San Jose State. An eight game losing streak will ensue, including losses in the three crucial October games. Illinois will salvage its year with a season-ending win against Northwestern. Zook is going to need time to restock the roster that Turner allowed to decline.
On Thursday, Big Dog published an interview with Charles Smith (6-6 and 385) from Charles Herbert HS in Springdale, MD. At the Rutgers football camp, Smith displayed sufficient potential and athleticism to leave the camp with a written scholarship offer. At this time, Rutgers is his only written offer. Smith is using the summer to train, prepare for his senior season, and put on a show for those that are requesting his first two games film. The Star Ledger provided an update on the status of injured starting WLB Sr Will Gilkison. The Courier News took its turn looking at the Illinois spread offense. The Record discussed the senior leadership of RS Sr DE Ryan Neill and RS Sr WR Tres Moses and offered a Rutgers scouting report that contained several points – red zone impotency and big plays yielded – mentioned earlier in our Summer Camp Preview. In Big East action on Thursday, Connecticut beat Buffalo 38-0 and Cincinnati defeated Eastern Michigan 28-26.
The papers were chock full of stories on Friday. The Home News Tribune provide a gigantic preview, including fan expectations, five questions, OLine, RS Jr WR Shawn Tucker, receiving corps, RS Jr TE Clark Harris, Sr QB Ryan Hart, Fr TB Raymell Rice, DLine, Jr MLB DeVraun Thompson, defensive backs, special teams, coaching staff, and Schiano's chief of staff Max Bowman. The Star Ledger also published a football preview, in which Darth Luicci predicted an 8-3 season. The Record featured another article about Tucker.
On Saturday, Dan Welch listed his Keys to the Illinois Game. Dan concluded that Rutgers must (1) not commit more than two TOs and more than one INT; (2) not allow the Fighting Illini more than three gains of at least 20 yards; (3) mix and camouflage its defenses; (4) have a +15 edge in offensive plays and a 10-minute advantage in time of possession; and (5) play pass defense more physically. Dan also tagged Sr QB Ryan Hart, RS So LT Pedro Sosa, Sr WLB Will Gilkison, So FS Ron Girault, and RS Jr P Joe Radigan as key players to watch.
The Star Ledger and The Record each discussed the tenuous position of Hart as the starting QB. The Home News Tribune addressed Rutgers' road woes. The Star Ledger also offered a story about Sr WLB William Beckford as well as a game day preview. The Record also offered yet another column with theme, "It's Time".
And then there was game day. Rutgers carried Illinois in the first half, leaving 18 points on the field while building a 20-7 lead. Brian Leonard's 83-yard TD run, in which he hurdled an Illini CB and outran the secondary, earned the top spot in ESPN's Top 10 plays of the day. In giving Rutgers a 20-7 lead, it should have provided Schiano with a incredible marketing tool. Instead, it served as the setup to yet another Rutgers punchline as the Scarlet Knights yielded 20 consecutive points to allow Illinois force OT, which the Illini won with a quick TD drive for a stunning 33-30 victory in Champaign.
Saturday was a bad day in the Big East. Besides Rutgers crushing loss at Illinois, Pittsburgh was embarrassed 42-21 by Notre Dame on national television. South Florida also lost 23-13 to Penn State, which was more competitive than expected.
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