Rutgers has a week off before opening Big East play Oct. 30 against Pittsburgh.
The Scarlet Knights are 2-1, but serious questions remain about a defense that allowed 33 points to Illinois, 444 yards to Division 1-AA Villanova, and 349 yards and 21 first downs to a Buffalo offense that entered the game as the nation's worst.
Coach Greg Schiano knows his defense can improve. But he's choosing to dwell on the positives after two straight victories: a 38-6 win over Villanova and a 17-3 victory at Buffalo.
"This defense will continue to be a work in progress," said Schiano, who also serves as defensive coordinator. "The long and short of it is we allowed nine points the past two weeks."
Rutgers ranks 86th in the nation in total defense and 98th in passing defense. Those numbers are eerily similar to a year ago when the Scarlet Knights limped to a 4-7 finish with a defensive unit that ranked 104th in total defense and 97th in passing defense.
"We're not overly talented and we're not an overly big defense," Schiano said. "It's a bunch of blue-collar guys who have to work every play to be successful. That's not coach-speak. That's where we are now."
Pittsburgh will be the first of four straight Big East games for Rutgers, which then faces West Virginia, Syracuse, and Connecticut in successive weeks.
Notes and Quotes
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Rutgers is being led by the Big Three of QB Ryan Hart, who has completed 60.2 percent of his passes for 719 yards and five touchdowns; FB Brian Leonard, who is averaging six yards per carry and has four touchdowns, and WR Tres Moses, who is averaging 15.8 yards per catch.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Scarlet Knights are living on the edge. Rutgers yielded an average of 396.5 yards per game in wins over Villanova and Rutgers, but yielded just nine points. Can they keep up the tough red zone defense and continue to keep teams off the board when Big East play starts Oct. 30 against Pittsburgh? QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're an undersized front seven, but we fight. We have to fight and scrap and claw. It's going to be that way all year long." -- coach Greg Schiano on his defense.
Strategy and Personnel
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Bye. Pittsburgh is on the docket after the off-week.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Ryan Hart -- Outside of Brian Brohm in Louisville, Hart is playing as well as any QB in the Big East. He's completing over 60 percent of his passes, has yet to throw and interception, and is averaging 239.6 yards per game.
FB Brian Leonard -- The versatile junior has rushed for over 100 yards twice this season and has 10 receptions for 113 yards.
WR Tres Moses -- The senior leads the team in receptions, but was held to just two catches for 26 yards at Buffalo.
WR Sam Johnson -- The junior, who caught a TD against Buffalo, will have to step it up with All-Big East TE Clark Harris undergoing tests to determine the severity of a knee injury.
RB Raymell Rice -- The true freshman, who has rushed 30 times for 130 yards and a touchdown, has taken hold of the Scarlet Knights' staring tailback position.
ROSTER REPORT: All-Big East TE Clark Harris suffered a knee injury against Buffalo and is out indefinitely