Rutgers Team Report

Pittsburgh at Rutgers, Sept. 30 -- The only Big East game of the week features two teams with a lot to prove. After collapsing in the second half against Illinois and giving up acres of yardage to Villanova and Buffalo, Rutgers' defense needs to prove it can stop someone. On the other side of the ball, Pittsburgh's sputtering offense is desperate to put together another good game.

Inside Slant
Rutgers opens its Big East season Friday night against a 1-3 Pittsburgh team that's coming off its first victory of the season, a 41-0 win over Youngstown State.

Rutgers (2-1), which is coming off a bye week, should be fresh after recording back-to-back wins over Villanova and Buffalo.

Big questions remain about a Scarlet Knights defense that gave up 33 points to Illinois, 444 yards to Villanova, and 21 first downs and 349 yards to Buffalo, statistically one of the nation's worst offenses.

Rutgers' confidence can't be helped by the fact that Pittsburgh dismantled the Scarlet Knights, 41-17, a year ago.

"We lost some key guys before we played them last year," cornerback Joe Porter said. "It wasn't just a physical thing either. It crept into our minds that we lost three teammates. But I don't want to use that as a crutch. They had a good game."

Rutgers ranks 86th in the nation in total defense and 98th in passing defense. If those numbers sound familiar, there's a reason why. They're only slightly better than last year's 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.

Notes and Quotes
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: No problems here. Quarterback Ryan Hart has completed 60.2 percent of his passes for 719 yards and five touchdowns. Fullback Brian Leonard is averaging six yards per carry and has four touchdowns, while receiver Tres Moses is averaging 15.8 yards per catch.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Despite ranking near the bottom of Division 1-A in a number of important defensive categories, including total defense (86th) and passing defense (98th), Rutgers has been surprisingly good in the red zone. Rutgers yielded an average of 396.5 yards per game in its two wins over Villanova and Rutgers, but surrendered just nine points.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "(Pittsburgh) threw for a 1,000 yards against us last year. It's a feeling I don't want to have again." -- CB Joe Porter on last year's 41-17 loss at Pittsburgh.

Strategy and Personnel
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 an interception, and is averaging 239.6 yards per game. He ranks 33rd in the nation in passing efficiency.

FB Brian Leonard -- Few running backs in the Big East are playing better than the versatile junior, who's 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 just 26 yards at Buffalo.

TE Sam Johnson - The junior, who caught a TD against Buffalo, played well when All-Big East tight end Clark Harris was sidelined with an injury against Buffalo.

RB Raymell Rice -- The true freshman, who's rushed 30 times this season for 130 yards and a touchdown, has taken hold of the Scarlet Knights' starting tailback position.

ROSTER REPORT: LB Brad Cunningham (knee) is questionable for Friday's game against Pittsburgh, while LB William Beckford (ankle) is probable. Backup QB Mike Teel is a doubt after injuring his ankle in practice last week. Defensive lineman Eric Foster (knee) is expected to miss the remainder of the season.

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