Getting Back Into Game Shape

Practice moved outside for Rutgers (7-5) on Friday, as the Scarlet Knights practiced under the lights of Rutgers Stadium. The team is continuing to prepare for Ball State (7-5) in the International Bowl, which is held at the Rogers Center in Toronto, Canada.

RU will continue to practice "On the Banks" through Dec. 31 and then travel to Toronto on New Year's Day.
The past two practices have been extra tough as the players work their way back into playing shape after enjoying a few days off for Christmas.
"These two days have been good for us," RU running back Ray Rice said. "They have been long, but they have been good for us."


On Thursday, RU Head Coach Greg Schiano turned up the heat inside the practice bubble to help get the team in shape quickly. Keeping in playing shape is crucial during the layoff period between the end of the regular season at the end of November and playing in a bowl game after the New Year.
"It is just getting in game shape," Rice said. "We haven't played in so long, being in game shape is really key to us."


Ball St. ranks second in the nation in turnover margin and the RU players are very aware of the challenges they face. The Cardinals have created 27 turnovers this season and play fundamentally sound football.
Three players for Ball St. have at least four interceptions, including sophomore safety Alex Knipp (4), as well as junior cornerback's B.J. Hill (5) and Trey Lewis (4).
"Statistically they get a lot of turnovers," Rutgers cornerback Devin McCourty said. "We just have to focus going against their offense and let our offense worry about protecting the ball."


Since the Cardinals allow more yards on the ground than they gain, Rice will likely play a big role if the Scarlet Knights come out with a victory.


Ball St. Head Coach Brady Hoke said during his weekly press conference on Dec. 20 that he knows whom his team needs to stop in order to win the game.
"Ray Rice, Ray Rice and Ray Rice," Hoke said. "He will carry the ball. Its power football, it is physical. They will carry the ball about 35 times. They play very physical. Athletically they are very comparable to Illinois. They are good at what they do. "


Rice is not worrying about the amount of carries he is going to have in the International Bowl. He is being very patient and is more worried about letting the game come to him.
"Whenever my number is called I just take it and run with it," Rice said. "I think as an offense we just need to continue to maintain our balance. Being able to run the ball helps the pass and being able to pass helps the run."


Meanwhile, the Rutgers defense is worried about containing the weapons of Ball St. Wide receiver Dante Love leads the Cardinals with 1229 yards along with nine touchdowns. On the other side, Darius Hill has 837 receiving yards and nine touchdowns as well.


McCourty understands he will have a huge responsibility in order to cover one of these two playmakers at different points of the game.
"When I first heard about the team (Ball St.), I heard about #86 (Love)," McCourty said. "He had 1200 yards, but when I turned on the film, they just have a lot of really good athletes running around and making plays."
However, McCourty is looking forward to getting through practice this week and get up to Canada for the game.
"It seems like a lot of exciting things because I have never been up there (Toronto)," McCourty said. "We are just excited to be out there and playing in the game."


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