Preview: Rutgers-Morgan State

Rutgers will be regrouping after a tough 23-21 loss at Navy Sept. 20th. The Scarlet Knights (0-3) return home still looking for their first win of the season when they face Morgan State (2-1) in a regionally televised contest. Let's see how this one breaks down.

TIME/TV

The game is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Eastern time at Rutgers Stadium. SNY will carry the broadcast live as part of the Big East Network package, with Bob Picozzi providing play-by-play and former Rutgers head coach Doug Graber doing color analysis.


SCOUTING MORGAN STATE

Morgan State, located in Baltimore, is the third Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) opponent for Rutgers in as many years. The Bears blew a nine-point halftime lead at in-state rival Towson the opening week but rebounded to defeat their next two opponents by a combined score of 70-14. MSU beat up on North Carolina Central 49-7 on Sept. 13 and topped Winston-Salem State 21-7 last week.

The Bears are playing with plenty of confidence and have outgained the opposition 590-256 the last two weeks. They are tied for second in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) in turnovers gained with 13, but they have also coughed up the ball nine times this year. Penalties have plagued this team the past couple of seasons, and MSU has 22 penalties for 221 yards (compared with RU's 11 for 90)

OFFENSE

It's no coincidence that Rutgers has Morgan State on the schedule one week before it faces Pat White and West Virginia. MSU quarterback Carlton Jackson is an athletic signal caller who can make things happen out of the pocket and who throws left-handed. Sound familiar?

The junior has completed 26 of 47 passes this year for two touchdowns and three interceptions. He averages 109.7 yards per game through three contests. He's not Pat White, but he presents a better look than a Rutgers scout team quarterback could throw at the defense in the leadup to the WVU game.

Jackson's favorite target is Robert Surratt, who has caught 11 balls and one touchdown pass. The speedy receiver nabbed eight passes for 110 yards and a TD versus Towson in the Sept. 6 opener.

Running back Devan James leads the team and is eighth in the FCS with a 129.7 yards per game rushing average. He was limited to 97 yards on 24 carries against Winston-Salem State in last week's victory.

The biggest issue for MSU is being able to hold on to the ball. The Bears have coughed the rock up nine times this season, led by Jackson's three picks and one fumble. They have fumbled seven times and have lost six of those.

DEFENSE

Ball hawking and pressure are the keys to this 4-3 defense. The Bears lead the FCS with nine interceptions (including a school-record six against North Carolina Central), and they have forced 13 total turnovers. MSU limited Winston-Salem State to just 133 total yards last week and forced the Rams to commit five turnovers. Unfortunately for MSU, the Bears matched that with five turnovers of their own.

MSU has registered 10 sacks through three games this year, led by middle linebacker Jarrell Guyton's three. Guyton is atop the MEAC and seventh nationally in sacks. He also leads the team in tackles (24) and his eight tackles for loss are second in the MEAC.

Troy Leftwich is another defensive standout for the Bears, and he is second on the team in tackles behind Guyton with 16. He has recovered a pair of fumbles, and he had a 45-yard interception return for a touchdown against Winston-Salem State as he earned MEAC defensive player of the week honors.

As a team, Morgan State is holding the opposition to just 50 yards rushing and 210.3 total yards per game. Through three games, teams are scoring fewer than 12 points per game on the Bears.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Place-kicker James Meade is having a rough go early in the season. He has missed all three of his field goal attempts, but he has been true on each of his 12 extra point attempts. MSU's kicking and return game has been nothing special this season, and punter Johnathan Skeete averages 31.5 yards per punt.

HEAD TO HEAD

This is the third time Morgan State and Rutgers have met on the gridiron. The schools played two seasons in a row from 1971-72, with Rutgers capturing both contests. The Scarlet Knights followed a 28-7 victory in 1971 with a 37-14 win in 1972.

COMMON OPPONENTS

The teams have no common opponents this year.


TRENDS/NOTES

RU is 0-3 to start the season for the first time since 1999. The Scarlet Knights finished that year 1-11 and showed then-head coach Terry Shea the door. . . . Rutgers has lost four consecutive regular season games dating back to last November and has yielded 132 points against (33 ppg) in that span. . . . . RU has not lost to a member of the FCS since dropping games to Villanova in 2002 and New Hampshire in 2004. The Scarlet Knights are 3-0 versus the FCS since then. . . . Maurice Brooks, father of RU tailback Jourdan Brooks, was a standout linebacker at Morgan State in the 1970s.

Five of Morgan State's first seven games and seven of its 12 overall are on the road this year. The Bears do not host back-to-back games until the final two weekends of the season. . . . . Head coach Donald Hill-Eley (32-38) is in his seventh year at Morgan State. . . . Morgan State is 0-4 versus teams currently in the Big East, losing to Cincinnati in 1982 and Connecticut in 1984 along with its pair of losses to Rutgers in 1971-72. . . . Six Morgan State players hail from New Jersey.


PERSONNEL

Rutgers: DT Pete Tverdov should return to the lineup after being a late scratch versus Navy with an ankle injury. RB Kordell Young is probable for this contest after missing the last three games with a knee injury. DE George Johnson is questionable with an ankle injury that forced him out of the Navy game late in the second quarter.Jabu Lovelace is out due to a leg injury

Morgan State: Morgan State is not reporting any injuries.


WEATHER

The weather should be ugly during the tailgate. The National Weather Service forecasts rain from now until Saturday afternoon, with the Saturday's rainfall expected before 2 p.m.


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