Rutgers Prepares For Finally 4 Games

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Two-thirds of the season concluded with a crucial win at Pittsburgh. With the last third set to begin this Saturday here, the Scarlet Knights worked on areas of improvement during their open date.

"I thought we did a good job in the special teams area, just cleaning up some things," Rutgers football head coach Greg Schiano said during his weekly press conference. "You get to spend a little more time with fundamental work ... so that was good.

"I think when you have a bye week, you have to make sure they do have a little less stress on them as players, where they're not grinding to perfect a gameplan and they're getting a little more rest."

Schiano gave his players the weekend off, before they returned for practice Sunday night.

"We encourage them to get a little more rest," he said. "I think that's as important as anything during a bye week that you get revitalized. We have a stretch coming up that's real tough. It starts Saturday and our guys are going to be under the gun so we wanted them to have an opportunity to get rejuvenated, and hopefully they did."

Although players departed from the Hale Center Thursday night, Schiano's staff remained active with recruiting.

"It was busy," Schiano said of recruiting. "Yeah, we had a lot of people all over the place. Guys worked awfully hard. It's one of those deals where I feel for the coaches and their families because it's supposed to be a bye week, but it was a critical recruiting period for us.

"We had planned all along to use this window to a large degree for recruiting parts of Thursday, Friday and Saturday and we did. So that was good."

In the meantime, former Rutgers tailback Ray Rice registered 154 rushing yards for the Baltimore Ravens this past Sunday. Schiano noted Rice's impressive performance and the Ravens 37-27 win.

"I did not catch it but I heard all about it," Schiano said of Rice's day. "I'm really happy for him and for the team."

On the injury front, Andrew DePaola will resume his duties as holder against Syracuse.

"He's getting better," Schiano said. "He was out (Sunday) night and did some things. I don't expect him to be 100 percent running, but he'll be able to hold at least. Then we'll see as the week progresses if he'll be able to run and play wide receiver."

The Orange (1-3, 2-6 Big East), meanwhile, enter Piscataway on a high after they tackled Louisville 28-21 to earn their first conference win of the season.

Schiano said he would not take them lightly.

"They have some really fine players on defense and their defensive front is very, very good," Schiano said of the ‘Cuse.

More specifically, Schiano admired running back Curtis Brankley, who has rushed for 100-yards plus in five straight games.

"There's not any indecision and he's made people miss," Schiano said. "He's playing at a high level, which is evidenced by the consistency."

Rutgers (2-2, 3-5 Big East) also has maintained some consistency recently, having won two straight prior to the scheduled bye.

A win over Syracuse extends an improbable run towards a fourth straight Bowl. With one-third of the season left on tap, everything that was once unlikely early on is now within reach.

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