Game Preview: Texas Southern

Rutgers needed an opponent after Navy backed out, and Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA) Texas Southern was available. The game will not count toward bowl eligibility since the Scarlet Knights beat FCS Howard last month, but there are things to look for in the matchup. Find out here some of the more subtle things to watch for as the Scarlet Knights look to win their fourth straight.

It is about quarterback Tom Savage getting experience, getting hit once to make sure all the cobwebs from the concussion three weeks ago are gone, and about a receiver not named Tim Brown of Mohamed Sanu catching a ball or two.

It is about defensive end George Johnson staying in game shape, but making sure no more damage is done to his sore ankle.

It is about the young guys, particularly someone like freshman running back De'Antwan Williams.

Rutgers is paying Texas Southern $400,000 to be its homecoming victim because Navy backed out of a game late, and the Scarlet Knights needed somebody for a home game, and the Tigers were available.

So the seven-touchdown favorite Scarlet Knights should roll to an easy win in which the starters spend the second half on the sidelines thinking about next Friday's Big East showdown with Pittsburgh.

The most important thing Saturday is for no one to get injured, which is why it is a risky proposition to play Johnson, who suffered a sprained ankle two weeks ago at Maryland and was still feeling the affect of it during practice.

And since Rutgers already beat FCS opponent Howard last month, the game does not count toward the bowl eligibility since only one FCS win can count a season.

Why should it be an easy win?

Hey, I could get into it, but even with the endless space of the internet, I'm afraid I could run out of room.

The Football Championship Subdivision (Division I-AA) Tigers are in rebuilding mode, with second-year coach Johnnie Cole bringing in more than 15 transfers, many of whom had trouble at Division I-A schools, since his arrival to the Houston school.

Not only are the Tigers 1-3, but have been absolutely man-handled by a few schools. There's the 58-0 loss to Louisiana-Monroe and the 52-18 mauling at Texas State two weeks ago.

The lone win is a 75-6 thrashing of Texas College, an NAIA school with an enrollment of 755.

Oh, and the player Cole said the offense revolves around, receiver Brian Haith, is questionable with a lower leg injury.

TSU offense vs. RU defense

Coles calls his multiple-set offense the HOBO, a High-Octane Big-play Offense.

Cute moniker, but not much else at this point for a unit that starts two seniors, four sophomores and a freshman.

The Tigers operate mostly with two running backs, but don't mind spreading teams out at times. With a bye week, don't be surprised if Texas Southern put in a few wrinkles in an effort to confuse the Scarlet Knights defense early.

Arvell Nelson, a 6-foot-5 junior quarterback, is the one who controls the offense. He is completing 60.5 percent of his passes (75 for 124), but much of that is on short patterns and quick reads.

Cole said it didn't take long for him to figure out the best option was to get the ball in the hands of his best player, Haith, but that may not be possible. Even if Haith (22 catches) plays on a gimpy leg, his effectiveness could be cut down because of an inability to make sharp cuts.

Joe Anderson has 17 receptions and second-leading rusher Joseph Warren (22 carries, 49 yards) is a dual-threat with 15 catches. The leading rusher is Martin Gilbert, who has 21 rushes for 74 yards.

The Tigers have not moved the ball offensively, and it could get ugly early since the Scarlet Knights defense seems to be more adept at scoring than its offense these days. Linebacker Ryan D'Imperio had an interception return for a score against Florida International, and linebacker Antonio Lowery and Johnson, the defensive end, each scored against Maryland.

However, given Rutgers' vast superiority in size, strength, quickness and flat-out talent, it won't be until the second unit is playing that Texas Southern should even be able to think about sustaining a drive.

The best thing for Rutgers' defense is to get players like freshmen linebacker Steve Beauharnais, red-shirt freshman safety Khaseem Greene, sophomore linebacker Manny Abreu, cornerback Billy Anderson and the rest of the backups tons of game experience in case they are needed to fill a bigger role due to injury later in the season.

One disappointment was Schiano's statement during the week of practice that freshmen defensive backs Darrell Givens, Logan Ryan and Abdul Smith weren't going to play unless an injury occurred. It is a great thing for building depth within a program, but a bummer from the standpoint games like this are more about evaluating younger talent than for the starters to put up gaudy numbers.

RU offense vs. TSU defense

When will red-shirt freshman quarterback Steve Shimko enter the game? Yes, that is an underlying question that speaks of the mismatch of this game.

However, before Shimko can take a snap, Savage must prove he is sharp. The true freshman had a tough game against Florida International, missing receivers and holding the ball too long before he was knocked out with a concussion.

He hasn't played in three weeks, and needs to take a hit or two to get rid of the rust and mentally ensure he is ready for next week's game against Pittsburgh, which will be markedly more physical.

The Tigers run a basic 4-3 defense (4 linemen, 3 linebackers), but Rutgers guard Art Forst said they will jump to a 3-4 every now and again and blitz from a lot of different spots.

Again, since Texas Southern had the week off, it makes sense a few new blitz packages could be added to try and confuse Savage in the early going. Yes, it's Texas Southern, but Savage has all of eight quarters of college football experience, so it will be interesting to see how he handles it, if something new is thrown at him.

The goal should be to get Savage some quality work, keep him upright and let him restore his confidence after a shaky last outing. The offense also needs a confidence boost since it struggled to put the ball in the end zone the better part of the last two games.

Remember, the only offensive touchdown against Florida International came when Rutgers unveiled a goal line option play with backup quarterback Dom Natale in the game, and despite incredible field position through the Maryland win, the offense didn't score a touchdown until Joe Martinek's 29-yard run with 4:53 to play.

A central focus of Rutgers' bye week was improvement from the offensive line and finding a third receiver, which failed to gain much clarity in the two weeks since the Scarlet Knights last played.

But once the offense gets its confidence -- the game is a failure if that does not happen -- get Savage, running backs Joe Martinek and Jourdan Brooks and receivers Brown and Sanu out of the game and see what Williams, the speedy freshman from Virginia, can do.

It should also be a nice time to get the second unit on the offensive line some work in case injuries creep in during the second half of the season.

Prediction: Rutgers 52, Texas Southern 6

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