Preview: Norfolk State vs. Rutgers

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Rutgers' 2010 season gets underway as Norfolk State visits Rutgers Stadium onThursday at 7:30 p.m.'s new game preview style is designed to be reader-friendly while offering the nuts and bolts of whatt you need to know to get ready for kickoff. Storylines, key matchups, scouting reports, keys to the game and more are included in our new format.

Norfolk State vs. Rutgers

Time: 7:30 p.m., Rutgers Stadium
TV/, 1450-AM
Series: Rutgers leads, 1-0
Last meeting: Sept. 15, 2007: Rutgers 50, Norfolk State 0
Coaches: Rutgers – Greg Schiano (10th season, 51-51); Norfolk State – Pete Adrian (13th overall, 64-65-1, 6th at NSU 28-28)

The Scarlet Knights are the big favorite in the season opener for both schools and coach Greg Schiano can move over the .500 mark for the first time since winning the first game of his Rutgers career.
The big unknown for Rutgers is whether it can deliver an early knockout blow to the Football Championship Subdivision Spartans and allow its younger players to get game experience while Norfolk State is looking to hang tough after losing its previous two games to Football Bowl Subdivision schools by a combined 97-3 score.

Scouting Rutgers
Sophomore quarterback Tom Savage had an offseason to learn the offense, understand how to read defenses and build his leadership skills. He shouldn't get a big test, but he should be able to show he is a much better quarterback than last season.
The offensive line will take time to gel since there are three new starters and none of the five have experience starting at their current positions.
Joe Martinek
Do-everything receiver Mohamed Sanu runs the wildcat and is also Rutgers' only proven pass catching threat. Joe Martinek was a few dozen yards shy of 1,000 rushing yards last season, and will be backed up by freshman Jordan Thomas while freshman receiver Jeremy Deering gets to show his athleticism and speed.
Defensively, the Scarlet Knights are formidable on the defensive line with Scott Vallone and Charlie Noonan inside, and middle linebacker Steve Beauharnais covers a lot of ground.
Cornerback Brandon Bing returns to the starting lineup after being replaced early in 2009, and free safety Khaseem Greene makes his first career start.

Scouting Norfolk State
The Spartans move way out of their league by heading north for a big day to take a physical pounding. Running back DeAngelo Branche is fifth all-time in schools history with 2,348 yards, and will run behind an experienced offensive line. Right tackle Ryan Hathaway is the only new starter in the group.
There is not a quarterback on the roster who threw a pass for the Spartans last season. They will go to junior college transfer Chris Walley.
Thirteen members of the Spartans played when the Scarlet Knights won three years ago.

Matchup to Watch
Nothing really catches the eye since this should be a breeze for Rutgers, but it is worth keeping an eye on Vallone, the red-shirt sophomore defensive tackle.
Scott Vallone
Norfolk State has an experienced offensive line, with four starters returning from last year's 7-4 squad, but Vallone should be too good for the Spartans to deal with up front. He can be disruptive, and often defensive tackles are overlooked.
Since there aren't any really intriguing matchups to look for considering the disparity in the level of competition, watching Vallone for a bit could give insight into how good he can be for future games.

What Rutgers Must Do Offensively
Actually, the Scarlet Knights should be able to do anything they want, but if they have trouble running the ball against Norfolk State, it could mean a long season to come when it comes to offensive production.
Not only does Rutgers have a big size advantage, but Norfolk State has six players with six career starts or less on defense. Forget that the Spartans start five seniors, five red-shirt juniors and one junior because there is still loads of inexperience on that side of the ball.

What Rutgers Must Do Defensively
People may think a shutout is in order, but that is too hard to control because one freak play can change that quickly. But Rutgers' defense must get off the field on third down and set a tone by playing fast and physical.
Spartans quarterback Chris Walley is a transfer from Joliet (Ill.) junior college and is making his first start. Even if Rutgers saves a lot of its defensive schemes for future opponents, there is no reason the front four shouldn't spend a lot of time in the backfield and rattle Walley.

Three keys for a Rutgers win
1. Show up. Seems easy enough and it should be. The days of losing to FCS (formerly DivisionI-AA) schools should be over, and there is no reason to think this is any different since Schiano's teams are well beyond having trouble in such games.

Coach Schiano
2. Be diligent and technically sound on offense. It means finishing blocks, not committing penalties and enforcing the will on Norfolk State early to break the Spartans.

3. Don't let Norfolk State's offense breathe. The defense is supposed to carry Rutgers, especially early in the season, so no sustained drives for the Spartans means the Scarlet Knights' offense will face a tiring Norfolk State defense.

Three keys for a Norfolk State win
1. Hope, pray and hope some more Rutgers spent the last four weeks not paying attention at practice and thinking the season begins Sept. 11 at Florida International.

2. Turn Rutgers over time and again. Even if the Scarlet Knights' offense sputters, the defense should be so good it doesn't matter.

3. Create special teams and defensive touchdowns. Scoring with a long field will be nearly impossible, but if Norfolk State can get a few non-offensive touchdowns, perhaps it can rattle Rutgers.

Rutgers 47, Norfolk State 0

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