Rutgers Opens With 31-0 Win

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Rutgers offense struggled early but the defense was dominating and the specials teams got a score off of a blocked punt. When the humid, hot night ended, Rutgers had a 31-0 season-opening win against Norfolk State on Thursday at Rutgers Stadium.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – The may have been bewilderment in the stands, but there was no panic in Rutgers' locker room at halftime.

That is what Scarlet Knights coach Greg Schiano took out of Thursday's season opener, a 31-0 shutout of physically overmatched Football Championship Subdivision foe Norfolk State in front of 46,311 at Rutgers Stadium.

The Scarlet Knights led only 6-0 at the half as quarterback Tom Savage looked nervous and admitted aiming his passes while the offensive line failed to create running lanes as the Spartans challenged Rutgers to throw the ball by playing nine guys in the box.

"It's a great learning experience for our guys," Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said. "When you learn and you win, that's good, and that's what we did. It wasn't pretty at times."

The defense was dominant, much like three years ago when Rutgers won 59-0. This time Norfolk State managed 156 yards of offense and was held to 25 rushing yards on 24 attempts. It wasn't until the third quarter when the combination of Rutgers' size and the humidity wore Norfolk State down.

"Geez, did we hold them to that few rushing yards?" Rutgers defensive tackle Scott Vallone said. "I didn't think we did that well. That's pretty good."

On a seven-play, 75-yard drive which resulted in Rutgers' first touchdown on the season when Joe Martinek scored from six yards out, a Norfolk State player was down on seemingly every play with leg cramps.

The Rutgers offense held the ball for 37 minutes, 41 seconds, and Norfolk State was 0 for 12 on third-down conversion attempts.

"There was no panic (at halftime)," Schiano said. "We're not going to do that. Just because the result isn't going the way that you want it to go, if you don't believe in your process then you've got to change your process, but you can't panic.

"If we weren't playing with emotion or we weren't playing hard we were playing hard. We may have been playing too hard some places where we were making mistakes, dropping the ball because we were running with it."

Midway through the third quarter Brandon Bing blocked Troy Muenzer punt and Joe Lefeged scooped up dove into the end zone from three yards out to give Rutgers a 21-0 lead and finally create an atmosphere of ease for the Scarlet Knights.

Rutgers finished with 268 yards rushing, led by Martinek's 109 on 20 carries, but the majority came after the half.

Freshman running back Jordan Thomas saw extensive playing time and finished with 47 yards on13 carries and caught two passes for 19 yards.

Savage finished 10 of 19 for 148 yards and a touchdown. He was sacked three times and also threw behind receivers on several occasions.

"I think Tom was racing a little bit," Schiano said. "I've talked to him a lot. You don't have to be anything but you. Sometimes you get a lot of notoriety and who knows, maybe you start, oh, do I got to do this.

"I think this game will help him a ton. He'll put that tape on and watch it, say what the heck am I doing."

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