Exhale, Mustang fans. As brutal as the first four games of the season have been, the hard part of the schedule is over. SMU will not play another opponent as tough as Texas Tech, Texas A&M, or TCU again this season. Now SMU enters into their weak conference schedule with a 1-3 record, but SMU should have slightly more hope this week against Rutgers this Saturday. Rutgers will be without running back Paul James, who was leading the FBS in rushing yards before he injured his leg against Arkansas. Despite Rutgers coming off a bye week, this injury will be hard for the Scarlet Knights to overcome. Here are five players you should now from Rutgers for Saturday's game.
1. QB Gary Nova- Nova returned from a concussion suffered against Eastern Michigan to throw two touchdown passes against Arkansas to rally past the Razorbacks for 28-24 victory. Nova has completed 58.7 percent of his passes for 888 yards and nine touchdowns and just three interceptions. He is efficient and smart, but if the Mustangs can capitalize on one of his occasional mistakes -and I know, that's a pretty big if- they will be able to turn the game in their favor.
2. DE Marcus Thompson- The Scarlet Knights held Arkansas' vaunted running back combo of Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams in check two weeks ago, and Thompson was a big part of it. Thompson has 22 tackles on the season, 4.5 of which were for a loss. While he does a good job of not letting runners outside of him, his real skill is in getting after the quarterback. He has 3.5 sacks this season and an additional two quarterback hurries.
3. WR Leonte Carroo- With Paul out, Carroo is Rutgers' biggest weapon on offense. On a team loaded with talented wide receivers, the sophomore is having a breakout season and is the Scarlet Knights' leading receiver with 11 receptions for 237 yards and five touchdowns without starting any of the four games. Listed at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, Carroo should be a handful for the SMU defense all game.
4. OL Kaleb Johnson- Johnson is a stand-in for the entire Rutgers offensive line this week. Much like the SMU offensive front this season, Johnson and his linemates have had problems defending their quarterback this season. Rutgers quarterbacks have been sacked 11 times this season for a loss of 82 yards. If SMU can beat their pass protection this week and get to Nova repeatedly, they will have a chance to pull out the win. Johnson and the offensive line will also need to continue to block the run well as Rutgers tries to move the ball on the ground without James.
5. LB Steve Longa- The redshirt-freshman Longa has been an animal for Rutgers this season. He leads the team with 36 tackles and also has two sacks to go with a quarterback hurry. He also has a knack for knocking the ball free, with two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Expect to see Longa involved in every play Saturday and to have a major impact on the success of the SMU offens.
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