Preview: West Virginia - Rutgers

The 10-1 Scarlet Knights ride into Morgantown looking to lay claim to the 2006 BIG EAST Championship and trying to snap a 11 game losing streak to the Mountaineers.






BlueGoldNews.com Game Scorecard
Series: WVU 27-4-2
Sat 12/2 7:45 pm
Morgantown, W. Va.

Milan Puskar Stadium
Record: 9-2
USA/Coaches: 15th
Last Game
USF L 24-19

Click for Morgantown, West Virginia Forecast
Record: 10-1
USA/Coaches: 13th
Last Game
Syracuse W 38-7
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Press Release
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2006 Schedule
First Meeting: 1916
Last Meeting: 2005
Rosters/Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2006 Schedule

Injuries:

WVU: Steve Slaton (Wrist) Probable, Owen Schmitt (Ankle, Knee) Questionable, Patrick White (Ankle, Toe) Probable, Jay Henry (Wrist) Probable

Rutgers - Marcus Daniels (Groin) Out, Keith Taylor (Shoulder) Out, Leslie Jackman (Knee) Out, Shawn Tucker (Ankle) Probable

Game Outlook:

WVU offense vs. RU defense

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Game Info
WVU 9-2, 4-2
RU 10-1, 5-1
Sat 12/2 7:45 pm
Milan Puskar Stadium
Series: WVU 27-4-2
TV: ESPN
BCS: WVU 15th - RU 13th
Harris: WVU 15th - RU 13th
Line: WVU -8
Rutgers' defensive play has been the main reason for the Scarlet Knights' success in 2006. The unit is ranked third in the country in total defense, allowing only 243.45 yards per game, behind only Virginia Tech and LSU. The defense also ranks fourth in the nation with an eye-popping eight tackles for a loss in each game. Rutgers has also sacked the quarterback more than three times per game, good for sixth nationally.

To stop the WVU offensive attack the Knights will rely on their linebacking corps to run down speedy WVU ball carriers. So far this season the Rutgers linebackers have been up to such tasks. Leading the team with tackles (69) is Quintero Frierson (6-1, 240). Frierson, a senior, has also racked up seven quarterback hurries, 8.5 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks.

Rounding out the linebacking unit will be Brandon Renkart (6-3, 235) and Devraun Thompson (5-11, 220). The duo has combined for 111 tackles, 22.5 tackles for a loss and 7.5 sacks.

The defensive front is led by 2005 defensive MVP Ramel Meekins (6-0, 275). The former walk-on has totaled 54 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss and a team leading six sacks. The senior is also second on the team with eight quarterback hurries.

Joining Meekins at defensive tackle is Eric Foster (6-2, 260). Foster, a junior, has just about mirrored Meekins in productivity with 48 stops, 12.5 tackles for losses and six sacks.

Starting at the end positions will be William Beckford (6-1, 230) and Jamaal Westerman (6-3, 252). The pair has combined for 59 tackles, 16 TFL's and 10 sacks, and do a good job of funnelling ball carriers on wide plays back inside to oursuing linebackers.

Manning the corner positions will be Jason McCourty (5-11, 180) and Derek Roberson (5-10, 175). McCourty and Roberson have accounted for 50 tackles on the season.

By The Numbers :
WVU is ranked third in total offense (465.18 yds/game), second in rushing offense (312.09 yds/game) and 103rd in passing offense (153.09 yds/game)

RU is ranked thirdrd in total defense (243.45 yds/game), 18th in rushing defense (98.82 yds/game) and third in passing defense (144.64 rating).

Advantage: WVU

WVU defense vs. RU offense

The Rutgers offensive attack has been led by one of the best backfields in the country. Ray Rice (5-9, 195) and Brian Leonard (6-2, 235) have teamed to carry Rutgers to new heights nationally. Rice, a sophomore, has gained 1495 yards on 286 carries for an average of 135.9 yards per game, good enough for fourth in the nation. Throw in 17 touchdowns on the season and you have a candidate for many All-American teams.

Being named to those squads is nothing new to Leonard, who was a Heisman Trophy candidate coming into the season. He has been an All-Big East selection each year he has laced up his shoes for the Knights. The senior has been most productive in the passing game, hauling in a team-leading 35 passes for 285 yards. On the ground he is still dangerous, averaging 4.8 yards on 78 carries with four touchdowns. If the Mountaineers hope to top the 13th-ranked Knights, the Blue and Gold defense must slow down this talented tandem.

Joinging Rice and Leonard in the backfield will be starting signal caller Mike Teel (6-4, 220). While not putting up outstanding numbers, the sophomore has managed games well and let his running backs show their skills. On the season Teel is 129-242 (53.3%) for 1589 yards, including nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions. The New Jersey native completed 9-of-15 passes for 105 yards against West Virginia last season.

The second leading pass catch for Knights has been tight end Clark Harris (6-6, 260). Harris is the best tight end in the Big East, and one of the best in the nation. Harris, a preseason member of the Mackey and Rotary/Lombardi Watch Lists, has hauled in 25 passes for 351 yards and two touchdowns to date.

Starting at wide receiver will be Tiquan Underwood (6-2, 175) and Kenny Britt (6-4, 205). The sophomore and freshman, respectively, have 37 receptions to their credit for 531 yards and six touchdowns. That pair could be bolstered by the return of Shawn Tucker from a broken ankle.

The Scarlet Knight offensive line is big and has been consistent all season. Each of the five starters that line up against the Mountaineers on Saturday has started every game this season. The unit has paved the way for Rice and Leonard to average over 168 yards rushing per game and also allowed the second fewest number of sacks in the country.

The starting tackles are Pedro Sosa (6-5, 295) and Jeremy Zuttah (6-4, 290). The New Jersey natives have a combined 66 starts over their careers.

The interior of the line is anchored by starting center Darnell Stapleton (6-3, 285). Stapleton, a junior college transfer, has started every game since he set foot on the Rutgers campus. Joining Stapleton is Mike Fladell (6-8, 322) and Cameron Stephenson (6-5, 305). The duo has a combined 25 starts.

By The Numbers :
WVU is ranked 41st in total defense (312.55 yds/game), seventh in rushing defense (79.91 yds/game) and 99th in passing defense (232.64).

RU is ranked 74th in total offense (323.18 yds/game), 22nd in rushing offense (177.91 yds/game) and 108th in passing offense (145.27 yds/game).

Advantage: Push

WVU special teams vs. RU special teams

The Rutgers special teams have featured a solid kicking game this year. Starting punter Joe Radigan (6-5, 220) has averaged an impressive 44.6 yards per punt with a long of 78 yards. The senior has recorded five touchbacks, 10 fair catches and 19 punts downed inside the 20 yard-line on his 50 attempts.

Handling the place kicking duties for the third straight season will be Jeremy Ito (5-11,

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185). Ito has connected on 15-19 field goals on this season including the game winner against Louisville, although his first attempt, which missed, was negated by a penalty. The junior, who has 252 career points, is 4-5 from beyond 40 yards with a long of 53 yards.

Pulling double duty, returning kicks and punts is Willie Foster (5-10, 175). Foster, the 2005 Big East Special Teams Player of the Year, as well as first-team All-Big East as a kickoff and punt return specialist, has averaged 20.8 yards on 16 kick returns to date, with a long of 40 yards. He has also averaged 9.1 yards per punt return on 14 attempts with a long of 28 yards.

By The Numbers:
WVU is ranked 53rd in net punting (35.26 yds/punt), 19th in kick returns (23.05 yds/return) and 51st in punt returns (9.52 yds/return).

RU is ranked 20th in net punting (37.76 yds/punt), 86th in kick returns (18.88 yds/return) and 48th in punt returns (9.84 yds/return)

Advantage: Push

Picks to Click:

On Offense: Darius Reynaud

On Defense: Reed Williams

Totally Useless Facts:

  • Rutgers has had 137 players play professional football over their history.

  • With the Scarlet Knights finishing with a winning record in 2006, it is the first time since the 1991 (6-5) and 1992 (7-4) seasons that Rutgers has finished back-to-back seasons with a winning record.

  • As noted many times, Rutgers and Princeton played the first collegiate football game in 1869 with Rutgers winning 6-4. Other noted events of 1869 included the Cincinnati Red Stockings opening the baseball season as the first all-professional team, Ulysses S. Grant succeeding Andrew Johnson as President of the United States of America, and the birth of John Heisman, namesake of the Heisman Trophy. Now that's a long way back in history.

Prediction:

This is a tough game to predict, with WVU banged up and coming off its worst performance in two seasons. The matchup favors WVU in that Rutgers is a running team and the Blue and Gold have been successful in stopping the run. But, what if Mike Teel and the Rutgers offense takes to the air? Will Teels' interception tendencies be revealed or will the Mountaineer defense make the sophomore signal caller look like the next Brian Brohm?

Even if the Mountaineer defense steps up and shuts down the Knight attack, can the hobbled offense run the ball against the third-best run defense in the country? If the run is stymied will Patrick White have time to find receivers against a Rutgers front seven that owns 32 sacks and 45 quarterback hurries?

This game is close with the deciding factor being the location and time: under the moon at Mountaineer Field. West Virginia just doesn't lose home games at night.

WVU - 27 RU - 23


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