What Rutgers Needs to Do to Beat Ohio State

“The Birthplace” will be rocking for the first prime time game in Rutgers history Saturday night. The fans can really bring it and affect the game, as evidenced by the spirited effort by Rutgers against Michigan State fueled by the raucous crowd. Here’s what RU needs to do to send those fans home happy.


Rutgers first has to establish the run game. The talented trio of Robert Martin, Josh Hicks, and Paul James is the bread and butter of their offense. Most of Rutgers’ big pass plays are play action looks set up by the defense cheating in on the run. It will be a tall task to pave rushing lanes against Ohio State’s powerful front line, led by potential top-5 pick Joey Bosa, but it simply must be done for Rutgers to have a chance. Every football team in the world knows that establishing the run is the first priority, but this thing will get ugly real quick if Rutgers is forced into becoming one dimensional.

The best defense is a good offense, especially against the stream rolling machine that is the Buckeyes’ offense. Ohio State has looked out of sync at times, as they did during the Indiana game, but make no mistake about the talent level on the offensive side of the ball for Ohio State. It’s perhaps the best in the country. Rutgers has to sustain offense drives to keep JT Barrett and Ezekiel Elliot off the field. Quarterback Chris Laviano has struggled mightily on first and second down, and the majority of the Rutgers downfield passing game consists of play action bombs to Carroo. The offense needs to carve up 10 to 15 yard chunks to keep chipping away while chewing the clock. One quick score a quarter won’t work here. Ohio State will massacre Rutgers if they are unable to sustain drives.

It’s the same old mantra, but forcing turnovers is more important than ever in a big home game like this. Once in rhythm, Ohio State’s offensive juggernaut knows no bounds. The key to competing with them is to interrupt that rhythm and force miscommunications and incompletions. The way to get them to punt is to get the offense discombobulated. A passionate home crowd should help to fire up the defense to play with heart.

When it comes down to it, they’ve just got to believe. College football can hang its hat on having some of the greatest upsets ever seen in the sports world. Crazier things have happened-look at the 2013 Iron Bowl, or last week’s Michigan-Michigan State game. There’s no better environment than Rutgers’ first home game against Ohio State, while ranked No. 1, for this to happen. Shock the world and go Rutgers!




No. 17 Iowa has got their Hawkeye on the College Football Playoff

That statement would have seemed not only unrealistically optimistic but downright delirious to anyone outside of Iowa City in August. As of October 17th it would be a shock if Iowa didn’t run the table with their remaining opponents. For reference: Maryland, Indiana, Minnesota, Purdue, and Nebraska.

Iowa’s wins over Wisconsin and Northwestern were far tougher opponents than that. The statement Iowa made today in demolishing Northwestern  sent reverberations around the college football world. That’s Iowa’s second win over a ranked team and the first in such demonstrative fashion. This is college football though, and crazier things have happened. Ole Miss beat Alabama and then went out and got scraped by Group of Five opponent Memphis. Minnesota stands out as a potential trap game. The weakness of Iowa’s schedule may work against them also. If they don’t win big over teams like Maryland and Purdue, the committee may decide to leave them out over strength of schedule concerns. If Iowa takes care of business, they are likely headed to the B1G championship game as a heavy underdog. Remember, Ohio State’s statement victory over Wisconsin, a 59-0 blowout, is what enabled them to leapFROG (ha ha) over TCU into the playoff. Michigan’s loss to Michigan State today is huge for Iowa. Every team in the considerably stronger east has major flaws and the preseason contenders have all stumbled in their pursuit of a B1G championship. OSU and MSU have survived narrow losses. Michigan came out of nowhere to dominate for a month but already has two losses. Penn State lost to Temple. In the coming weeks, the unbeatens will start to fall. Iowa has a lesser margin for error because a loss to doormat Purdue is going to look a lot uglier than a TCU loss to Baylor, or an Ohio State loss to Michigan. The Hawkeyes are in a great position moving forward, thanks to the play of their typically excellent O-Line. That has enabled every running back they’ve trotted out there to explode. This is the time to kick it into high gear. Go Hawks!


What if…?-How Rutgers Can Beat Michigan State

It’s pregame warm ups, and QB’s Chris Laviano and Hayden Rettig are warming up on the field at High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey. The two signal callers stretch out, trying to get loose during the crisp New Jersey afternoon. Laviano is tense-this will be the biggest game of his college career to date. To knock off an undefeated College Football Playoff contender would do wonders for the oldest football program in the world.

Laviano and Rettig each get warm by tossing a few routes to receivers Leonte Carroo, Andre Patton, and tight end Matt Flanagan. Laviano notes to Rettig how good it is to have Carroo reinstated, the best receiver in the B1G. Rettig grins and nods in agreement-“As long as he keeps himself out of trouble. Got to make sure nothing like that happens again. He should be alright.” Rettig then proceeds to launch a 60 yard rocket to Andre Patton, who took over for Carroo as the number one receiver during Carroo’s absence. Laviano whistles, “I see you!” Rettig chuckles. Eventually, they head back into the locker room to get suited up.

The team starts to get some energy going as game time approaches. Rutgers is wearing the black alternate jerseys that they currently have a three game win streak in. “I always loved these,” star tailback Paul James remarks to fellow running back Josh Hicks. Hicks nods but doesn’t say anything. He’s getting in the zone in preparation for the game. James lets out a long sigh, then mentally prepares himself for what he hopes will go down as a legendary day in Rutgers football history. James has had a rough go of it-the senior captain suffered a broken fibula in 2013 and tore his ACL last year. When healthy, the bruising back has proven himself to be one of the top halfbacks in college football, so much so that he was named to the Doak Walker Award Watch List prior to the 2015 season.

Ankles and wrists are taped. Cleats are laced up, braces are adjusted, and pads are tightened. Eventually, the thumping music is turned off. Defensive standouts Anthony Cioffi and Steve Longa take center stage. They demand everybody’s best effort and remind them of the ramifications of this game. Remember, they say, being the underdog is a lot of fun. There’s nothing to lose. Just play free.

The locker room erupts as the hooting and hollering of 50 some odd college football players grows deafening. The Scarlet Knights are ready to defend their home turf and fight for their much beloved but embattled coach, Kyle Flood, who many expected to be fired but managed to retain the support of many Rutgers players, fans, and boosters.

The High Point Solutions crowd roars as Rutgers takes the field. The stadium is rocking-music’s blasting, everybody’s excited, and the anticipation is almost palpable.

Michigan State sneers at the Rutgers players warming up, feeling arrogant about their place as a top 5 team in the country and a member of the old guard of the Big 10 conference. The Spartans assume this game is a given. Never mind the fact that they came inches away from losing to Purdue, whose lone victory came against FCS member Indiana State. Purdue then proceeded to get boat raced by Virginia Tech and throw up uninspiring performances against Marshall and Bowling Green, before coming out of nowhere to push Michigan State to the brink of a devastating loss. The Spartans are certain that this game is a warm up jumper to get them ready for the big dogs of the B1G.

Rutgers loses the coin toss and MSU elects to receive. Federico kicks it out of the end zone, and the MSU offense starts on the 20 yard line. MSU gets the party started with a simple dive play that nets them seven yards. Michigan State picks up a couple more first downs running the ball and with short completions, before Head Coach Mark Dantonio dials up a little play action look and star quarterback Connor Cook hits receiver Aaron Burbridge on a 20 yard completion over the middle to put them into Rutgers territory. Rutgers safety Anthony Cioffi makes a nice tackle on the play. Cook continues to make good throws, demonstrating why he’s a likely first round pick in next year’s NFL draft, pushing MSU to the Rutgers 15. A quick rollout pass to tight end Josiah Price puts the Spartans up 7-0.

Interim Coach Norries Wilson urges his team not to panic. No one hangs their head on the Rutgers sideline. Janarion Grant returns the kick to the 32 yard line, and Laviano and the offense take the field. James takes the ball to the edge before lowering his shoulder on an MSU cornerback and picks up 12 yards to start off the drive, eliciting cheers from the black-clad crowd. Laviano hits tight end Flanagan for a 6 yard pickup, and so on and so forth. Around midfield, Wilson calls a pass play that doesn’t quite materialize and Laviano is forced to scramble. As he sprints away from the pressure, MSU defensive end Shilique Calhoun dives and manages to trip up Laviano by the ankle. Laviano manages to throw it out of bounds and avoid the sack but comes up gimpy. On the next play, Josh Hicks hits it up the middle for an explosive 22 yard gain. After a pair of unsuccessful runs, Wilson calls another pass play on 3rd and 8. Laviano takes the snap from under center and drops back. He sees Andre Patton open on the curl route for a first down, but when he plants to make the throw, his ankle falters and the ball sails high. A frustrated Laviano grimaces as he returns to the sideline. Interim Coach Norris Wilson immediately recognizes that he isn’t right and instructs Rettig to get warm, despite Laviano’s dogmatic stance to the contrary, claiming he feels fine. Federico comes through with a nice 38 yard field goal.

MSU 7, Rutgers 3.

Sparty drives the offense back into the red zone, but a clutch sideline tackle by linebacker Steve Longa stalls the drive on a 3rd and 4. The Rutgers crowd loses their heads, as Michigan State is forced to kick a field goal. The first quarter ends shortly thereafter.

Rettig’s first drive is unsuccessful, as Rutgers hands the ball off three times and is forced to punt on a 4th and 3. MSU marches down the field and kicks another field goal, yet Dantonio seems annoyed his vaunted offense can’t seem to finish drives.

On Rutgers’ next drive, Justin Goodwin picks up 6 yards on first down. Wilson next calls for a deep shot to Carroo off a play action fake. Rettig executes the fake smoothly, but perhaps nerves get to him as he steps up in the pocket and absolutely launches the football equivalent of a Stinger missile into orbit. It’s over the heads of any Spartan defenders, but unfortunately it is also way out of range for Carroo. Carroo returns to the huddle shaking his head good-naturedly. “I’m fast man, but not that fast.” The Michigan State defenders give each other wary looks. Get deep. This dude can sling it. This Rutgers drive stalls out as well, but they get the ball back after Michigan State has a drop and a miscommunication on their next drive, punting the ball right back.

With 2:13 left on the clock, Rutgers goes into a hurry-up offense and Rettig finds his rhythm at the best possible time. Flanagan over the middle. Patton on a back shoulder fade. A surprise run up the gut out of the shotgun for Robert Martin. Too high for Carlton Agudosi in the slot, sails just over the hands of a MSU safety, who knocks Agudosi into next week. Agudosi pops up, giving the thumbs up as it was a clean hit to the midsection. Then it’s Rettig with the seven step drop, pump fake, deep ball to Carroo over the middle…TOUCHDOWN RUTGERS! Carroo jumps over the MSU defender, effectively “Mossing” him as the team goes bezerk.

HALFTIME: MSU 13, Rutgers 10.

Michigan State is frustrated that they aren’t playing up to the billing of many national pundits around the country. Rutgers is excited to be in this thing, but that’s not enough. They want to finish this thing off and win it. Purdue and Indiana are brought up, mentioned in the context of not quite completing the upset the week prior. Rutgers captains remind everyone to fight for injured star DT Darius Hamilton, Coach Flood, and QB Chris Laviano, who seems doubtful to return after he was seen on the sideline with a bag of ice on his swollen purple ankle. RU comes out of the tunnel juiced.

Michigan State kicks off to start the second half. Janarion Grant fields it at the two yard line and hits the whole behind the wedge. He spins out of one tackle and races toward the sideline. A roar builds in the crowd as Scarlet Knights fans realize what is happening. Grant sprints past a couple of diving defenders at the 40 and 45, and he’s off to the races with only the kicker to beat. Grant easily sidesteps the kicker and he’s home free. A disgusted Dantonio tosses his headset, as High Point Solutions erupts in jubilation. We could actually do this thing. 

MSU QB Connor Cook is clearly frustrated with the conclusion the last few offensive drives and the performance of his defense, and he proves his mettle by surgically dissecting the Rutgers defense on the ensuing drive, ending with a 42 yard touchdown pass down the seam after Cook had all day in the pocket.

Rutgers chews up clock on their next drive and pushes the pigskin down to Sparty’s 32 yard line. After a personal foul-chop block-on a second down run by James, the Scarlet Knights are pushed back 15 yards. They run a stretch play to the left on the next play with Hicks, but MSU strings it out and Hicks is able salvage just a yard by diving forward at the last second. Rutgers is forced to attempt a coffin corner punt. Rutgers gets a nice punt, but the coverage team leaves something to be desired as two defenders are juked out of their cleats and a third attempts a flimsy arm tackle. The Michigan State returner is run out of bounds at the 25 yard line.

MSU drives up the field, chipping away at the Rutgers defense and carving out chunks of yardage. The clock stops to measure a third down run by Madre London. The officials bring out the sticks, measure, and declare a first down. The third quarter ends.

MSU 20, Rutgers 17

The continuing drive is a back breaker for Rutgers. Cook looks like he has time to ponder humanity’s deepest questions as he dissects the Rutgers secondary. Longa manages to put pressure on him just once, but Cook completes a 17 yard gain over the middle anyways. A tired Rutgers defense finally capitulates-the MSU O-line opens up a gap larger than the one in between Michael Strahan’s teeth and LJ Scott bursts through to the second level and coasts to paydirt. A collective groan revertabrates throughout High Point Solutions.

MSU 27, Rutgers 17

11:34 left in the 4th quarter.

Rutgers and MSU trade punts, though Rettig threads the needle on a nice ball to Andre Patton on the sidline, and throws a pretty ball to Carroo that MSU corner Demetrious Cox makes a superhuman effort on and manages to bat away at the last second.

Rutgers feels a pit of despair growing as time dwindles away. Conversely. MSU gains confidence as their defense continues to force three and outs. James slams his helmet and lets loose an expletive after yet another Rutgers drive stalls. With 6:45 left in the game, Rettig decides to take matters into his own hands. Starting the drive on their own 15, Rettig leads Rutgers down the field almost exclusively through the air and punctuates the drive with a bullet over the middle to Carroo. The glory is short lived, however Michigan State goes right back to work and scores yet another touchdown, this one coming through the air from Cook to Burbridge.

MSU 34, Rutgers 24.

Rutgers needs Janarion Grant to make something happen on the ensuing kickoff, and he delivers, bring the ball all the way back to midfield. The offense pushes the ball up to the 34 yard line, but to do anything but kick a field goal on 4th and 6 makes no sense.

MSU 34, Rutgers 27.

The Spartans take over with 2:32 remaining in the game. They whittle it down to 1:23 before being stuffed on a second down and 7. MSU decides to go through the air, but the downfield coverage is solid. Cook scans the field, keeping his feet active. Meanwhile, outside linebacker Quentin Gause manages to slip around the offensive tackle, despite nearly losing his footing. As Cook reaches back to finally pull the trigger, Gause reaches out and swats the ball out of his hand, backwards. Pandemonium ensues as both teams desperately dive for the ball. After the dust clears…Rutgers ball!

Replay confirms this, but Rutgers nearly blows it as Carroo catches a 5 yard hitch and tries to do much with it, attempting an awkward and ill-advised hurdle that gets him demolished. The ball pops out, to the horror of Rutgers fans across the nation, but it tumbles out of bounds moments before a Spartan defender could scoop it up. Norries Wilson squats down and lets out a long, slow, sigh. Rettig grabs his helmet and adopts a wide-eyed look of exasperation. Carroo gets up and violently shakes his head, evidently disgusted.

At that precise moment, a calm settles over the Rutgers football team. Suddenly, the moment seems no bigger than a practice in helmets only during a spring ball session in May. Rettig finds tight end Nick Arcidiacono over the middle for a 23 yard gain, no big deal. Carroo goes up between two Spartan defenders and snags it, routine. Suddenly, they are on the 12 yard line with just 15 seconds to go. Rettig takes the snap in the shotgun, doesn’t like what he sees, and fires it out of bounds. Live to fight another down. Hicks runs it to the sideline and desperately launches himself out of bounds to stop the clock. On the 7 with just 4 to go.

The biggest moment of anyone on that Rutgers football team’s life. Interim Head Coach Norries Wilson draws up a gutsy play.

James in the backfield with trips set of receivers to the right. A fullback in the backfield. Rettig snaps the ball from under center, pitches it to James. He’s nearly caught in the backfield as he nimbly avoids a blitzing linebacker. The pulling guards carve out green grass in front of Paul James. He hits it behind them, making it to the three yard line untouched. There is rudely welcomed by a MSU linebacker and safety, as he is crunched between them. Still, his momentum carries his forward down the goal line…TOUCHDOWN!

Wilson is going for two and the victory, there’s no question. It ends up being relatively simple. Rettig takes the shotgun snap and goes through the fake with Robert Martin, pulls it back and runs right. He strides past off balance defenders and walks in untouched.

Rutgers 35, MSU 34.

What just happened.

If people in Piscataway thought it was noisy throughout the game, that was nothing compared to what happs afterwards. Rettig drops to his knees. Paul James is teary eyed. Laviano is hooting and hollering his head off from the trainers table. Carroo has a new outlook on life. Norries Wilson just helped his job security a whole lot.

Why Not?

Pictures: https://www.google.com/search?site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1600&bih=775&q=janarion+grant+rutgers&oq=janarion+grant+&gs_l=img.1.0.0j0i30j0i24l8.1083.5920.0.8345.….0…1ac.1.64.img..7.16.1019.lA4TQuF0mWA#tbm=isch&q=janarion+grant+rutgers+in+game&imgrc=x2XXQua3-jkNqM%3A






Sites I used for information:

“2015 Rutgers Scarlet Knights Football Depth Chart | Ourlads.com.” 2015 Rutgers Scarlet Knights Football Depth Chart | Ourlads.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Oct. 2015.

“SCARLETKNIGHTS.COM Paul James Bio – Official Athletic Site Official Athletic Site – Football.” SCARLETKNIGHTS.COM Paul James Bio – Official Athletic Site Official Athletic Site – Football. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Oct. 2015.

Dan Duggan | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com. “Rutgers Running Back Paul James Expected to Be 100 Percent Healthy for Training Camp.” N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Oct. 2015.

“2015 Michigan State Spartans Football Depth Chart | Ourlads.com.” 2015 Michigan State Spartans Football Depth Chart | Ourlads.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Oct. 2015.

Week 5 in the B1G: Indiana, Iowa Make Statements

The last play of the Ohio State-Indiana game perfectly encapsulated the theme of the entire game. Indiana battles hard-drives to the five yard line. Something goes awry-bad snap, injuries to Nate Sudfeld and Jordan Howard. Despite that, Indiana continued to battle-backup QB Zander Diamont scrambled away from the pressure and threw a catchable ball. Ultimately though, Ohio State was too much, as Indiana came up just short-Ezekiel Elliot showed why he is a Heisman Favorite, and Eli Apple knocked the pass away at the last second.

Instead of piling the blame on Ohio State as this season’s Florida State, how about some credit to the Hoosiers. With Sudfeld and Howard, this game might have ended up very differently. Howard currently leads the FBS in rushing yards, a testament to not only his talent but the imposing Indiana offensive line. Sudfeld was excellent until he was sidelined with an ankle injury, but props to Zander Diamont for doing a nice job in the biggest moment of his life and using his rushing abilities to keep Indiana in the game. This game signified a cultural shift in Indiana Football. It would have been so sweet to get the victory and to be doted upon by ESPN, but they should be proud of how they battled against the number one team in the country. The secondary was excellent for most of the game, and there was no quit in the Hoosiers. This bodes well for the future, not only in 2015 but beyond. If Indiana can begin to lure some of those stud athletes out of Chicago away from Michigan, Notre Dame, and Michigan State, there might be something brewing in Bloomington on the gridiron. Indiana should find themselves in the tail end of the Top 25 next week.

The Hoosiers are ready to make some noise in the B1G East.

Zander Diamont filled in admirably for Nate Sudfeld at QB.

Up Next: @ Penn State

This game is almost as important as the game against Ohio State. It’s easy to play when there’s no pressure and you’re big underdogs. It’s a different story when people start paying attention. Indiana needs to prove that last week wasn’t a fluke and they’re here to stay. The secondary will be tested by PSU QB Christian Hackenberg, an expected top pick in next year’s draft. That being said, Penn State hasn’t proven themselves to be a powerhouse team this year. Indiana needs to win by at least a touchdown to secure their place among the best teams in college football and a spot in the top 25.


The Return of the Hawkeyes

Iowa’s battle to rejoin college football’s elite teams has been long and arduous, but the fruits of their labor should come in the form of a Top 25 ranking for the first time in five years. It wasn’t their best offensive game, as CJ Beathard struggled but was bailed out by running back Jordan Canzeri’s big day. But the defense stepped up in a big way, with Desmond King providing the big plays  as he pulled in two more interceptions. Wisconsin was almost a foregone conclusion as B1G West champion before the season started, but it’s been a different story than expected this year. Both Iowa and Northwestern have jumped out to impressive 5-0 starts. Iowa’s resurgence has been on the back of CJ Beathard’s promising first season as a starter and the leg of kicker Marshall Koehn. If Beathard continues to grow and Iowa dominates in the trenches as they have historically, there could be a lot of good things happening in Iowa City this year. With four spots available in the College Football Playoff and 5 power conferences, the B1G is a virtual lock to have a team end up in the playoff. Why not Your Iowa Hawkeyes?

Reunited and it feels so good. Iowa finally reclaims the Heartland Trophy from Wisconsin.

Cornerback Desmond King has been key for the Hawkeye defense.


Up Next: Illinois

Illinois has been a much downtrodden program due to former coach Tim Beckham verbally abusing his players and forcing them to play while injured. With him gone, it seems as if a dark cloud has been lifted from Fighting Illini football. Illinois went out and scorched Kent State in their first game without Beckham, and then continued to destroy FCS opponents by trampling Western Illinois. Illinois seemed vulnerable in a blowout loss to North Carolina, but they secured a win in B1G action last week, squeaking past Nebraska 14-13. Iowa needs to make sure they don’t fall into a trap game while coasting on the good vibes of being ranked for the first time in too long. Beathard will need to improve from last week, as Illinois’ defense appears to be legit. There are no more gimmie’s on Iowa’s schedule, and even one loss could eliminate them from B1G West title contention as Northwestern continues to cruise.

Other Notes from around the division:

  • Northwestern’s victory over Stanford looks better and better as the Cardinal continue to demolish preseason Pac-12 favorites. Stanford is undefeated in Pac-12 play, winning over USC and putting a beatdown on Arizona. Conversely, with Northwestern’s continued success, Stanford’s loss to them suddenly doesn’t look so bad.
  • It was a good day for football in Indiana, as Purdue almost came away with the upset at Michigan State. MSU appears more vulnerable than they did at the beginning of the season, as their “statement game” victory over Oregon is now unimpressive after Oregon got absolutely torched by Utah last week. None of the Top 5 teams have appeared dominant in every game they have played. Michigan State needs to kick it into high gear before it gets too late.
  • Speaking of Michigan State…This is a perfect time for Rutgers to pull off the upset. While everyone is writing them off due to the Scarlet Knights mediocre start to the season, Purdue has yet to beat an FBS team but almost managed to shock the world last week. Also, Rutgers’ loss to Washington State, a proverbial nail in their coffin of B1G hopes, appears less so now that Wazzu duked it out with Cal (No. 24) for four quarters last week. Rutgers fans were excited for a potential Rettig-Carroo connection this year, but so far all they’ve gotten is Laviano-Opposing Defense. Rutgers is still 0-0 in B1G play. There is still hope.