Friday afternoon the Rutgers Scarlet Knights will enter the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium with hopes of capping a surprising turnaround season with a win and capturing positive momentum towards the 2012 season. After surrendering an NCAA-record 61 sacks in 2010, offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti was hired in the off-season to run Rutgers’ pro-style run-oriented offense. Instead, the pass has been the strength of Rutgers’ offense while Rutgers’ rushing offense has been unbelievably shaky. They could have another 200 performance, like they did against the nation’s sixth-best run defense or they could fail to eclipse the Mendoza line and finish with negative yardage, a feat they accomplished against Connecticut. While the rushing attack is outside the top 100 nationally, averaging 91 yards per game, the Scarlet Knights passing attack is the nation’s 46th best nationally in terms of yardage.
However, Rutgers success lives and dies with the performance of its defense. Fortunately, Rutgers' defense is the valedictorian of Big East defenses. Rutgers' defense enters the Pinstripe Bowl boasting the nation's 12th stingiest scoring defense and ranks sixth nationally in pass efficiency. The responsibility for bottling up the Cyclone’s rushing offense will be thrust upon Rutgers’ front seven, which boasts the Co-Defensive Player of the Year. Rutgers’ is infatuated with blitzing and as a result has the nation’s 17th most sacks. The Scarlet Knights defense has also forced the nation’s sixth most takeaways and should be able to take advantage of Iowa State’s freshman quarterback, Jared Barnett.
Players To Watch:
Gary Nova and Chas Dodd - Coach Greg Schiano may choose to start Dodd but either way both quarterbacks will see action against Iowa State. Dodd was benched in the regular season finale in favor of Nova, who threw for 298 yards and two touchdowns in one quarter of action.
Khaseem Greene - The 6-foot-2, 215-pound junior linebacker was named Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year after making 127 tackles this season. Against Iowa State’s vaunted rushing attack, Greene will likely see many opportunities to increase those numbers. Greene who was projected as a mid-round prospect in the NFL Draft announced this week that he would be returning for his senior season.
Mohamed Sanu - If a ball was thrown in his vicinity, Sanu came down with it this season. Despite instability at quarterback, Sanu showed up week in, week out and set a Big East record with 109 catches for 1,144 yards. Friday’s Pinstripe Bowl may also be Sanu’s final game in a Rutgers uniform as he is considered a likely second-round draft prospect.
Jawan Jefferson - The diminutive sophomore running back is one of the nation's smallest feature backs at 5-8, but still received a bulk of the offensive carries. Jefferson rushed for 766 yards on 204 carries. If the game turns into shootout, don’t expect Jefferson to get many carries as they often abandon the running game in high-scoring affairs.