Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE
With a bye week in between the Scarlet Knights and their first loss of the season, Rutgers is looking for a serious bounce back game. But first, they'll have to go up against the top rushing offense in the nation.
If there had ever been a good week for the Rutgers football team to have a scheduled bye, it was definitely this past week.
Coming off a disappointing 35-23 loss to Kent State two weeks ago, the No. 23 Scarlet Knights (4-0, 7-1) are anxious to bounce back in this Saturday afternoon's game against Army (0-3, 2-7).
"You can expect to be in a battle, a very tough-fought battle for the duration of the game regardless how that game goes, and you're always going to get an extremely spirited effort from their football team," Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said in his weekly press conference on Monday.
"And they're a very well-coached football team. I think sometimes records don't always show that."
The dreams of an undefeated season, and possibly playing for a national title, are all but completely dashed for Rutgers, but with just one loss their name, there is the possibility of still capturing a Big East championship and finding themselves in a BCS bowl game by the time the holidays roll around.
That possibility, of course, hinges on Saturday's 12 p.m. kickoff against the Black Knights and putting together a game that doesn't result in seven turnovers, including six interceptions from Gary Nova.
"I think it's no different than coming back out after you have a great performance," Flood said of Nova's temperament throughout the bye week. "Make the corrections, but then the critical part is make the corrections and then move on."
As the Scarlet Knights prep to go up against an Army offense that is ranked first in the nation in overall rushing yards, averaging over 375 yards on the ground per game, Rutgers can't afford to live in the past.
Khaseem Greene and his fellow defenders - a defense that still only allows, on average, 14.3 points per game - are going to have to find that undefeated spark once more, and it might not hurt if they played Saturday's game with a bit of a chip on their shoulders as well.
In other words, the Scarlet Knights have to be ready to hit someone this weekend.
"I think they really embrace the challenge of it," Flood said.
"They really take pride in their ability to change gears for a week and get this game plan mastered as best we can and then accept the challenge of stopping the number one rushing offense in the country."
This weekend's game also has meaning beyond the simple desire of an eighth victory for the Scarlet Knights this season. Rutgers, obviously a New Jersey school with a majority of their students residing in the state, will host a relief effort for the victims of Hurricane Sandy during Saturday's game with representatives from the Red Cross throughout the stadium on game day.
Rutgers Athletics also designed a t-shirt with the state outline and "stRong" printed inside. T-shirts will be on sale on gameday, with all proceeds going to hurricane relief efforts.
Saturday's game might be crucial for the Scarlet Knights season and their hopes for a solid finish this year, but it's also important for the squad to keep things in perspective as well.
"I said this to the team last week, we were distracted as a program, but distracted for all the right reasons," Flood said. "There were a lot of things going on in our local areas here in New Jersey and New York that were much more important than a football practice."