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Rutgers At USF: Bulls Are First Big East Conference Foe

Despite two dominant early season wins, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights face their first big test against Big East opponent in USF.

Sept 8, 2012; Piscataway, NJ, USA; Fans of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights hold up a sign supporting rookie head coach Kyle Flood during the first half at High Point Solutions Stadium. Ed Mulholland-US PRESSWIRE
Sept 8, 2012; Piscataway, NJ, USA; Fans of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights hold up a sign supporting rookie head coach Kyle Flood during the first half at High Point Solutions Stadium. Ed Mulholland-US PRESSWIRE

This is when it starts to get interesting.

Fresh off a dominating 26-0 shutout victory over Howard to open their season at home, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights are riding a wave of confidence under first-year coach Kyle Flood as they prepare to begin Big East play this Thursday in Tampa against the University of Southern Florida.

The game, which will be broadcast nationally on ESPN with kickoff scheduled for 7:30 on Thursday night, is the perfect test for the Scarlet Knights and offers the squad their first chance to go 3-0 since 2007.

It’s an early conference test for Rutgers, but with their team playing as well as it has in the last two weekends, it’s a test they’re more than willing to take.

"I don't worry so much about the schedule," Flood said in a press conference on Monday. "When it lines up, at whatever point in the season it comes up, we've had as much time as they've had to prepare."

The Scarlet Knights have found their first two games of the season – in particular last weekend’s showing over Howard – to be just as much preparation as any of their practices have been.

Rutgers had three different sophomores rack up the offensive yardage last weekend, en route to a 321 total yard performance. Quarterback Gary Nova also led the way through the air, going 15-of-27 with two touchdown passes.

Of course, a shutout isn’t possible without a strong defensive stand and the Scarlet Knights have that in spades.

As a unit, Rutgers amassed 14 tackles for a loss, four sacks and 11 quarterback rushes.

The defensive power helped the squad roll to their seventh straight season with at least one shutout victory.

When they line up against USF, the Scarlet Knights hope all of those stats will repeat themselves.

This will be the seventh meeting for the two teams, with Rutgers holding a 2-1 series advantage when in Tampa. Last season’s matchup was a dramatic come-from-behind fourth quarter victory to give Rutgers the 20-17 overtime victory.

A victory this season would mark the third time that the Scarlet Knights have won their Big East season opener.

While the matchup will undoubtedly be a test for Rutgers, in more than ways than one, the defense and the offense; paced by Jawan Jamison, who has already rushed for over 220 yards this season, have high expectations for themselves.

Even when those expectations are going to be broadcast on national television.

"There's certainly going to be a lot of eyes," Flood said. "I think this week is going to tell us a lot. I really believe that."