Rutgers faces Howard in home opener before Big Ten
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) There aren't going to be many games this season where Rutgers has to worry about getting caught looking ahead.
Playing in the Big Ten Conference, the Scarlet Knights (1-0) aren't going to be favored in many games, if any. Their non-conference home opener against Howard (0-1) of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference is one of those games.
Rutgers plays Penn State (1-0) the following week in their Big Ten opener. There is a bit of a rivalry between the New Jersey and Pennsylvania schools after Nittany Lions coach James Franklin said this summer that Rutgers and Maryland have no chance recruiting against him.
''When you got a game like this where you have a tough Howard team coming in. Obviously, we've got some big games with Penn State and Michigan and Tulane, but we really can't overlook them,'' said Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova, who had a solid performance in the 41-38 win over Washington State. ''We just got to focus on getting better and focus on ourselves right now.''
Howard opened the season with a 41-0 loss at Akron, the first time it has been shutout since 2012, a 26-0 loss to Rutgers. The Bison return 29 lettermen and 11 starters from last season's 6-6 squad.
''Rutgers poses a huge challenge for us. They are an experienced team,'' Howard coach Gary Harrell said. ''Many of the players were freshmen and sophomores when we played them in 2012 and now they are juniors and seniors. They are a very strong team on the ground.
''They like the power game, to ground and pound, but they can hurt you with the pass because of Nova's experience. We had some trouble defending the pass against Akron, and I am sure that they are aware of that. We can't worry about what they do. If we play sound, discipline football, I can live with the outcome.''
Some things to watch when Rutgers plays Howard Saturday:
BIG PLAYS: Rutgers' first play from scrimmage this season was a 78-yard touchdown play from Nova to Leonte Carroo. It was Carroo's 10th career score and second of longer than 60 yards. His first career catch last season at Fresno State was a 69-yard touchdown. Howard tends to place eight men in the box on defense and that might open things up for the big play.
SCARLET KNIGHTS RUN DEFENSE: After finishing fourth nationally in run defense in 2013, Rutgers is third after the first week of this season. Pass-happy Washington State gained 6 yards rushing. Since the start of the 2012 season, Rutgers is third nationally in yards allowed rushing.
HOWARD LINEUP: Starting strong safety Julien David will miss his second straight game with a mild knee sprain. Jacob Bennett will replace him. Starting left offensive tackle John Smith will miss the game due to an ankle sprain last weekend. Toree Boyd will start for him. Running back Anthony Philyaw will not play for the second straight, awaiting clearance from the NCAA and the MEAC. William Parker will start again.
NUMBERS: Rutgers leads the all-time series against Howard 3-0, outscoring it 127-14. In 10 meetings against MEAC schools, Rutgers is 10-0, outscoring them 405-36. ...Rutgers is looking for win No. 100 all-time in home openers. The Scarlet Knights are 99-36-10 all-time, including a 10-4 mark since 2000.