EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) For most Big Ten Conference football teams, a step-down game is one to put in the win column.
After being blown out by now No. 8 Washington in Chris Ash's coaching debut at Rutgers, it's hard to know what to expect when the Scarlet Knights face Howard on Saturday.
Rutgers did not play well in dropping a 48-13 decision to the Huskies. They trailed 24-0 after the first quarter, 34-3 at the half and 48-3 after three quarters.
Howard will be playing its second straight Big Ten foe. It opened with a 52-13 loss to Maryland in a game it trailed 42-0 after three quarters.
''Howard gives us as a program another opportunity to go out and show that we're improving, and we've got to go out and compete to show that we came back from last Saturday,'' Ash said.
Since taking the Rutgers job, Ash has insisted that rebuilding the program isn't solely about wins and losses.
''What drives me is to get a team of individuals, coaches and players to go out and try to perform to our potential,'' he said. ''Did that happen Saturday? No, it did not, and that's what I'm really disappointed about. Do I hope we win every game? Absolutely, and that's what we want and that's what everybody wants, but at the end of the day -- at the start of it, I want us to be a program that goes out and performs to our full potential every chance that we get.''
Howard coach Gary Harrell said his team had chances against Maryland early and did not make the plays.
''You have to play better and you limit the mistakes if you want to get the results that you ultimately want,'' Harrell said of playing teams in a higher category.
LAVIANO IN CHARGE
Chris Laviano won the starting job as Rutgers quarterback and that's not changing after an up-and-down performance against Washington.
Ash stressed that Laviano has to protect the ball better. He put it in jeopardy while running and again when he was under a pass rush.
''He put the ball in harm's way, and he needs to get that fixed,'' Ash said. ''That's a big deal. We talked a lot about that in the decision making process to name Chris the starter. Chris has earned the right to be the starter here based on what he's done from spring and summer and through training camp, but he needs to protect the football.''
Howard receiver Kyle Anthony was named the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference rookie of the week. The 6-foot-3 freshman from Miramar, Fla. caught a game-high 7 passes for 78 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to Maryland. Two of his other receptions went for first downs.
This will be the final game between Rutgers and Howard for the foreseeable future. The Big Ten Conference frowns on its football teams playing against FCS opponents, and Rutgers will no longer play the Bison. Its last game against an FCS team will be next season versus Morgan State.
Rutgers has won each of the previous four games against Howard by a combined 165-39 margin. All games have been played in Piscataway, with the last one ending in a 38-25 win.
President Barack Obama spoke at three college commencements last spring: Air Force, Rutgers and Howard.
AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org