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Rutgers needs better start in conference opener against Iowa

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PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) If Rutgers is going to have any chance in its Big Ten Conference opener against Iowa, it can't afford another bad start.

The Scarlet Knights fell behind Washington 24-0, trailed Howard by two touchdowns and New Mexico by 21 points - all in the first quarter.

Rutgers (2-1) was able to overcome the deficits in the last two games, but it won't be so easy if Iowa (2-1) comes ready to play on Saturday at High Point Solutions Stadium after its loss to North Dakota State, the winner of the last five FCS national titles.

''We've got to start games better.'' Rutgers coach Chris Ash said. ''There is no magic formula for that. We're not going to go out and do any extra stretches or jumping jacks or whatever to get ready for a game. We have a process that I think is one that will lead us to being successful.''

Halfback Robert Martin said the players realize the competition is going to pick up.

''We're about to get in to Big Ten play and we're about to be playing some real good teams and we would rather start ahead than start behind,'' he said.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said his team made too many mistakes in losing to a good team.

''You've got to move on at some point, and in sports and football, that starts Monday morning,'' Ferentz said. ''You've got to push through it and start your preparation for the next team because we're all on the clock.''


The Hawkeyes were ranked No. 13 before the loss knocked them out of the rankings. Iowa got back into the Top 25 for the first time in five years last season and it was ranked as high as No. 3 last season after a 12-0 start. A loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship game and loss to Stanford in the Rose Bowl dropped the Hawkeyes to No 9 at the end the season.

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Rutgers defensive coordinator Jay Niemann has two sons that play at Iowa, Ben and Nick.

''I love my sons,'' Niemann said. ''I'd take a bullet for either one of them, but football - when it's time to go play they got to do their thing and I got to do mine. For 60 minutes we'll be foes but then after that we'll be family again.''

Rutgers offensive line coach AJ Blazek played for Ferentz at Iowa and started his coaching career there as a student and then graduate assistant coach.

''When he first showed first up as a recruit, he had an Arizona baseball cap on. I didn't think that was real smart. And I'm pretty sure he had cowboy boots on, too, like we would never look at his shoes to figure out that he's really not 6-foot-4, one of those deals,'' Ferentz said. ''You've got to give him credit for trying.''


The Hawkeyes were without starting guard Sean Welsh and center James Daniels - two of their best lineman against NDSU. Iowa was limited to 34 yards on 25 carries last weekend. Ferentz expects them back.


As the teams enter their Big Ten schedules, they will be playing nine conference games for the first time in league history. With an East and West Division, each school plays all the teams in their division and three teams from the other.


This is the first game between Rutgers and Iowa as the Scarlet Knights enter their third year in the Big Ten. Rutgers (East Division) is 0-4 against teams from the West Division, where Iowa plays.