Correction: Liberty-Rutgers Preview story
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — In a story Oct. 25 about the Liberty-Rutgers football game, The Associated Press reported erroneously on the number of wins Liberty needs to become bowl eligible.
A corrected version of the story is below:
Rutgers still underdog vs Liberty, recent member of FBS
Rutgers hopes to avoid back-to-back 1-11 seasons, with best bet for win against Liberty
By MATT SUGAM
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — Hoping to avoid back-to-back 1-11 seasons, Rutgers’ best bet for a win comes against Liberty.
Still, the odds are against the Scarlet Knights (1-6, 0-5 Big Ten) when they host the Flames (5-2) on Saturday. Liberty, which joined the FBS two years ago and is without a conference, is a touchdown favorite over Rutgers.
“I don’t follow that stuff at all,” Liberty’s first-year coach Hugh Freeze said. “I have these weird texts sometimes on Saturdays from friends that follow it closely. I don’t know how you look at the rosters and come up with that in this game that’s mixed with a program that is moving to FBS, like we are, and a Big Ten team.
“I don’t know who does that, but we’ll take it. We like being favored. When I look at the film, I think it’s going to be a dogfight for sure.”
Rutgers is struggling on offense since halfback Raheem Blackshear and quarterback Art Sitkowski decided to redshirt this season. Redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Langan is 28 of 55 for 220 yards, no touchdowns, and five interceptions. He has 48 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown.
Interim coach Nunzio Campanile says Langan will start, but true freshman Cole Snyder is getting more reps at practice.
For Rutgers, it’s been a quarterback carousel. Graduate transfer McLane Carter medically retired after a concussion. Sitkowski decided to redshirt following the recent firing of coach Chris Ash, though he can still play in one game and take a redshirt. Snyder has played in one game, taking a snap vs. Maryland when Langan had to come out for a play to get a cut on his hand bandaged. He can play in three more games and still redshirt.
“I’ve talked to him, we are going to preserve his redshirt. I don’t think that would be fair to him or for the future of the program to not do that,” Campanile said of Snyder. “But if there are opportunities where we think he gives us the best chance to do something, we’ll use him.”
So as Langan will get his fourth start, Snyder will be ready to play, and likely will at some point this season. There are five games left for him to play three, including Liberty.
“That’s what makes it interesting is that you really want to do what’s best for him and you want to do what’s best for the future of the program. It’s not like we’re going to the Rose Bowl,” Campanile said. “I would love to get him in three more games. At the same time, I don’t know what the health of everyone will be coming down the road.”
Rutgers’ homecoming game last week against then-No. 20 Minnesota drew 26,429 fans to SHI Stadium, the lowest since Oct. 8, 2005. That’s a number that doesn’t figure to go up Saturday. Through four home games, Rutgers is averaging 32,337 fans. The Scarlet Knights averaged 37,799 in 2018.
CLOSE TO BOWL ELIGIBLE
With a win at Rutgers, Liberty would be a win from becoming bowl eligible, giving the school a good chance of making it to its first postseason game since moving from the FCS to the FBS. Playing in its first season as a fully bowl-eligible FBS member, Liberty has a secondary bowl agreement with the AutoNation Cure Bowl. While a win at Rutgers would get Liberty to six wins, two came against FCS opponents (Hampton, Maine), and only one win against an FCS opponent can count toward bowl eligibility.
While the Scarlet Knights have regularly played at noon, this is the first early afternoon kickoff of the season for Flames. That has Freeze preparing his team with a mandatory breakfast check all week.
“They’re going to be eating breakfast this week at 8:15 on the dot,” Freeze said. “They should be getting in bed by 10 o’clock, which is what the expectation will be Friday night. Whether they are asleep or not, that is where they should be. We’re preparing the whole week for this noon kick.”