PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) If Rutgers is going to become bowl eligible in its first season in the Big Ten Conference, beating Indiana might be the game it needs to win.
The Scarlet Knights (5-4, 1-4) will take on the Hoosiers (3-6, 0-5) on Saturday at High Point Solutions Stadium in their final home game.
A win snaps a three-game losing streak and makes Rutgers bowl eligible. A loss and the bowl prospects become very iffy. The Scarlet Knights finish the season on the road – at No. 12 Michigan State (7-2) and at Maryland (6-3).
Article continues below ...
Indiana seems the easier game. The Hoosiers are winless in the conference and have lost four straight games overall.
”Everyone has an awareness of where we are in the season and what this one would mean, but you don’t really want to get too caught up in that,” Rutgers senior safety Lorenzo Waters said. ”You want to play this game like it’s its own separate season and just focus on going 1-0, not 6-4. We just want to be 1-0.”
For the Scarlet Knights seniors, this might be their most emotional game of the year. It’s their last at home and they want to go out a winner.
Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said his team needs a win just as much, not only to break its slide but to show it can win on the road.
”It’s a sign of building our program, and we want to continue to improve and finish strong,” said Wilson, whose team played well in a 13-7 loss to Penn State last weekend.
Rutgers had a bye last week, but it had not played well in the three previous games, losing to No. 8 Ohio State, No. 11 Nebraska and No. 22 Wisconsin by a combined 135-41 margin.
”Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard,” Rutgers defensive tackle Darius Hamilton said of the losing streak. ”Nobody likes to lose, but it’s definitely a learning experience. It’s something that you’ve got to learn from, but you can’t dwell on the past. There’s nothing we can do about it now.”
Things to watch in the first meeting between Rutgers and Indiana:
FLAILING OFFENSE: Indiana’s once high-scoring offense is stuck in neutral. Since losing their top two quarterbacks with season-ending injuries at Iowa, the Hoosiers have scored 17, 10 and seven points in three straight losses and have just 103 yards passing – combined.
RUTGERS RUN DEFENSE: The Big Ten’s top backs have done well against the Scarlet Knights. Melvin Gordon ran for 128 yards and two touchdowns and Wisconsin teammate Corey Clement ran for 131 and two more scores two weeks ago. Ameer Abdullah of Nebraska ran for 225, three touchdowns and had a school-record 341 all-purpose yards the week before. Now they get Tevin Coleman, whose 1,371 yards rushing and 152.3 yard average are second in the nation. The junior is on pace to rush for 1,828 yards, which would break Vaughn Dunbar’s school record of 1,805 set in 1991
IMPROVING DEFENSE: Indiana had a season-high five sacks against Penn State and matched a season-best with 11 tackles for loss. The 13 points allowed were the fewest by Indiana in a
Big Ten game since Oct. 8, 2005 vs. Illinois (13). Penn State’s 330 total yards were the fewest surrendered by Indiana in a Big Ten game since Nov. 27, 2010 at Purdue (310).
INDIANA SCHEDULE: The Hoosiers will play their final road game at Ohio State next weekend and close the season at home against state-rival Purdue in the Old Oaken Bucket trophy game. While the schools now play in separate divisions, the rivalry was protected by the conference when the new alignment was announced this season.
BOWL ELIGIBILITY: Rutgers is looking to become bowl eligible for the ninth time in 10 seasons. Coach Kyle Flood would become the first coach in school history to lead Rutgers to bowl eligibility in each of his first three seasons. The senior class would become bowl eligible for the fourth straight season.
AP Sports Writer Mike Marot in Indianapolis contributed to this report.