Struggling Rutgers up next for No. 4 Spartans
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — The Rutgers football team has had a rough season so far.
Six players were dismissed before the season opener after being arrested. Star receiver Leonte Carroo has been suspended twice for off-the-field problems. Coach Kyle Flood is serving a three-game suspension for trying to influence a professor about a player’s grade.
While the 2-2 record is OK, it could have been better. The Scarlet Knights blew a late lead at home against Washington State in the second game of the season and played poorly in a loss to Penn State in their Big Ten opener.
It’s not good, but things could look up Saturday night if Rutgers finds a way to knock off No. 4 Michigan State (5-0, 1-0) and pull off its third upset of a Top 10 team.
"It would mean a lot," Rutgers guard Dorian Miller said. "It’s obviously a big game. Black out. The crowd’s going to be packed, so it would mean a lot."
With the game being played in prime time, Rutgers is asking its fans to wear black.
"You just get juiced up as a player," quarterback Chris Laviano said. "It’s a black out under the lights, what better atmosphere."
Beating the Spartans won’t be easy. Michigan State crushed Rutgers last season, building a 35-0 lead en route to a 45-3 victory. The Spartans are riding a nine-game winning streak, which is the second longest under coach Mark Dantonio.
The game will be Spartans’ first outside of Michigan this season.
"Well, I think we’re 17-3 right now since 2010 on the road. But who is counting," Dantonio said. "I just think we try and change things up. We try and stay fresh and we try to go together. It’s not easy going on the road. There’s no question about that. We’ve had tough games, very difficult games. But our senior class has always led. And we bring our emotion with us, and we have to feed ourselves."
Five things to watch in this Big Ten Conference game:
CARROO’s BACK: Rutgers reinstated Carroo on Wednesday after simple assault charges against him were dropped. He was accused of attacking a woman he used to date outside Rutgers Stadium after a game on Sept. 12. The senior has missed 10 of 16 quarters this season. In the six that he has played, he has caught three touchdown passes, which ties for the team lead.
HOMECOMING: Fifth-year defensive end Shilique Calhoun is returning to his home state. The Middletown resident leads the Spartans with 4 1-2 sacks and is No. 1 among defensive linemen with 20 tackles. Calhoun ranks among the university’s all-time leaders in tackles for loss yardage (third with 221), sack yardage (fourth with 171), sacks (sixth with 21), tackles for loss (ninth with 34.5), and fumble recoveries (tied for 10th with five). The Spartans have recorded 18 sacks this season.
KYLE’S TIME SERVED: This will be the third and final game of Flood’s suspension. He has been allowed to work with the team in practice but he can’t coach on game days. Running backs coach Norries Wilson has run the team the past two weeks, losing at Penn State and beating Kansas. The Scarlet Knights had a bye last week.
COOKIN’: Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook is not posting big numbers, except in the win column. The fifth-year senior is 28-3 record as the starter, including a 17-1 mark against Big Ten opponents. The 28 wins are tied for the most of any active starting quarterback in the NCAA FBS, along with Stanford’s Kevin Hogan. Cook leads the Big Ten in passing efficiency with a 150.9 rating and he is second with 10 touchdown passes.
STATE LINE: Injuries have forced Michigan State to use three starting lineups in five games. Starting left tackle Jack Conlin sat out last week’s win over Purdue. Starting right tackle Kodi Kieler has been missing since injuring his knee against Oregon in the second game. Conklin’s replacement Dennis Finley broke his leg last week, forcing center Jack Allen to move to left tackle. Despite all the changes, the Spartans have allowed three sacks, tied for fewest in the Big Ten. Last season, the offensive line allowed 11 sacks, the least the conference.