It looks like the bye week did the Scarlet Knights some justice as they come off of head coach Chris Ash’s first Big Ten win, the first in two years for the program. Jerry Kill got back to the coach that he used to be, sticking almost strictly to the ground game. There were four different running backs to score touchdowns and the committee was responsible for all of Rutgers scoring this past Saturday. Gus Edwards led the way with 91 yards and two touchdowns, with lightning quick true freshman following up with 88 yards and a touchdown. Now Rutgers moves along to face another rebuilding program in the Big Ten, the Purdue Boilermakers. Under first-year head coach Jeff Brohm, the team has vastly improved, toting a 3-3 record with all three losses coming at the hands of teams who were ranked at the time. It’s going to be a tough game for the Scarlet Knights but the momentum is there for them to keep rolling. Here’s three keys for Rutgers secure a win on homecoming weekend.
1. Stick to the Run Game
Four @RFootball RBs have scored today against Illinois, and this TD sealed it.
Illinois was the last ranked run defense in the Big Ten Conference, which is why Jerry Kill stuck to the ground game. Guess who’s ranked one spot above Illinois? You guessed it, the Boilermakers. The Purdue defense is currently giving up 175 yards on the ground per game, right where Illinois was at before they gave up 274 yards to Rutgers. Kill must go with the exact same game plan by pounding the ball right down the throat of the defense. Expect a good dose of Gus Edwards, Raheem Blackshear, and Rob Martin. Quarterback play hasn’t been the best, so it’s important that Rutgers can gain a lead and keep the ball in the hand of their bell cows.
2. Contain Purdue's Passing Game
A look back at last weeks OFF-(cough) retypes* DEFENSIVE Player of the Game vs. Illinois | Jawuan Harris @JayHarris_1 ‼️👏 😅#10STRONG pic.twitter.com/KGECZQZk2r
— Rutgers Football (@RFootball) October 17, 2017
Rutgers’ secondary did what it could against Illinois in wake of all the injuries, they allowed a modest 308 yards through the air. Wide receiver-turned-safety Jawuan Harris shined in his first start on the defensive side of the ball. Not only did the sophomore lead the team in tackles but he notched an interception alongside fellow safety K.J. Gray, who grasped one of his own. Purdue has a more potent offense than Illinois, especially through the air. They rotate quarterbacks between Elijah Sindelar and David Blough, but both are capable passers. It’s going to be important to stay disciplined or they can really get hurt through the air, just long enough for Kemoko Turay and co. to get to the quarterback.
3. Special Teams
Alright who’s ready for a Janarion Grant return? The redshirt senior has been contained on his returns this season, as he’s only averaging 22 return yards a game. To be frank, Rutgers doesn’t have the offense, particularly in the pass game to keep up with Purdue. They need to score whenever they can, including making sure Grant finds the end zone on a return this week. On the other hand, the Scarlet Knights own one of the best punters in the Big Ten in Ryan Anderson who leads the conference with a 44.5 yards per punt average. It’s going to be imperative that when it’s time to punt he’s pinning the Boilermakers deep. Field position may be the determinant of who wins this game.
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