On Aug. 8, 2017, Stevie Scott made a non-binding commitment to play for Chris Ash’s Rutgers football program. Four months later, Scott reneged following a weekend visit to Piscataway, telling NJ Advance Media’s Todderick Hunt he “wasn’t feeling (his Rutgers commitment) anymore.’’
The 6-foot-2, 231-pound bruising running back out of Syracuse has been a thorn in Rutgers’ side ever since, rushing for 222 yards and a touchdown in his two previous encounters for Indiana in wins over the Scarlet Knights.
The Hoosiers running back will meet Rutgers for a third time Saturday (3:30 p.m., FS1) when the Big Ten teams clash in Piscataway.
Named to both the Maxwell and Doak Walker award watch lists during the preseason, Scott rushed for 57 yards and a pair of touchdowns in Indiana’s upset of Penn State last Saturday. In the process, he eclipsed the 2,000 career rushing yard mark.
With Ash now scheming the defense at Texas, it’s head coach Greg Schiano’s and defensive coordinator Robb Smith’s task to slow down the former Rutgers commit.
“Obviously a real good football team,” Schiano said. “They play really hard, and they’re good in all three phases. So it’s going to be a big challenge, and one we’re looking forward to.”
Here are three keys for Rutgers to defeat Indiana:
Win the turnover battle: OK, so Rutgers isn’t likely to get seven turnovers like it did against Michigan State in the opener. Schiano said so himself after Saturday’s win. He’s still hoping for a few.
The bigger concern, and one the Scarlet Knights do have some control of, is not turning the ball over themselves.
Rutgers coaches like to warn of this stat when presenting their players with the importance of ball security: over the last four years in Big Ten play, teams that don’t turn it over win 71% of the time and teams that turn it over just once win 57% of the time. Obviously Rutgers defied these odds with its three turnovers in the opener, but the Scarlet Knights also took it away — a lot — against Michigan State.
Have a chance to win after three quarters: We know this ain’t hockey. College football has four quarters — not three periods — but Schiano said his goal is to have a chance to win in the fourth quarter and we understand why.
Like they were in the opener against Michigan State, the Scarlet Knights are a double-digit underdog on paper against Indiana. Vegas oddsmakers don’t expect Rutgers to make this a game, but if Indiana struggles to put it away early Schiano said he would like his team’s chances to pull off another upset.
“That’s our goal — be in the fourth quarter and have a chance to win,” Schiano said. “If we can do that, now let’s see where the chips fall. Can we get to the fourth quarter to have a chance, that’s what we’re trying to do, and we design a plan each week to try to do that.”
Keep Isaih Pacheco as the offensive focal point: Rutgers’ junior running back didn’t produce gaudy rushing statistics against Michigan State, tallying 61 yards on 19 carries.
But Pacheco scored twice, sprinting his way in from 12 yards and barreling into pay dirt on a three-yard run against Michigan State. Pacheco also was targeted five times in the passing game, and made the most of the opportunities with a career-high five receptions for 37 yards.
In all, Pacheco produced a team-high 98 all-purpose yards and his 24 touches represented 33.8 % of Rutgers’ total plays. Gleeson giving it to his best offensive weapon one-third of the time seems like the right percentage against an Indiana team that yielded 250 rushing yards to Penn State.
Here are three keys for Indiana to defeat Rutgers:
Live up to its ranking: Indiana is ranked at No. 17 in the AP Top 25 and No. 19 in the USA Today Sports’ Coaches Poll after its upset of then-No. 8 Penn State in the opener.
The ranking is the best for the Hoosiers in the AP poll since November 2, 1993, and the best in the coaches’ poll since Nov. 8, 1993.
Rutgers hasn’t won a game against a No. 25 foe since upsetting then-No. 23 South Florida in 2009. The Scarlet Knights are 0-28 since then, the longest drought among Power Five programs, and have lost by an average margin of 31 points.
Keep Michael Penix Jr. rolling: We knew the Hoosiers quarterback had potential after he threw for a school-record 68.8 competition percentage for 1,394 yards, with 10 touchdowns, four interceptions and a 157.56 pass-efficiency rating in six starts a year ago.
But the redshirt sophomore was a difference maker in the Penn State upset, rushing for a touchdown with 22 seconds remaining, throwing for a TD in overtime, and then converting the two-point conversion following both scores to lift the Hoosiers to a 36-35 triumph.
Penix Jr. finished with 170 yards on 19-for-36 passing, with a touchdown and an interception in the opener.
Get Whop Philyor involved: It’ll be interesting to see which Rutgers cornerback gets the call on Indiana’s star receiver. Tre Avery had an interception against Michigan State, and Avery Young had nine tackles and forced two fumbles in the win.
Whoever gets tapped against Indiana’s 5-11, 180-pound receiver, it’ll be a difficult task considering Philyor has produced 131 receptions, 1,608 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns for his career. Included in those numbers are six 100-yard performances and five double-digit catch efforts.
Philyor was mostly held in check against Penn State, hauling in five receptions for 36 yards and a touchdown.
Against Rutgers last year, the Tampa, Fla., native had 10 receptions for 182 yards.
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