Star running back Ray Rice looks for another stellar effort to help Rutgers extend its home winning streak to 10 games Saturday when it meets Norfolk State.
The No. 13 Scarlet Knights (2-0) won for the ninth time in a row at Rutgers Stadium with a 41-24 victory over Navy on Sept. 7, powered by 175 rushing yards and three touchdowns by Rice. The junior’s performance gave him 3,273 career rushing yards, moving him past Terrell Willis’ old mark of 3,114.
“It really feels better when you win the game, too,” said Rice. “None of my individual stats mean that much. It’s just another stat in the book. To do it here at Rutgers and have everyone supporting you is great.”
It was the second straight outstanding game for the Heisman Trophy hopeful, who opened the season with 184 rushing yards and three touchdowns in a 38-3 rout of Buffalo. His 359 rushing yards lead the nation after two contests and his 62 carries rank second, a year after he led Division 1-A with 335 attempts.
Both of the Knights’ wins have come at home, where they have won nine straight games since a 45-31 defeat to South Florida on Nov. 5, 2005. They have outscored opponents by an average of 25.6 points per game during the home winning streak - their longest since a 20-game run from Nov. 16, 1974-Nov. 25, 1978.
“We have a whole football team that’s playing hard together right now, ” Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said.
Rutgers, which has been ranked in a school-record 15 consecutive polls, hopes to continue getting solid play from quarterback Mike Teel. The junior has completed 30 of 42 passes (71.4 percent) for 594 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. That’s a big improvement from last season, when he compiled a 55.4 completion percentage with 13 interceptions and only 12 scores.
“I think Mike did a great job again of running the offense and throwing the ball down the field,” Schiano said after beating Navy. “I thought our receivers did a great job.”
Wide receiver Tiquan Underwood is also showing improvement. The junior has 16 receptions for 352 yards and two TDs - all team highs - after catching 23 passes for 290 yards and four scores in all of 2006.
Defensively, the Scarlet Knights have held their opponents to a total of only 200 passing yards, but the Midshipmen rushed for 254 yards against them.
In Rutgers’ lone game against a team from the Football Championship Subdivision last year, it routed Howard 56-7 behind 105 rushing yards and three touchdowns by Rice, who is now looking to eclipse the 100-yard mark for his sixth consecutive game.
Norfolk State (1-0) is trying to build on a 33-7 season-opening victory over Division II’s Virginia State on Sept. 1.
The Spartans totaled 493 yards total offense in the rout, with running back Daryl Jones accounting for 125 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries.
The senior, who had a team-high nine touchdowns in 2006, is Norfolk State’s primary option on the ground after the departures of Monte’ Anthony and DeAngelo Branche - two of 27 seniors the Spartans lost from last season’s 4-7 team.
This is the first-ever meeting between the schools.