Rutgers-Temple Preview

The Associated Press

Rutgers has moved to the top of the Big East behind its best start in six years.

First-year coach Kyle Flood has much loftier goals in mind for the Scarlet Knights, but Temple is looking to damage those plans in the first meeting in eight years Saturday.

Rutgers (6-0, 3-0) is ranked 19th for its highest appearance in the AP poll since appearing at No. 10 on Sept. 23, 2007. That came a year after the Scarlet Knights won their first nine games of the season, and their 2012 start is the best since.

"For us the motivation is winning a Big East Championship," Flood said. "For us, the motivation to do something at Rutgers that's never been done in the history of our football program."

Rutgers' strong start continued with Saturday's 23-15 win over Syracuse. Reigning Big East defensive player of the year Khaseem Greene had 14 tackles, three forced fumbles, one interception and 1 1/2 sacks.

The defense leads the conference with 17 turnovers and 12 picks.

"If you spend too much time patting yourself on the back for what you've accomplished, you're going to lose sight of what you need to accomplish this week," Flood said. "We'll evaluate the whole body of work at the end of the season.

"Right now, our job is to be 1-0 this week."

Strong defensive play will likely be key again for Flood's team, as the Scarlet Knights face Temple (3-2, 2-0) - their closest pursuer in the Big East.

The Owls are second in the conference with 176.8 rushing yards per game and Montel Harris enters this contest after totaling 275 yards with three touchdowns over the last two games.

Rutgers, however, ranks second in the nation in rushing defense, yielding an average of 60.8 yards and hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 10 games.

"It starts with stopping the run," Flood said. "That will never change. If you stop the run, you can make a team one-dimensional, you'll have chances to turn the ball over."

The ground game is also important to the Scarlet Knights' success. Jawan Jamison leads the conference with 665 rushing yards and 158 carries. Jamison will be looking to get back on track after he was limited to a season-low 64 yards on 28 rushes against Syracuse. The Owls have struggled against the run, surrendering 156.4 yards per game.

While a formidable defense has been the biggest reason for Rutgers' success, quarterback Gary Nova also has performed very well. He's already matched his total from last year as a freshman with 11 touchdown passes, and has eight without an interception in the past five games.

Temple is looking to remain unbeaten in its return to the Big East. The Owls opened conference play with a 37-28 victory over South Florida on Oct. 6 and followed that up with a 17-14 overtime win at Connecticut a week later.

"This has been very positive for us to find a way to win over the last two weeks," coach Steve Addazio said. "It's one more stop on the maturity train and I think we can build off of that.

"We go from that game into this Rutgers game. They're an outstanding football team. You look at them on defense and they have eight returning starters; outstanding players. I like they way they close to the ball."

Sophomore quarterback Chris Coyer is likely to have his hands full against a unit that has held five of six opponents under 16 points.

Coyer may be a bigger threat on the ground, leading the team with 71 carries for 302 yards and two TDs, while completing 53.5 percent of his passes for 662 yards with six scores and two INTs.

These teams are meeting for the first time since Temple was expelled from the Big East in 2004. Rutgers won that year's meeting at home, and is 18-16 in the all-time series.

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