Rutgers football ready for Big Ten test against Penn State: ‘They are playing a high level’

The good news for Rutgers football is that their offense broke out of their struggles over the weekend in a 27-21 loss at Michigan State. In the loss, Rutgers had 25 first downs and 460 yards of total offense.

The bad news? Up next for Rutgers is one of the elite defenses in not just the Big Ten but the country.

Penn State is second in the Big Ten in points allowed, a difficult match-up for a Rutgers program that is third-from-the-bottom in total offense. The Nittany Lions boast elite playmakers on defense including Ji’Ayir Brown and Joey Porter Jr.

Both Brown and Porter were named to the watchlist for the Bednarik Award, given to the nation’s top defensive player.

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For Rutgers (4-5, 1-5 Big Ten) head coach Greg Schiano, Saturday’s game against No. 12 Penn State (8-2, 5-2 Big Ten) is a big test on both sides of the ball. The Nittany Lions beat Maryland 30-0 on Saturday.

“Yeah, they are a very good team. So it’s not just defense. It’s all three phases,” Schiano told reporters on Monday during his weekly press availability.

“Certainly defensively they played extremely well last week. Suffocating. They can cover. They play a lot of either man or multiple, which turns into man once the routes (are) declared. I think the thing they are doing the best, they are second in the Big Ten in sacks only to Michigan by one. So they are getting after the passer and you know, pass coverage and pass rush usually go hand in hand. So they are doing both very well.”

Consistently, Penn State has been a solid offense but in recent weeks, they’ve turned things up a notch against Indiana and Maryland – two Big Ten programs that would be considered peers of Rutgers.

Two weeks ago at Indiana, Penn State put up 45 points. Last Saturday at home against Maryland, the Nittany Lions had three offensive touchdowns and 34:46 of ball control.

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With the win, Penn State moved up in the most recent USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll.

They are being led by freshman running back Nicholas Singleton, who is a strong candidate for the Shaun Alexander Freshman of the Year Award.

“Offensively, I think their freshman tailback is an elite player. Really good at the skill positions and I think the line has really developed quite a bit,” Schiano said.

“If that was a weakness at one point early in the year it’s not anymore. And then the special teams, they are pretty complete in the kicking game. I think what you are looking at is, you know, what they are. They are one of the top 15 teams in America. They are playing at that level now. That’s what I would say the biggest thing is they have gotten better over the course of the season and they are playing at a high-level.”

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Rutgers football loses at Michigan State: Five things we learned

Rutgers football looked good in a loss at Michigan State.
Rutgers football looked good in a loss at Michigan State.

Story originally appeared on Rutgers Wire