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Previewing The Enemy: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

No. 11 Penn State football is going road-tripping again.

The Nittany Lions (8-2, 5-2 Big Ten) will take on Rutgers (4-6, 1-6 Big Ten) at 3:30 p.m. this Saturday at SHI Stadium. Penn State is coming in hot after blowout wins over Indiana and Maryland and will try to keep things rolling before heading home for Senior Day against Michigan State.

The Scarlet Knights, on the other hand, have struggled in their third season since Greg Schiano rejoined the program. They switched things over to a young, raw quarterback a few weeks ago and have seen incremental success.

Before kickoff rolls around in Piscataway, let’s check out the rest of the Schianomen.

The Team

After beginning the season with three straight wins, including two on the road, Rutgers enters this matchup at 4-6. The Scarlet Knights’ lone conference win came over Indiana, and they have lost six of their last seven.

Schiano is in his second stint as head coach of the program and is in his third consecutive season after returning to Piscataway in December 2019. He’s led Rutgers to five bowl wins in seven appearances over his 14 total years at the helm.

Nunzio Campanile took over as interim offensive coordinator when Sean Gleeson was fired in October. Rutgers is toward the bottom of the conference in most major offensive categories but is eighth in rushing offense, averaging 144.3 yards per game on the ground.

Rutgers’ defensive coordinator is Joe Harasymiak, who previously spent time at Minnesota and was the head coach of Maine for three years, leading the Black Bears to an FCS playoff semifinal appearance in 2018. The Scarlet Knights’ 324.8 yards allowed per game is seventh-best in the Big Ten.

Offense

Redshirt freshman Gavin Wimsatt took over as starting quarterback for the Scarlet Knights against Michigan and will likely be the guy against Penn State. He completed 59% of his 34 passes against Michigan State last week, logging 236 yards and two scores — by far his best performance of the year.

Wisconsin transfer Aron Cruickshank has been the go-to guy through the air for Rutgers this season, scoring three times and pacing the team with 480 scrimmage yards this season. He has 40 receptions, and James Franklin called him a “difference maker” on both offense and special teams.

Sean Ryan, a transfer from West Virginia, leads the team with three receiving touchdowns and is right behind Cruickshank with 348 yards through the air. Shameen Jones has 226 yards through the air as well.

Senior Johnny Langan, who transitioned to tight end from quarterback, has 251 receiving yards and two total scores this year. His backup, Victor Konopka, has one catch, which was a touchdown, this season.

On the ground, Kyle Monangai paces the Scarlet Knights with 391 rushing yards on 90 attempts. Samuel Brown isn’t far behind with 369 yards and three rushing scores. They both are averaging 4.3 yards per carry.

Franklin said Monangai is “playing really well.”

All in all, Rutgers’ 19.9 points per game is 12th-best in the Big Ten and 115th out of 131 FBS teams.

Defense

Will linebacker Deion Jennings leads the team with 75 tackles and was identified by Franklin as a guy who stood out on tape. He also has four passes defended on the season.

Christian Izien, who plays at both safety and sam linebacker, is right behind Jennings with 70 tackles and was also shouted out by Penn State’s head coach. He has a sack and a half along with five passes defended this season.

Tyreem Powell rounds out the linebacker room and has 59 stops on the season. He also has three sacks, which is second-most on the team, and three passes defended.

Aaron Lewis leads defensive linemen with 49 tackles and received praise from Franklin this week, as well. He has a sack and forced fumble in 2022. The head coach also shouted out Ifeanyi Maijeh, who transferred in from Temple. He has 26 tackles and a sack.

Defensive end Wesley Bailey leads the team with 3.5 sacks this season. He has 18 tackles along with two passes defended and a fumble recovery. Rutgers has forced just two fumbles all year, and its 13 total sacks are last in the conference.

Along with Izien, Avery Young is a star player in the secondary. The Pennsylvania native has 61 tackles this season in addition to four passes defended and an interception.

Christian Braswell leads the team with three interceptions, and Robert Longerbeam is right behind with him two of his own. The Scarlet Knights have nine total picks this year, good for the eighth-most in the Big Ten.

Special Teams

Jude McAtamney is Rutgers’ kicker and is 22-for-23 on extra points this season. He’s made 69% of his field goals and hasn’t hit from longer than 49 yards.

Australian punter Adam Korsak is a weapon for Rutgers and is averaging 44.1 yards on 53 punts. He’s in his fifth year with the program.

Cruickshank is the returner and has added 280 total yards on punt and kick returns this year. Franklin also identified defender Max Melton as a special teams weapon for the Scarlet Knights. He blocked a punt against Michigan.

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About the Author

Ryan Parsons

Ryan is a redshirt senior majoring in business and journalism from "Philadelphia" and mostly writes about football nowadays. You can follow him on Twitter @rjparsons9 or say hi via email at [email protected]

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