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October 03, 2014 - Image 8

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8 - Friday, October 3, 2014 The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

First meeting for programs

FOOTBALL
Q&A withDaily
Targum reporter

Conference moves
create matchup
between oldest
teams in FBS
By MAX COHEN
Daily Sports Editor
When Rutgers joined the
Big Ten, there were numerous
questions about how its
football team would fit into
the conference. The -Scarlet
Knights were viewed as an
underwhelming program, one
incapable of competing for Big
Ten titles.
But it's Michigan (0-1 Big Ten,
2-3 overall) that desperately
needs a win entering the first-
ever meeting between the
historic programs. Rutgers (0-1,
4-1) put ascare into Penn State in
its first Big Ten game, ultimately
falling short in a 13-10 loss in
Piscataway, but the Wolverines
fell to Minnesota in their opener,
30-14.
Though the Scarlet Knights
are new to the Big Ten, the
program's history is lengthy.
Rutgers participated in the
first-ever college football game,
defeating Princeton, 6-4,on Nov.
6,1869.
Michigan played its first game
10 years later, defeating Racine,
1-0,onMay 30,1879. Rutgers and
Michigan are the two oldest FBS
football programs.
The Scarlet Knights
historically haven't experienced
the success the Wolverines have.
Rutgers is 464-437-22 all-time,
and didn't have a single winning
season between 1992 and 2005.
But the Scarlet Knights have had
just two losing seasons since.
Former head coach Greg
Schiano helped put the program
in position to win consistently
during his 11-season tenure from
2001 to 2011. The highlight of
Rutgers' recent success came
during the 2006 season, in which

By ALEJANDRO ZONIGA
ManagingSports Editor
The Daily Targum writer Greg
Johnson discusses the upcoming
Michigan-Rutgers game.
The Michigan Daily:
Quarterback Gary Nova has
really struggled at times this
year, including that ugly five-
interception game against Penn
State. How much of the blame
lies with him?
Greg Johnson: Nova's
inconsistencies over the years
have been his own sporadic
decision-making, but he tends to
run into trouble when he's asked
to do too much. Nova has talent
and can make plays when the
offense is in rhythm, but he's best
suited as a game manager. He's
excelled in that role the last two
weeks, so granted Rutgers runs
the ball effectively early, we'll
see if he can deliver in a big game
against the Michigan defense.
TMD: Saturday's meeting will
be the first between these two
storied programs, but Michigan
is far from the level most
people expect of it. What's the
excitement level like given the
Wolverines' poor starts
GJi Despite the 2-3 record,
Michigan is still Michigan to
Rutgers and its fans, and a win
would be huge this weekend.
Given the crushing loss to Penn
State and the factthatthis athletic
department has had its own
share of PR nightmares the last
couple years, fans are desperate
to see this program make noise in
the Big Ten and keep moving in
the right direction.
TMD: Rutgers is a big first-
half team; Michigan can't seem
to score in any way. The Scarlet
Knights capitalize on turnovers;
the Wolverines' offense can't
stop committing them. Does it

feel like Michigan iswalking into
abuzz saw in Piscataway?
GJ: It's funny how the
narrative has gone from"Rutgers
might have a chance" in the
preseason to now . essentially
"Rutgers better not lose." I
wouldn't be shocked if the
Knights pull away handily in
this one, but I also wouldn't be
surprised if Rutgers lays a goose
egg.Therealotofreasonstothink
Rutgers is getting Michigan at a
perfect time, but there's still alot
of talent on that roster. On paper
this is certainly a game Rutgers
should win.
TMD: What has the move to
the Big Ten been like?
GJ: It's exciting. It's bringing
in tons of notoriety and definitely
helpingrecruitinginalotofways.
Having The Big Ten Network set
on campus for the first time a
few weeks ago was great for the
fans. Granted, the conference's
football product hasn't been
great so far this year, but there's
a tremendous buzz when people
think of the history and prestige-
of the Big Ten.
TMD: Finally, we'd be
remiss not to talk about Andre
Hunt, the freshman walk-on
who is listed as a co-starter for
Saturday's. meeting. And in the
bigger picture, how will Rutgers
be affected most by the 19-man
injury list?
GJ: Hunt is a great guy with
an even better backstory. Almost
quit football after blowing out
both of his knees in high school
back in Minnesota.
As far as the lengthy injury
list, most of the guys on there are
just for precautionary measures.
Only star running back Paul
James' torn ACL really matters
long-term. Kyle Flood is also less
cryptic with injuries than alot of
college head coaches, including
Brady Hoke, it seems like.

The Michigan football team has struggled to manage much offensively, and It will be tested by a ferocious Rutgers 'D.'

the Scarlet Knights went 11-2.
Runningback Ray Rice became a
national star, leadingthe offense
and rushing for 1,794 yards and
20 touchdowns.
On Nov. 29 of that year, the
undefeated, 15th-ranked Scarlet
Knights upset No. 3 Louisville,
28-25, in a game many
remember as "Pandemonium
in Piscataway." Because of the
program's previous lack of
success, the fans were raucous
when presented with the
opportunity to see their team
play in a big game. When the
upset concluded, the fans rushed
the field.
Though the team eventually
lost two games, the contest
set the precedent for added
excitement about the Rutgers

program. Many compared the
environment at the Scarlet
Knights' first Big Ten home
game against the Nittany Lions
to the atmosphere at the 2006
Louisville game. Saturday's
game against the Wolverines is
sold out, and the atmosphere is
expected to be rowdy.
Fifth-year senior .Devin
Gardner will be Michigan's
starting quarterback once again
after he was benched in favor
of sophomore Shane Morris
before the Wolverines' loss to
Minnesota.
Gardner won't have much
time to get comfortable now that
he has regained his position.
Rutgers currently leads the
Big Ten with 21 sacks, posing
a challenge to Michigan's

relatively inexperienced
offensive line. Michigan coach
Brady Hoke said a variety of
issues have plagued his team in
pass protection.
"We cut some guy loose
because we were a little over-
aggressive, and we cut some guys
loose because we hadn't picked it
up the right way from a backfield
standpoint, and we cut some guys
loose because our quarterback
hasn't stepped up in the pocket,"
Hoke said Wednesday.
In most weeks, off-field
issues serve as an interruption
from football talk. But with.
controversy swirling around
the handling of Morris' injury,
football will give Michigan
a much-needed break from
everything else.

Q&A: Kyle Flood

Breakdown: Distractions loom

By ALEXA DETTELBACH
Daily SportsEditor
Michigan coach Brady Hoke
said Wednesday that Rutgers is
a "well-coached football team"
whose success begins with
coach Kyle Flood.
Flood has led the Scarlet
Knights for three years after
replacing coach Greg Schiano,
who left for the NFL in 2011.
He's gone 16-10 with Rutgers.
The Daily sat down with
Flood at Big Ten Media Day in
August.
The Michigan Daily: What
are you most excited about with
Rutgers joining the Big Ten?
Kyle Flood: I think there's a
couple things that come up right
away. It's one of the power five
conferences; we're in the elite
academic athletic conference in
the country. So to me, you have
a destination location, which in
college football the landscape a
couple years ago, not everybody
has that now. We feel like we
belong here. This is a very
good marriage for Rutgers and
the Big Ten. So to me that part
of it now we can move past it,
and now we're trying to win
championships.
TMD: What have you found
as the biggest challenge with
the transition?
KF: For us as coaches, we
have a yearly routine of how
you go about things, so now
this year because it's a new
conference, 12 new opponents
on our schedule, not just the
conference schedule. That's
been the most taxing thing on
our staff. But really in terms of
how we got about things and
how we train, we've been doing
it at Rutgers a long time so that
doesn't change for us.
TMD: You've been coaching
for over 20 years, how do you
still find it exciting everyday?
KF: There's no better way to
spend your waking hours than
to work with young people and
to me, I started as a high school
math teacher, then I moved to

the coaching profession. When
you have the opportunity to
work with young people that
energizes you a lot I think.
TMD: You guys were in the
Jabrill Peppers conversation for
a while, what kind of player do
you think he is?
KF: I think Jabrill is quite
a good football player. He was
certainly a good football player
in high school, but now he's
going to have to transition into
college. There's no question he
has a high ceiling.
TMD: Now that Rutgers has
a Midwest connection how can
that help with recruiting and
the direction of the program?
KF: I think what it does
it really opens up some not
traditional areas. We have a
quarterback and a receiver that
we got from Michigan, a tight
end from Minnesota, a tight end
from Texas. The access to those
players, although we're not
going to be full time recruiting
in the Midwest, because there's
not really a huge population
of players close to home, but if
there's a position we need we
can go out there and get it and
that'll be good. Plus, they'll be
interested in coming to the Big
Ten.
TMD: Did you notice a big
bump in recruiting over the
year once it was decided you
were moving to the Big Ten?
KF: Absolutely, there's no
doubt. The best players in high
school want to play against the
best. You're playing against
some of the most historic
programs in the history of
college football. There's no
doubt that's what they want.
TMD: What can you say
about the Michigan-Rutgers
matchup that's going to be at
night in High Point Solutions
Stadium stadium?
KF: It's a very big game and
will be great for our program.
As for the event side, like I said
I don't know much about it, but
I'm sure it will be great.

By GREG GARNO
ManagingSports Editor
The Daily breaks down this
week's matchup.
Michigan pass offense vs.
Rutgers pass defense
Michigan's passing lives and
dies with junior wide receiver
Devin Funchess, which should
make for easy game planning
for the Rutgers defense. Fifth-
year senior quarterback Devin
Gardner's rapport with wide
receivers against Minnesota
didn't look better than it did two
weeks before against Utah.
But the Rutgers passing
defense ranks 13th in the Big
Ten, and has allowed nearly
1,400 total yards having played
the likes of Tulane and Howard.
The Scarlet Knights have just
three interceptions this season,
but they could feast on Gardner's
inaccuracy.
In this case, it's a matter of
which one makes the fewest
mistakes.
Edge: Rutgers
Michigan rush offense vs.
Rutgers rush defense
The Michigan rushing game,
once led by sophomore Derrick
Green, is now up in the air after
he struggled against the Golden
Gophers. Sophomore De'Veon
Smith hasn't proved to be much
of a better back, but did find some
room last Saturday.
The Wolverines' line hasn't
been able to open up enough
holes betweenthe tackles.
Combined with Rutgers
defensive end Darius Hamilton,
who has six tackles for loss this
season, and a 49th-ranked Scarlet
Knights rush defense, this doesn't
bode well for Michigan.
Edge: Rutgers
Rutgers pass offense vs.
Michigan pass defense
Scarlet Knights quarterback
Gary Nova won't be an
intimidating threat for the
Michigan secondary, even if it
does play like it did last week.
Nova has seven interceptions
on the season and relies on the

0

4

EDWIN GANO/The Daily Targum
Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova threw five picks against Penn State, but he can be an efficient game manager.

running game's success to take
the pressure off him. When's
he forced to drop back to pass,
as opposed to using play action,
Nova's arm is exposed. Against
Penn State three weeks ago, he
threw five interceptions.
Michigan's secondary,
meanwhile, returns junior safety
Jarrod Wilson and senior corner
back Raymon Taylor to bring
back some experience and depth
at the positions.
Edge: Michigan
Rutgers rush offense vs.
Michigan rush defense
One team's strength against
another team's strength means
something has to budge. And the
way Michigan has played against
the rush, it should find the upper
hand.
It's led by a line that doesn't
miss a beat often, regardless of
who steps in. Redshirt sophomore
defensive tackles Willie Henry
and Ryan Glasgow held their own
this year. But against Minnesota,

they were gashed for 167yards.
The Wolverines have allowed
more than 100 yards in just two
games this season, and have
otherwise allowed exactly three
yards per carry. Rutgers, led by
Paul James' five touchdowns and
5.7 yards per carry, hasn't been
tested at the line.
Edge: Michigan
Specialteams
This could very well determine
a game in which both sides
appear even with each other.And
if that's the case, it doesn't bode
well for the Wolverines.
Its punting blunder against
Utah aside, Michigan hasn't given
reason to be optimistic that it can
make a big play. The Wolverines
are 11th in the Big Ten in punt-
return average and 12th in kick
returns.
Junior Dennis Norfleet hasn't
had a chance to run with the ball
when punt coverage doesn't give
him enough time to catch the ball
and break free.

Redshirt sophomore Amarah
Darboh and Peppers haven't
made much of an impact
themselves as returners.
While Rutgers hasn't played
much better on return coverage,
it does have four blocked kicks
that could be pivotal to swinging
momentum.
Edge: Rutgers
Intangibles
In theory, Michigan should be
motivated to silence critics who
have grown louder each week.
But with all the distraction
surrounding Michigan coach
Brady Hoke and Athletic
Director Dave Brandon, it's going
to be tough to keep focused on
this game. It's an opponent the
Wolverines haven't faced, and
things could come crashing down
quickly on the road.
With Michigan earning all
of the attention, the Scarlet
Knights should be more focused.
FINAL: Rutgers 24,
Michigan 21

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