Sports

American Athletic Conference opponent preview: Rutgers

In the fifth part of a series, we take a look at new football opponents.

Temple is a founding member of The American Athletic Conference. Since the Owls are playing in a new conference with new opponents, The Temple News will be taking a look at the new rivals of the football team and providing some important facts that Temple fans should know about the new conference opponents. Next up: the Rutgers University Scarlet Knights.

Rutgers University is just 62 miles away from Temple, by far the closest American conference opponent to Philadelphia. It is a 70-minute drive to the main campus in New Brunswick, N.J. The Scarlet Knights’ home field is High Point Solutions Stadium, which is on-campus and seats more than 52,000 spectators.

The football program is one of the oldest in the country. In 1869, Rutgers defeated Princeton 6-4 in the first documented intercollegiate game in history. The Scarlet Knights have an all-time record of 616-604-42, a .505 winning percentage.

Perhaps due to the short distance between the schools, Temple has played Rutgers more than any other American team. The Owls are 16-18 all-time against the Scarlet Knights. For 28 straight years, from 1977 to 2004, the teams played each other yearly. The teams each won 14 games over that stretch. The most recent matchup was last year, when Rutgers blew out Temple 35-10.

The Scarlet Knights have gone 39-25 over the last five seasons. They are 3-1 in bowl games over those years. They were coached by Greg Schiano from 2001 to 2011, after which he left to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Kyle Flood replaced Schiano, and went 9-4 in 2012, his first collegiate had coaching job.

Despite having a new head coach, the Scarlet Knights had a successful year last season. They finished with a share of the old Big East Conference’s regular season title for the first time in school history. They were ranked in the top 25 for much of the season and went to the Russell Athletic Bowl, where they lost to Virginia Tech 13-10 in overtime.

Rutgers’ most important player in 2013 will be junior quarterback Gary Nova. Nova started every game last season, throwing for 2,695 yards, 22 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Those are good numbers for a sophomore, but he will need to improve them to take the team to the next level, especially since he isn’t much of a runner – he has -158 rushing yards in his career.

On defense, redshirt freshman linebacker Steve Longa already has the spotlight on him. Longa has been slotted as the starting middle linebacker, replacing the departed Steve Beauharnais. Normally a middle linebacker has some college experience, but Longa has yet to play a snap for the Scarlet Knights. However, the 6’1″, 220-pounder has a well-rounded skill set, having previously been expected to play on the weak side before sliding over. He could have a breakout season in 2013.

Rutgers has had a number of players go on to the NFL, including Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, New York Giants center Shaun O’Hara, Tennessee Titans wide receiver Kenny Britt and New England Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty.

Temple will visit Rutgers on Saturday, Nov. 2 at noon.

Evan Cross can be reached at evan.cross@temple.edu or on Twitter @EvanCross.

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