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After beating Ohio 29-9 in its season opener last Saturday, Syracuse returns home to face Rutgers. It will be the first football game in the Carrier Dome with fans since November 2019 and the first time the Scarlet Knights have played in central New York in 10 years.
Greg Schiano returned to Rutgers for his second stint as head coach last season and led RU to a 3-6 record in an abbreviated season. The Scarlet Knights easily won their season opener against Temple, 61-14.
Here’s everything you need to know about Rutgers before SU’s home opener:
Syracuse leads 29-12, with one tie
Last time they played
Rutgers beat Syracuse 23-15 in Piscataway, New Jersey, as part of its 7-0 start to the 2012 season. The game was tied at seven going into halftime, but RU scored 16 unanswered points to secure the win. Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib threw for 356 yards, but Scarlet Knights wide receiver Brandon Coleman recorded six receptions for 104 yards. Rutgers and Syracuse were two of the four teams that split the Big East title that season — SU left for the Atlantic Coast Conference the following year.
The Rutgers report
Rutgers played a nine-game, all-Big Ten schedule last season. RU beat Michigan State, Purdue and Maryland — all road games — and took Michigan to three overtimes. It was the Scarlet Knights best season since 2017, when they went 4-8.
Schiano previously coached at Rutgers from 2001-2011, when he took a program with only one previous bowl appearance to six. He left in 2012 to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for two seasons and later served as Ohio State’s defensive coordinator. The New Jersey native returned to RU in December 2019, signing an eight-year contract worth over $4 million per year.
Against Temple, Rutgers took a 36-7 lead into halftime and outscored the Owls 21-0 in the fourth quarter. Wide receiver Aron Cruickshank recorded 206 all-purpose yards, including four kick returns for 113 yards. Quarterback Noah Vedral threw for 138 yards and a touchdown, and RU scored 60 points against a Football Bowl Subdivision team for the first time in 13 years. The defense forced five turnovers and held Temple to just 261 yards. SU head coach Dino Babers said he was impressed watching Rutgers’ week one performance.
“This is an explosive crew — they’re skill is really, really good, really really fast,” Babers said. “If they get out on us, they’re going to be hard to get, they’ll probably get all of us. So we’ve got to really cross our t’s and dot our i’s in this situation.”
The Scarlet Knights returned 20 starters from last year’s team — including all 11 on offense — their key special teams players and all 10 of Schiano’s full-time assistants.
Last year, Schiano played four different quarterbacks, led by Vedral, who threw nine touchdowns with eight interceptions and over 1,200 yards passing. Linebacker Olakunle Fatukasi led the defense with 43 solo and 101 total tackles. The Queens native was named First Team All-Big Ten and is on three different watch lists heading into this season, including the Chuck Bednarik Award — given annually to the country’s top defensive player.
How Syracuse beats Rutgers
The Orange will again need to find success on the ground. Freshman running back Sean Tucker took 25 carries for 181 yards and a touchdown against Ohio. Tucker and the offensive line will again need to step up and block Rutgers’ front seven — which includes Fatukasi, who led RU with six tackles and three sacks against Temple.
Syracuse will also likely need more offense production from quarterback Tommy DeVito and its passing game. After beating out Mississippi State transfer Garrett Shrader for the week one start, DeVito went 11-17 for only 92 yards and no touchdowns. DeVito was able to use his legs, however, running seven times for 49 yards and a score. Based on Rutgers’ week one defensive performance, having a two-dimensional offense will be important for the Orange.
The Scarlet Knights’ top weapons on their offense include Cruickshank, running back Isaih Pacheco and senior wide receiver Bo Melton. Schiano’s pro-style offense put up 61 points against the Owls, and SU will have to contain RU’s key skill players to pull out a win.
Stat to know: 3
That’s how many sacks Fatukasi had against Temple, tied for the second-most in FBS in week one. Syracuse allowed just one sack against Ohio after the Orange allowed 3.5 per game last season, a number that ranked 119 out of 127 FBS teams. Protecting DeVito will be critical against Fatukasi and the Rutgers’ pass rush on Saturday.
Player to watch: Olakunle Fatukasi, linebacker
Fatukasi dominated against Temple and had double-digit tackles in six of RU’s nine games last year. SU will have to contain him to have a chance at moving the ball on offense and recording a win on Saturday.
The post Opponent Preview: What to know about Rutgers before SU’s home opener appeared first on The Daily Orange.