Syracuse will play Rutgers on Saturday at noon at High Point Solution Stadium. In preparation for the game, we caught up with SNYRutgers.com‘s Matt Sugam.
The Juice Online: How has Rutgers started so well?
Matt Sugam: The formula isn’t complicated. Ground and pound on offense while keeping the quarterback upright as he manages the game. Stop the run and turn the ball over on defense. Make big plays on special teams. In a 19-3 win on Saturday over UConn, Jawan Jamsion ran for over 100 yards for the sixth straight game while Gary Nova wasn’t sacked and completed 67% of his passes. The nation’s number one ranked run defense held UConn to 53 yards on the ground. They also had four interceptions. Tejay Johnson forced a fumble that was recovered by Jamal Merrill on a kickoff. On Saturday, they executed the formula as well as they have all year. And while Rutgers will continue to turn heads and garner a national spotlight, the defense will be at the forefront.
TJO: How has the defense done so well with the injury to nose tackle Ike Homlmes?
MS: When Holmes was lost for the year with a wrist injury after the Arkansas game, the question arose of whether the top rushing defense in the nation could remain there without their starting nose tackle. Against UConn, they put that question to rest — for now — by holding UConn to 54 yards rushing, sliding them to No. 2 in the nation despite being under their season average. Rutgers did so with a deep rotation at defensive line. The Scarlet Knights used nine defensive lineman in the game Jamil Merrill, Scott Vallone, Ka’Lial Glaud, Marvin Booker, Darius Hamilton, Max Issaka, Marcus Thompson, Kenneth Kirksey and Michael Larrow.
TJO: Besides Holmes, are there other injury concerns for Rutgers?
MS: Kicker Kyle Federico’s (lower body) status remains a mystery. Injured on his the kickoff after his last field goal against UConn, head coach Kyle Flood said Federico will not be able to kickoff this week — meaning Justin Doerner will likely handle those duties like he did earlier in the season — and is unsure if he will be able to kick extra points and field goals. The latter is what could be an issue for the Scarlet Knights.
TJO: What are your predictions for the game?
MS: I’ll take Rutgers in this game.