Rutgers looks to open season strong vs. Temple

NCAA Football

Greg Schiano returned to the sidelines at Rutgers last season and experienced some modest achievements.

With 20 starters back for Schiano’s second season, expectations are slightly higher for the Scarlet Knights, who host Temple on Thursday night in Piscataway, N.J., in the season opener for both teams.

Schiano returned to the school he led to 68 wins and six bowl game appearances in his first stint from 2001 to 2011. Since their last bowl game appearance, the Scarlet Knights shifted to the Big Ten and were 13-47 in the five seasons before Schiano returned.

Last season, Rutgers was 3-6 while only playing conference games but was competitive in most games, including a triple-overtime home loss to Michigan. The team did not lose any game by more than 22 points.

“Certainly, winning some games after not having won very many built their confidence and they started to believe,” said Schiano, whose team was picked to finish sixth in the Big Ten East division. “You know what, we belong in this league and as I told them, and you guys, it’s just going to become more and more evident each and every year.”

The group that was competitive in a challenging league will look similar for the season opener after averaging 26.6 points per game.

That includes Noah Vedral, who emerged as a productive quarterback after arriving as a graduate transfer from Nebraska. He gets to throw to his two favorite targets in Bo Melton and Aron Cruickshank. Vedral completed 61.5 percent of his passes for 1,253 yards and nine touchdowns while Melton and Cruickshank combined for nearly 900 yards and seven TDs

Temple is entering its third season under coach Rod Carey. Coming off a 1-6 season, it was picked to finish 10th in the American Athletic Conference preseason poll. The Owls lost five of their games by double digits in a season where 22 players made their first collegiate starts last season due to COVID-19 and injuries.

“I know this: nobody can throw anything at us that we can’t handle now,” Carey said before the team headed to SUNY-Maritime in the Bronx for training camp. “When you go from them telling us how we can practice or what we should do or when we should do anything light of that, we can tackle it.”

Anthony Russo transferred to Michigan State after completing 68.1 percent of his passes for 863 yards and nine TDs and the Owls are hoping Georgia transfer D’Wan Mathis can seamlessly replace Russo. Mathis began last season as Georgia’s starter and completed 8 of 17 passes for 55 yards in the season opener before being benched for Stetson Bennett. He played two more games before deciding to transfer.

The schools are meeting for the first time since 2013 and Rutgers has won the past four meetings.

–Field Level Media

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