Friday, October 21, 2011
W2W4: Rutgers at Louisville
By Kieran Darcy
Here are three things to watch in Friday night's Big East game pitting Rutgers (5-1, 2-0) versus Louisville (2-4, 0-1) at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, Ky.
Kickoff is at 8 p.m., and the game will air on ESPN2 and ESPN3.
ROLL ON? Rutgers carries loads of momentum into this game, looking for its fifth consecutive victory. Amazingly, on Oct. 20, the Scarlet Knights would become bowl-eligible with a win over the Cardinals. They also would likely be ranked, at least in the USA Today coaches poll -- they just missed this past week, coming in 28th.
That said, Rutgers is working on a short week of practice after its 21-20 win over Navy last Saturday. So is Louisville, following its 25-16 loss at Cincinnati -- but Rutgers has to travel. We'll see whether the Scarlet Knights' legs are fresh, or whether they look a little heavy.
Note: Louisville has already lost at home to Florida International (24-17) and Marshall (17-13) this season.
FRESH ARMS: Both teams will start true freshmen at quarterback -- Gary Nova for Rutgers, Teddy Bridgewater for Louisville. Neither of them began the season as the team's starter, but both are entrenched now. Nova has completed 55 of 99 passes (55.6 percent) for 683 yards, with six touchdowns and two interceptions. Bridgewater has completed 68 of 108 passes (63.0 percent) for 709 yards, with four touchdowns and five interceptions.
Let's see which rookie performs better under the Friday night lights. You can expect both coaches to try to throw lots of pressure at the QBs -- Rutgers appears to have the advantage on paper in that regard. Bridgewater has already been sacked 14 times this season, while Nova has been sacked only seven times. And, Rutgers is tied with Oklahoma for second in the country in sacks per game (4.0), behind only Texas A&M (4.3).
"Tremendous arm strength," Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said of Bridgewater in his weekly news conference. "Can make any throw in the book. Great escapability. It's not that he wants to. It's not that he's looking to be a scrambler, but when the protection breaks down and he has to go, he's elusive. He makes people look silly."
SECRET WEAPON? Touchdowns could be hard to come by Friday night. Rutgers is tops in the Big East and 11th in the country in points against, giving up just 16.0 per game. Louisville is third in the conference, and 16th in the country, at 17.7.
With points at a premium, Rutgers senior place kicker San San Te could make the difference in this game. Te is tied for third in the country in field goals made this season (12) and is fourth in the country among active players in career field goals (56).
Te does have six misses on the year, but five of them were from 40 yards or more (and one of those was blocked). He also has a pair of 50-yard makes and plenty of experience.
Louisville kicker Chris Philpott is also a senior, but has only eight field goal attempts this season, with five makes.