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November 17, 2012

Rutgers vs. Cincinnati: Game Notebook

CINCINNATI - Rutgers continues to remain in control of its own destiny following Saturday's 10-3 victory over Cincinnati. Here's a deeper look into the Scarlet Knights latest win that has boosted the team up to 9-1 on the season.

Playing for a championship
Rutgers will face Pittsburgh next week on the road, but even with a loss the Scarlet Knights will have a chance to play for the Big East championship when they host Louisville in the regular season finale.

"When you are in the situation we are in, you understand how precious and fragile that situation is," said head coach Kyle Flood. "We're fortunate enough where we've done a good enough job to put ourselves in that position. But when we come back tomorrow the most important message to the team is going to be 'none of those previous wins give us anything next week. We have to go back to work, on the road again against a really fine Pittsburgh team that's getting better each week. And we had better put all our effort into being 1-0 next week.'"

In the event Rutgers defeats Pitt next week and Louisville loses to UConn, the Scarlet Knights will then win the Big East regardless of what happens when RU and Louisville square off.

A solid O-line
The Rutgers offensive line did not allow quarterback Gary Nova to get sacked once on the day and it also helped clear the way for a total of 239 rushing yards. Starting offensive tackle R.J. Dill explained why Rutgers was able to be so successful in the trenches.

"Part of it is working really hard. We had a great week of practice, the best week we had yet. Now we have to have a really good week of practice and get ready for this Pittsburgh team."

Dill went down in the third quarter but returned after missing only one play.

"It was just a minor bruise on my leg, a dead leg. I was back so it's fine," Dill said.

Beating the spread
In the previous two games against Cincinnati, including today, Rutgers has only allowed the Bearcats' spread offense a total of six points. That is quite a difference to the 116 combined points RU yielded to the Bearcats during the two games played during the '09 and '10 seasons.

"The games before we weren't mentally sound," said Harmon. "They creased us and exposed our flaws. This year, we knew exactly what we had to do to contain this type of offense."

Today's win was also the first time RU has beaten Cincinnati on the road since 1987.

"We all knew that we haven't won here but we didn't want to dwell too much on that because it was a different team in the past," Harmon said. "We feel like we are a much better team, we're a more mature team. We knew what we had to come in here to do. We did do it and now it's time to celebrate this one."

Harmon and his fellow seniors dropped two previous games at Cincinnati during their stints as Scarlet Knights.

"They are an offense that count on your inconsistencies," said senior defensive tackle Scott Vallone. "They want to get the ball out on the edge then really make one cut and get their running backs going downhill. We knew that, we knew they were going to have to be physical with their O-line. I thought I basically knew almost every play they were running before it happened. I think it was just a matter of bringing the energy."

Defeating the spread also includes tackling in space, which Rutgers did rather well today.

"They know that we play a lot of man to man and they have fast receivers and they want to run the pick routes and the meshes," said junior cornerback Logan Ryan, who grabbed his fourth interception of the season against Cincinnati. "That makes you have to chase guys and tackle them because if you miss a tackle it results in a big play. As a defense, we pride ourselves on tackling and I think we did a good job of that today."

Two-headed monster
Rutgers now looks as though it has a two-headed monster at running back following a big 179-yard performance by sophomore Savon Huggins. He started in place of Jawan Jamison, who carried four times for 37 yards on a tender ankle.

"It felt really good to know that I've got somebody that can back me up and come in and do that," Jamison said. "He did a tremendous job."

Jamison is also hoping to see more action next weekend against Pitt.

"We're just going to keep doing what we're doing," he said. "Hopefully I can get to 100 percent out there and come back with a vengeance."

Scarlet Stuff
-Wide receiver Mark Harrison caught his 17th career receiving touchdown and is now tied for second in RU history with Kenny Britt and Chris Brantley. In his two career games at Nippert Stadium, Harrison has 14 receptions for 346 receiving yards and five touchdowns.

-Savon Huggins' 41 carries ties the record for the most in a single game in RU history. His 41 carries ties Jawan Jamison's total earlier this year against USF.

-Linebacker Khaseem Greene moved into sixth place on Rutgers' all-time tackle list. Greene garnered 11 tackles to give him 354 for his career.

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