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September 23, 2013

The Monday Morning Kickoff

It was a big weekend on the Rutgers campus as the Scarlet Knights registered a dramatic 28-24 comeback over previously undefeated Arkansas. From football to recruiting to hoops, The Monday Morning Kickoff returns again to get you caught up on all the latest news in the Rutgers sports world.

The inside scoop (Rutgers recruiting)
A much-needed victory for the team itself, Rutgers' 28-24 comeback win also left an impression on the multitude of prospects on hand as visitors.

"Unreal game, so happy I was able to go," said Rumson Fair-Haven defensive end Donald Bedell, a current RU commit. "The team never gave up, the environment was great (really loud on defense) and the players made huge plays when it mattered the most."

Two other commits, Jacksonville (Fla.) First Coast defensive back Kamren Lott and Katy (Tex.) tight end Logan Lister, were at Saturday's contest as official visitors.

Lott's host for the weekend was freshman defensive end Nick Internicola while Lister's was redshirt freshman offensive guard Chris Muller.

"The visit was great," said Lister. "The atmosphere of the stadium, I liked it a lot. That was the biggest thing."

Standout Manalapan wide receiver Saeed Blacknall, another 2014 commitment, also attended the game, and spoke highly of the Scarlet Knights' comeback effort.

"It was awesome to prove everyone who doubts this program wrong," Blacknall said. "The whole game was exciting and fun to watch."

The most prominent uncommitted prospect who came out was Southern Regional senior WR/TE Mike Gesicki. Gesicki has visits scheduled to Ohio State (next weekend) and Penn State (Oct 12) before announcing his decision sometime in October. As of now, he is likely headed out of state.

A bevy of 2015 offerees were also at the game, including Barnegat OL Sam Madden, St. Joseph's Regional (Montvale) OL Tommy Hatton, Philadelphia (Pa.) St. Joseph's Prep CB John Reid, Coatesville (Pa.) DB Jay Stocker and South Brunswick ATH Dontae Strickland.

"Best college game I've ever seen," Madden said. "They started off a bit slow but they picked it up a bit."

With Rutgers having a bye this week, expect most of the staff to be out on the recruiting trail this weekend as they try to pursue the final prospects in the class of 2014 and continue to make inroads with players in the 2015 and 2016 classes.

A view from the gridiron (Rutgers football)
At one point on Saturday, it looked as though Rutgers would fall to 2-2 on the season as the Scarlet Knights were staring up at a 24-7 deficit in the latter stages of the third quarter. But this resilient Rutgers team refused to quit. It overcame three turnovers, five sacks and a missed field goal to defeat Arkansas 28-24 and move to 3-1 on the season.

"I think there are a lot of things that go into being able to win a game like that, coming from behind and win a game like that," head coach Kyle Flood said during his Sunday teleconference. "The first one is you have to some big plays of your own that swing the game back in your favor. A couple of those were provided by Janarion [Grant]. You have to play really good defense. We put our defense in some tough spots yesterday. We did that. With the exception of one drive in the game, the opening drive of the second half, they didn't have a drive longer than seven plays. And that was the last drive of the game."

Junior quarterback Gary Nova reeled off another brilliant performance, going 22-of-43 for 346 passing yards to go along with three touchdowns. Two of those touchdowns went to emerging sophomore Leonte Carroo, who finished with five catches for 80 yards.

"If you really love football and you just go out there and you play, you never know what's going to happen. We didn't know what type of coverages Eastern Michigan or Norfolk State were going to play and it kind of stopped our passing game," Carroo said post game. "But you just have to go out there and play and open up the running game. Tonight we didn't get the running game going as well as we did in the last two games so it was only bound for the wide receiver corps to step up."

There was some bad news in the loss as starting tailback Paul James, who entered the game as the nation's leading rusher, suffered what Flood called 'a lower body injury.' According to Flood, that injury will definitely keep him out for the next two games against SMU and Louisville.

Beyond that, James' availability remains uncertain.

"P.J. is a competitor. P.J. wants to be out there," Flood said. "He did a great job for us while he was out there and now he'll do a great job in everything we ask him to do, which has already started today in terms of getting him healthy and ready to go again."

On Saturday, Rutgers was helped to a win by a group of players who had breakout performances in what was the biggest games of their respective college careers. Those players are as follows:
LB Quentin Gause - first start, 7 tackles, 3 TFLs
DB Nadir Barnwell - first start, 8 tackles
TE Tyler Kroft - 6 rec 133 yds 1 td, first 100 yd receiving game by RU tight end since Clark Harris in 2006

There will be no Kyle Flood press conference today because of next weekend's bye. Following the bye, Rutgers will take to the road for its first AAC contest against SMU on Oct 5th. The Scarlet Knights will return to practice tomorrow morning and, as always, make sure to stay logged onto Scarlet Nation for all the latest Rutgers football news as it unfolds.

The take from center court (Rutgers basketball)
Rutgers head coach Eddie Jordan and staff hosted several prospects this weekend, most notably Roselle Catholic star 2015 guard Isaiah Briscoe, one of Rutgers' major targets in the 2015 class.

In regards to this upcoming season, Jordan is still waiting to hear back on the waiver request for Pitt transfer J.J. Moore and the eligibility of freshman Junior Etou. As it stands, Rutgers is almost guaranteed to have one of the two suited up this year, with a fairly strong chance that both are declared eligible.

A decision on both players is expected soon.

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