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January 6, 2014

The Monday Morning Kickoff

A new week in a new year begins in the scarlet nation and although there is no more football, there is still plenty to talk about and The Monday Morning Kickoff has the latest.

A view from the Gridiron (Rutgers football)
All was relatively quiet last week as the Scarlet Knights are now finished for the season. The search continues for a new defensive coordinator and events around the NFL have suddenly made former RU defensive coordinator Robb Smith a popular topic of conversation in the Scarlet Nation. Smith spent last season as an assistant coach under former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano, who was fired last week. Stay logged onto the Round Table for the latest news on Smith and the assistant coaching front.

The season is over with Rutgers finishing 6-7 in Kyle Flood's second year at the helm, but one more college game remains for at least one Scarlet Knight. Last week, offensive guard Antwan Lowery accepted an invitation to play in the East West Shrine game, which will take place in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Jan 18th.

Lowery did not start a game this season, but did appear in 11 total games. For his career, Lowery started 22 total games and all 13 during the 2012 season.

Last year, former RU players D.C. Jefferson, Scott Vallone and R.J. Dill participated in the 2013 Shrine Game. Of all the players who particpated in last year's game, a total of 100 were either drafted or brought into NFL training camps as free agents.

Later today, Rutgers will officially close the books on the 2013 season as Flood will hold his post season teleconference at 3 p.m. Scarlet Nation will be providing live updates of everything going on during that conference call.

The inside scoop (Rutgers recruiting)
Rutgers fans had an opportunity to see two of the Scarlet Knights' 2014 commitments face off against each other in Sunday night's Semper Fi bowl, broadcast live on Fox Sports 1. Four-star Manalapan wide receiver Saeed Blacknall suited up for the East squad, while Katy (Tex.) tight end Logan Lister played with the West.

The West team won the contest, 31-24, but Blacknall made his presence felt, going vertical and hauling in a 49-yard reception from Florida State QB commit J.J. Cosentino late in the third quarter. He also grabbed a short reception on the final play of the third stanza.

Lister saw action at tight end after playing right tackle for his Katy squad during the season, and delivered several well-executed blocks during the game.

Lister will be enrolling at Rutgers in a couple of weeks, in time for the spring semester, while Blacknall is expected to sign with the Scarlet Knights on Signing Day next month.

The take from center court (Rutgers basketball)
The Scarlet Knights started AAC play by splitting a pair of home games last week: beating Temple 71-66 on Wednesday before falling 83-76 to No. 14 Louisville on Saturday.

The win over the Owls featured the first big moment for true freshman Junior Etou, whose conventional three-point play in the final minute gave the Scarlet Knights a 68-66 lead they would not relinquish.

"Again, it was clutch basketball," head coach Eddie Jordan said of Etou's finish. "I mean someone had to give him the pass. It was clutch basketball, just making a shot, making a free throw, getting a blocked shot, rotating, everything we did what we had to do the right way when we had to do it to win the game. There weren't a lot of missteps, missed assignments."

Against the defending national champion Cardinals, Rutgers led much of the first half before succumbing to Louisville's pressure, finishing with 19 turnovers.

"It was a game that I thought we competed pretty well. I just thought that we needed everyone to play well and at the top of their game, which we did not," Jordan said. "A few guys, just a handful of guys, played at the top of their game. We need everybody to go in the game and play well. I was disappointed in the fact that we didn't handle their pressure as well as we could. [Louisville] pressures everybody. They do a good job. I thought we were prepared to handle it and to make more plays out of it, so there is disappointment, yet there are some things that we can learn from and move forward on."

Guard Myles Mack led four players in double-figures against Louisville with 19 points, while wing Craig Brown added a career-high 17 on 5-of-8 shooting.

Rutgers is back in action on Saturday when they play on the road at Cincinnati. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m.

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