football Edit

Rutgers defense readying for daunting challenge that is No. 3 Ohio State

As the Rutgers football team heads to Columbus this weekend for a game against the No. 3-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, the Scarlet Knights know they will have a daunting challenge in front of them.

Ohio State is the third-best scoring offense in the country at 48.8 points per game and it averages 219 rushing yards per game and 339 passing yards per game.

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Potential Heisman Award finalist, CJ Stroud, already has over 1,000 yards in the air and 16 touchdowns to just one interception. Emeka Egbuka and Marvin Harrison Jr. each have five touchdown receptions and Julian Fleming has three.

Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson might be in the NFL, but there’s still a host of talented wide outs in the program. TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams are a two-headed monster at running back.

“Definitely one of the better wide receiver groups in the nation. They’re a great all-around team,” Rutgers cornerback Max Melton said.” We’re up for the challenge and we’ll continue to work on us this week in practice.

“They do a lot of the same things. They’re a traditional offense. They have great players and great players make great plays. It’s just a great offense. They can run, pass, RPO, whatever they want. We’ll keep getting better ourselves and hopefully it’ll show on game day.”

Rutgers CB Max Melton talks with head coach Greg Schiano
Rutgers CB Max Melton talks with head coach Greg Schiano (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

Melton and linebacker Tyreem Powell said the focus is on themselves this week in practice.

“They’re a great team and have been for years,” Powell said. “We’re just going to go in there and do our jobs and try and not make the same mistakes as last time out. We’ll play as well as we can.”

“Just stay on your chop,” Melton added, referencing the long speed head coach Greg Schiano gave after practice on Tuesday. “Everything happens for a reason. He brought up Greg Popovich -- the great Spurs coach -- and mentioned his knowledge and some things he’s said. We all have the same mindset.

The defense is looking at this game as an opportunity to showcase what that side of the ball can really do.

“Exactly. It’s a great opportunity,” Melton said. “Coach Schiano always says there’s no such thing as a missed opportunity. When the ball is in the air, someone’s going to take that opportunity.”

If Rutgers is going to give itself a chance, on offense it must not turn the ball over and commit silly penalties. Defensively, it’s about tackling and communication.

“It’s very important,” Powell said of communication. “We’re the vocal point of the defense. Me and Deion (Jennings) communicate a lot and make sure everyone is on the same page and doing the same thing. We all have our jobs. It makes it easier for us. We have to play at one.”

A big talking point during the offseason was the inexperience from the linebackers and how they will hold up. So far so good as Jennings and Powell might be outshining expectations.

Powell said as he gains experience, it helps things come easier for him as he learns offenses and more.

“As for me, I’m still growing and learning,” Powell said. “I think I’ve been playing pretty well. But it’s about getting better every day out on this practice field. I’ve learned a lot from Deion from the experience he has. He gives little details in the meeting rooms and on the field. He’s been big for me this year.”

The Rutgers defense has kept the Scarlet Knights in games and is a big reason why Rutgers got out to 3-0 start. If not for two defensive touchdowns by Iowa last week, that game is just 13-10 as well. Rutgers is solidly high in many defensive categories such as stopping the run (2nd), total defense (9th), and scoring defense (25th).

“Coach (Joe) Harasymiak does a great job,” Powell said. “He wants us to be violent, communicate, and play tough. That’s what he expects and to be the best we can. He doesn’t want us overthinking.”

Follow Chris Nalwasky on Twitter @ChrisNalwasky.

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