Sports

Scarlet Knights Still Smarting From Last Year’s Loss To Huskies

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Rutgers (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images Sport)

Rutgers (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images Sport)

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By TOM CANAVAN,  AP Sports Writer

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) _ No. 22 Rutgers could not have picked a
better opponent than Connecticut for its first game back in the
rankings since 2009.

If anyone has had the Scarlet Knights’ attention in recent year,
it’s the Huskies.

Their games are almost always close. Six times since 2001, the
game has been decided by seven points or less. Rutgers has won
three of the last four by four points or less, and five of seven
overall.

What’s makes Saturday’s game at High Point Stadium so
interesting goes beyond Rutgers (4-0, 1-0) being back on the
national scene. The Scarlet Knights are still smarting over last
year’s 40-22 loss to Connecticut (3-2, 0-0) in the regular-season
finale, a setback that cost them a share of a first league title.

“That one hurt a lot,” Rutgers linebacker Khaseem Greene said.

“I hate losing in general but that was hard for me to shake that
one off. That was a stinging one, definitely.”

Rutgers has had two weeks to prepare for UConn. It returned to
the polls after an impressive win over Arkansas and had this past
weekend off.

Scarlet Knights defensive tackle Scott Vallone said everyone
realizes what Connecticut brings to the table. They play tough
defense and try to run a ball-control offense. It’s the same thing
Rutgers tries to do.

“I think we’re just hungry,” Vallone said. “We’re not
satisfied. 4-0 is very good. We’re happy about that. We’re pushing
forward, trying to win another Big East game, go 2-0 in the Big
East and trying to set ourselves up to win a championship. That’s
what we want to do.”

Connecticut, which has 12 New Jersey players on its roster, is
coming off a 24-17 win over Buffalo. It is looking for consecutive
wins for the first time since winning five in a row to end the 2010
season.

Senior cornerback Dwayne Gratz of Piscataway knows Rutgers has
had this game circled on its calendar for a long time.

“They better,” he said. “You better be worried about us. This
UConn team is definitely not a team to joke around with, so you
better be prepared for us.”

The Huskies rank sixth in the country in total defense (242.6
yards per game), 23rd in scoring defense (15.6 points per game),
sixth in rushing defense (74.2 yards per game) and 14th in pass
defense (168.4 yards per game).

The big question will be can they stop running back Jawan
Jamison again. The Scarlet Knights back has rushed for 100 yards or
more in five consecutive games. The last time he failed to rush for
100 yards was on Nov. 26, when Connecticut limited him to 19 yards
on five carries.

“Last year we came in just knowing this was the game that could
decide (the Big East),” Jamison said. “So I would say we were a
little cocky because we were winning. But now we know it’s a
one-game season and we just have to get a win in a given week.”

The Huskies have not done as well on offense. They are ranked
106th in total offense (323.8 yards per game), 109th in rushing
offense (112 yards per game), 84th in passing offense (211.8 yards
per game) and 92nd in scoring offense (23.2 points per game).
Rutgers has not allowed an opponent to rush for more than 100
yards this season, allowing an average of 62.5 yards, the best in
the nation.

Greene said Rutgers won’t have a letdown.

“That ain’t happening. We’re not going to let it happen,” he
said. “This team is focused on the task at hand, and that’s being
1-0 after playing those guys. We know that we can’t get to our
ultimate goal without being 1-0 after this game. As a player, as a
leader, as a captain, I’m not going to let any dip as a team
happen. Whether it’s as an offense, as a defense, special teams,
that’s just the approach that I’m taking. I can’t live with myself
if I allow that to happen. That’s not going to happen.”

Connecticut senior Defensive tackle Ryan Wirth from Medford is
looking forward to returning to his home state and the challenge
ahead.

“Last year doesn’t matter this year,” he said. “Last year,
the Rutgers week was the first week that we hit practice on all
cylinders, prepared the right way, and it worked out for us on
Saturday. We have to do that again this week if we want to win down
there.”

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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