No. 12 Penn State hosts Rutgers

Penn State quarterback Will Levis throws a pass against Ohio State during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State beat Penn State 28-17.

STATE COLLEGE — Penn State (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten) will look to conclude its regular season with 10 wins on Saturday when Rutgers visits Beaver Stadium for senior day.

The weekend contest also marks the end of a tumultuous season for 2-9 Rutgers that has included the in-season firing of former head coach Chris Ash and several Scarlet Knight entrants into the NCAA transfer portal.

That said, the Nittany Lions aren’t taking a reeling Rutgers program lightly.

“Rutgers is a good team,” Penn State safety Garrett Taylor said. “Their record might not say so, but they have talent at their skill positions. Their running back, (Isaih Pacheco), he's a really good back, and they try to get him the ball in a lot of different ways in terms of getting him a lot of touches, a lot of swing passes, and he's really explosive and good in space. Their line is pretty good, too.”

Rutgers promoted Nunzio Campanile from tight ends coach to interim head coach and offensive coordinator in September following the firing of Ash. Campanile served as Rutgers’ running backs coach last season.

“I've known Coach Campanile for a long time,” Penn State head coach James Franklin said. “He was a head high school coach at Bergen Catholic, did a phenomenal job (and) is really doing a phenomenal job right now at Rutgers under some tough situations, obviously. ... I look forward to seeing him before the game.”

Penn State is 27-2 all-time against Rutgers.

The Scarlet Knights are winless in eight conference contests. Their two wins came against Massachusetts and Liberty. The Scarlet Knights put up 48 and 44 points in those two wins, but the offense has been lifeless otherwise. In its other nine contests, it’s produced just 61 points (6.7 per game). Rutgers has managed just 45 points (5.6 per game) in eight Big Ten games.

Three quarterbacks have lined up behind center for the Scarlet Knights this year. McLane Carter began the season as the starter but retired in October after sustaining a concussion against Iowa in Week 2. Artur Sitkowski entered the transfer portal earlier this week following a self-imposed redshirt. Johnny Langan will make his sixth start of the season on Saturday. He’s 68 of 135 passing with four touchdowns and nine interceptions. He’s also rushed for 327 yards and three touchdowns.

Pacheco has rushed for 627 yards and seven touchdowns this season. The Scarlet Knights average 110.3 yards rushing per game.

Rutgers’ struggles this year haven’t been exclusive to one side of the ball.

On defense, Rutgers has allowed 328 points (41 per game) in Big Ten games, which is only topped by Maryland. The Scarlet Knights have allowed 40 or more points on four occasions.

Linebacker Tyshon Fogg has been a bright spot on an otherwise lackluster unit. Fogg, a team captain, ranks fourth in the Big Ten with 89 tackles. He tallied 11 tackles against Massachusetts, Indiana, Minnesota and Ohio State, and he recorded a season-high 15 against Boston College.

The Nittany Lions recruited Fogg in high school.

“We're going to have to prepare like we prepare for every game,” Taylor said. “I don't think anyone is going to take this game lightly, so it's another opportunity to go out and play against another Big Ten opponent and prove ourselves.”

Sixteen Penn State seniors will be recognized and honored before kickoff on Saturday. A win against the Scarlet Knights would improve Penn State to 7-0 in games at Beaver Stadium this season.

“I think it's just really exciting to have another opportunity to go out there and play,” Taylor said. “You only get 12 a year and this is coming down to the last one, so I think guys are excited to go out there and have another opportunity to go 1-0.”

Elton Hayes is a veteran sports writer who covers Penn State for CNHI LLC publications. Contact him at ehayes@cnhi.com or follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.

Recommended for you