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Syracuse, Rutgers rewind the clock of Big East football, meet for the first time since 2012

The Syracuse defense celebrates a third-down stop in a win over Ohio.
Cuse.com
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The Syracuse defense celebrates a third-down stop in a win over Ohio.

It’s been almost nine years since Syracuse and Rutgers last faced off on the gridiron. Braden Reed previews the matchup between the former Big East foes.

As Gary Nova hit Tyler Kroft for a 12 yard score, the Rutgers lead over Syracuse grew to 23-7. It would prove to be the knockout blow, as the Scarlet Knights won 23-15 in New Brunswick.

The date of this matchup? October 13, 2012. It would be the last time Syracuse and Rutgers would play each other in football as members of the Big East.

The following season, Syracuse would leave the conference for the ACC, and in 2014, Rutgers joined the Big Ten.

Now, more than nine years later, the rivalry will be renewed. What better time to do it than the first game with fans in the Dome in almost two years? The Orange and Scarlet Knights meet coming off wins for both sides to start their respective 2021 campaigns.

Quarterback Tommy DeVito is looking forward to having fans back in the seats this year, saying, “I’m so excited to finally have the Dome packed, honestly. Playing in front of nobody is very difficult … To be able to have our crowd behind us and with us for that game is going to be important.”

A 29-9 win for Syracuse over Ohio was a breath of fresh air following SU’s 1-10 record a season ago, but that win pales in comparison to Rutgers’ 61-14 thumping of Temple last Saturday.

The Scarlet Knights dismantled the Temple defense with their ground game, rushing for a total of 206 yards and scoring six touchdowns that way. Five different players totaled more than five carries. The Rutgers offense is efficient and straightforward; different running backs can step in and have success.

The starting quarterback, Noah Vedral, is used primarily as a passer and for option plays. Johnny Langan, who is listed at quarterback but is mainly used as a rusher, enters the game in goalline and rushing situations, and often takes the direct snap and runs with it. He rushed for two touchdowns against Temple.

The Rutgers offense gives opposing defenses all different kinds of looks in different situations, a scheme that could give SU headaches if they aren’t prepared heading into the game.

For an Orange defense that’s centered around stopping the pass, they’ll have to turn their attention to slowing down the run game. Down lineman need to clog up running lanes and linebackers and defensive backs will be tasked with flying around the field and making tackles.

On the defensive side of the ball, Rutgers struggles to defend the run, which will play to Syracuse’s advantage. The unit allowed over 200 yards per game on the ground last season; if Sean Tucker and the offensive line can produce a similar showing to the one they had against Ohio, it gives SU a much better chance to start the year 2-0.

The Scarlet Knights defense celebrates a safety against Temple.
Rutgers Athletics
The Scarlet Knights defense celebrates a safety against Temple.

What the Scarlet Knights lack in run defense, they make up for in turnovers forced. The unit finished 11th in the nation in 2020, averaging over two takeaways a game. They continued with their success against Temple in Week 1, intercepting the Owls twice, scooping up three fumbles, and even adding a forced safety.

It’s cliché, but Syracuse has to take care of the football to have success against Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights scored touchdowns off of four of their five turnovers a week ago, the only failed conversion coming because of the end of the game. For an Orange offense that turned the ball over almost twice a game in 2020, ball security is paramount to beating the Scarlet Knights.

The last time the Orange started 2-0 was 2018, when they would go on to finish the year 10-3 with a bowl win. Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves, but if SU can win two in a row to start this season, who knows how far that momentum might take them.

Syracuse and Rutgers kickoff at 2 p.m. on Saturday, tune into WAER starting at 1:30 for Countdown to Kickoff.