The Rutgers Scarlet Knights, led by running back Kyle Monangai, meet the No. 12 ranked Penn State Nittany Lions in a Week 12 NCAA Big Ten college football game on Saturday, November 18, 2023, at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pennsylvania.
How to watch:
Here’s what you need to know:
- What: NCAA Football, Week 12
- Who: Rutgers vs. Penn State
- When: Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023
- Where: Beaver Stadium
- Time: 12 p.m. ET
- TV: FS1
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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Even though their primary goal is out of reach, Penn State players still have plenty to play for in the final weeks of the season.
The No. 12 Nittany Lions (8-2, 5-2 Big Ten) want to finish strong, send seniors out with wins and pad their resumes for what comes next.
After a disappointing loss to No. 2 Michigan last week, Penn State wraps up its home slate Saturday against Rutgers — a team the Nittany Lions have pushed around since the Scarlet Knights joined the Big Ten in 2014.
Penn State is 8-0 in the series and has won every game since 2015 by double figures. Rutgers (6-4, 3-4) hasn’t scored a touchdown at Beaver Stadium in its last four visits.
“For me personally, that’s my motivation,” safety Keaton Ellis said. “I know the season is not over like I’ve been saying, so I still want to go out there and get better and put good things on film, put good things on tape and help my team do as much as we can still possibly do.”
While the Nittany Lions’ defense has been consistently great this season and went toe-to-toe with No. 3 Ohio State and No. 2 Michigan, the offense wasn’t nearly good enough to beat the Big Ten East heavyweights.
Penn State coach James Franklin is hoping a change at offensive coordinator will help. He fired Mike Yurcich after another standstill offensive performance against the Wolverines.
“In terms of what I’m looking for on offense, is, again, back to that point: Somebody that’s going to put us in the best position to play our best football when it’s needed most and against the best competition,” Franklin said.
He’s tabbed tight ends coach Ty Howle and running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider to develop the game plan and call plays on Saturday. They’ll try to crack a much-improved Rutgers defense.
The Scarlet Knights have the 13th-ranked defense in the nation and already matched their program high with three Big Ten wins this season.
But after becoming bowl eligible with its win over Indiana, Rutgers dropped consecutive games to No. 3 Ohio State and Iowa. They’ll face another stingy defense in Happy Valley.
“They are one of the Top 15 teams in America,” Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said. “They are playing at that level now. That’s what I would say the biggest thing is they have gotten better over the course of the season and they are playing at a high level.”
The Nittany Lions’ lack of offensive rhythm cost them a chance to beat the Wolverines and cost Yurcich his job.
Big first-down runs were followed by passes to the sideline and behind the line of scrimmage. There was no chemistry on multiple passing plays when the receivers and quarterback Drew Allar were out of sync.
Franklin said he’s seen a more collaborative process this week with Howle and Seider running the offense. He’s hoping their tweaks will help Allar get going.
“We’ll see,” Franklin said. “Obviously, we’ll find out for sure on Saturday. But I’ve been pleased with the process and how the coaches have approached it throughout the week and all the voices in the room speaking up and giving opinions.”
RUN AND SCORE
When Rutgers has played well offensively this season, it has used a ball-control game. It combines Kyle Monangai running the ball and quarterback Gavin Wimsatt employing a run-pass option to spread the ball around.
It didn’t work last week in the 22-0 loss to Iowa. Monangai was limited to 39 yards rushing and Wimsatt was a dismal 7 of 18 for 93 yards. Rutgers finished with 127 yards.
Even more puzzling was Wimsatt wasn’t used as a runner. He carried three times for minus-2 yards. When he runs, he adds a dimension to the offense.
NOT JUST THE OFFENSE
Rutgers defense and special teams have the potential to change outcomes. Just last week, Max Melton intercepted a pass near his own end zone and had an open field in front of him and slipped. Had he kept his feet, the Scarlet Knights would have gone ahead.
Also in recent wins over Michigan State and Indiana, Rutgers got touchdowns from its punt block team. One on a direct block and another on a mishandled snap.