Rutgers riding 10-game skid, faces Eastern Michigan

Rutgers riding 10-game skid, faces Eastern Michigan
Posted at 7:15 PM, Sep 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-08 19:15:58-04

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) -- Rutgers took a major step in its rebuilding under Chris Ash when it showed it could be competitive against a nationally ranked team last week.

With 10 straight losses in a row over the last two seasons, the Scarlet Knights need to take the next step.

They have to start winning, and they'll get that chance Saturday when they play host to Eastern Michigan (1-0) of the Mid-American Conference at High Point Solutions Stadium.

Rutgers surprised a lot of people with a tough performance in a 30-14 loss to then-No. 8 Washington in the season opener at home last week. The Huskies, who returned a lot of players from a team that won the Pac-12 and made the college football playoffs, went to the locker with a 10-7 lead after the Scarlet Knights missed a field goal just before halftime.

"I feel like we have a chip on our shoulder," said Rutgers quarterback Kyle Bolin. "It's been a long time since this program has gotten a win, and the fact that we were so competitive with such a great program last week just puts even a bigger chip on our shoulder. Eastern Michigan is a great team and I'm sure that we'll see their best, but in terms of Rutgers football, I feel like we have a lot to prove as well, so we're preparing this week like it's our Super Bowl."

Eastern Michigan is coming off a 24-7 win over Charlotte, the fewest points the Eagles have given up in an opener since 2008.

Eagles coach Chris Creighton was impressed watching the videotape of the Scarlet Knights against Washington.

"It was frightening how fast and physical they were in all three phases of the game," said Creighton, who picked up his 150th career win last week. "(They're) definitely trying to put a stake in the ground and create an identity and prove a point."

Here are some things to watch in the second meeting between the schools:  

   Rutgers got big games from three transfers. Bolin, a Louisville transfer, was 24 of 34 for 178 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Gus Edwards rushed for 79 yards on 24 carries, while fellow Miami transfer Jerome Washington caught six passes for 36 yards.

   Eastern Michigan quarterback Brogan Roback hit 22 of 31 for 267 yards, finding 10 different receivers. Sergio Bailey II led the receivers with five catches for 78 yards. Roback's 6,030 yards passing and 38 TD passes rank third in school history.

   Rutgers beat Eastern Michigan 28-10 in their only other meeting in 2013. ... The Scarlet Knights are 12-3-1 against MAC schools. The Eagles have never beaten a Big Ten Conference team in 38 tries and they are 0-58 against Power 5 institutions. ... Eastern Michigan is looking for its first 2-0 start since 2011. ... This is the second of three straight home games for Rutgers. ... Eastern Michigan intercepted three passes last week, its most in a game since the season opener in 2008.

DRAKE FACTOR: Creighton and Ash have a connection in Drake University. Creighton ran the Bulldogs from 2008-13. Ash played at the Iowa school from 1992-95, and then served as a graduate assistant and then defensive coordinator from 1997-99. The two met this summer at football camps. "I'm just very impressed with him," Creighton said of Ash, who was 2-10 in his first season at Rutgers. "He absolutely has a plan and knows what the plan is and is going to see that that plan comes to fruition."