PISCATAWAY, N.J. — If Rutgers wants to go to a postseason bowl game in its first season in the Big Ten Conference, beating Tulane is almost a must.
The Scarlet Knights (3-1) will play their final nonconference game of the season when they face the Green Wave (1-3) of the American Athletic Conference at High Point Solutions Stadium.
Rutgers is a 12-point favorite, but this is one of those games Kyle Flood’s team can’t overlook. The Scarlet Knights are coming off an emotional win at Navy, they have Michigan coming here a week from Saturday and face a team that was soundly beaten by Duke last weekend.
Flood doesn’t see the contest as a trap game.
“I look at this game as an opportunity to be 1-0,” he said. “It’s the only way I look at this game. Whether you want to consider it fortunate or unfortunate, I was here in 2010 when Tulane came up here and whooped us in our own stadium. The opportunity to be 1-0 in our home stadium in a major college football game, that’s enough of a challenge for me.”
Tulane coach Curtis Johnson said his young team made too many mistakes in a 47-13 loss at Duke last weekend.
“One of the things they have to believe in is the 24-hour rule,” Johnson said. “You have 24 hours to celebrate or you have 24 hours to get over it and start preparing for the next team. We try to establish that, but we also have to take ownership in what we’re doing as coaches. I’m the first one to blame.”
Rutgers will face a tough schedule after Tulane. After Michigan (2-2) the following week, it will face No. 22 Ohio State (2-1), No. 21 Nebraska (4-0) and No. 19 Wisconsin (2-1). The rest of the schedule is Indiana (2-1), No. 9 Michigan State (2-1) and Maryland (3-1).
“It’s football,” Rutgers defensive tackle Darius Hamilton said. “It’s a game you’ve been playing your whole life and you know exactly what you get when you sign up. It’s a very physical game. What you got to do is you got to be an adult about the situation. You got to take care of your body and make sure you’re doing everything you can to be ready for Saturday.”
When Tulane and Rutgers played in 2012, Johnson and Flood were making their head coaching debuts. The Scarlet Knights won 24-12 at the Superdome, where Johnson had coached as a Saints assistant the previous six seasons.
“I guess what I remember about that game is coming out of the tunnel for the first time,” Flood said. “The first time you do anything, it’s always special, always a little different. The first time you come out of the tunnel with the team, on the road at the Superdome. A great venue for football. After the game, my impression was that was a well-coached football team. As coach Johnson got a chance to recruit his players, they were going to get better and better.”
With Rutgers halfback Paul James out for the season with a knee injury, Desmon Peoples and Justin Goodwin will carry the load. Goodwin ran for 104 yards and Peoples had 84 as the Scarlet Knights ran for 284 yards against Navy, their most in a game since 2007-08. James was tied for third in the conference, averaging 10.5 points.