NEW YORK (AP) — A year ago, in their last meeting with Army, Scarlet Knights defensive lineman Eric LeGrand was paralyzed making a tackle on the Black Knights’ Malcolm Brown on a kickoff return at the Meadowlands. When the teams meet Saturday at Yankee Stadium, LeGrand is scheduled to take part in the coin toss, and he will work as an analyst in the third quarter of the telecast.
“We’ve kind of created this rivalry in the past few years with Rutgers, so it kind of adds to that relationship we’ve built, so it makes for an exciting game every time we play them,” Army senior quarterback Max Jenkins said of not only facing off in Yankee Stadium, but in seeing LeGrand’s progress. “We went down there over the summer and it was really great to talk and hang out with Eric and a couple other Rutgers players and further that bond and relationship.”
A week after becoming bowl eligible, Rutgers now will try to settle on a starting quarterback.
Rutgers (6-3) qualified for a postseason bowl for the sixth time in the last seven years when sophomore Chas Dodd came off the bench in the fourth quarter and rallied the Scarlet Knights to a 20-17 overtime victory over South Florida last weekend.
Dodd, who started the first four games before being replaced by freshman Gary Nova, will be back as the starter Saturday against Army (3-6), which is coming off a tough 24-14 loss at Air Force.
“It’s big. I’m just excited to get back out there with all these guys and be the starter,” said Dodd, who threw for 251 yards in the overtime win over Army last season. “It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve gotten to start. I was excited about it, and I still am. I’m just ready for this week of preparation and practice.”
Dodd spent his time on the bench approaching games the same way he would had he been starting.
“I feel like that’s why I was prepared to get in this past weekend, and that’s how I’m going to take it every week because you never know what’s going to happen,” he said.
Rutgers coach Greg Schiano did not indicate whether he would play Nova a few series. When Dodd started earlier this year, Nova played. When Nova started, Dodd didn’t.
“Me and Chas have a great relationship and I’m going to support him just as he supported me when I was starting. We’re just going to focus on this game,” Nova said.
While it has won only three games, one of Army’s wins was against Big 10 member Northwestern. The Black Knights lead the nation in rushing, averaging 365.8 yards, but they are last in passing offense, averaging 47 yards.
Army coach Rich Ellerson said blowing a 14-0 halftime lead and losing to the Falcons was excruciating.
“There are lessons,” Ellerson said. “Some of the minutiae, some of the technical styles of play do not carry over to this week. But, that’s not what’s breaking our heart. What’s got us staring at the wall all night are missed opportunities, turnovers and penalties, and those do carry over. That is the poised, present, disciplined football that we need to make a reality. We need to be able to do it with the game on the line.”
Army’s running game is based on the triple option, an offense the Scarlet Knights have seen year after year playing both the Black Knights and Navy, which Rutgers beat earlier this season.
“Getting ready for the triple option is a challenge in itself,” said Rutgers linebacker Khaseem Greene, who leads the Big East Conference in tackles with 92. “But having the Navy game gives us a little confidence that we’ve seen what it’s like. Even though it’s not Army, we’ve seen what it’s like to defend the triple option. Now it’s about fine-tuning some things and getting ready for Army this Saturday.”
Army fullback Jared Hassin ran for 118 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries against Rutgers last season.
“He is a great athlete, a big kid,” Rutgers defensive tackle Scott Vallone said. “I think he’s about 235. He’s just a great player. He fits into their system well. I think he could play at a lot of other schools. He’s a tough guy to tackle, so we’re going to have to bring our hard hats when we go to tackle him.”
Ellerson said this will be a special game, not only playing Rutgers but seeing LeGrand and having the game in Yankee Stadium.
“We have all that,” Ellerson said. “And then you’re going into Yankee Stadium, which is a special place to play. That’s a unique opportunity. So, there’s an awful lot for our guys to look forward to and we need to make sure we cross that line of departure. We’re looking forward to this. We’re excited to play.”
Rutgers intends to wear a white helmet with a red, white and blue R to honor the members of the military, a day after Veterans Day. The Scarlet Knights normally have red helmets with a white R.
(Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.)
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