No. 23 Rutgers hopes to be a distraction vs. Army

No. 23 Rutgers hopes to be a distraction vs. Army

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) If this had been an ordinary week, No. 23 Rutgers would simply be looking to bounce back from its first loss of the season.

But this hasn't been an ordinary week - or two - in New Jersey. And so while the Scarlet Knights (7-1) certainly want to get on the field and win again, no question, they also want to provide a little distraction from Superstorm Sandy for their state.

They'll get a chance to do both against Army (2-7) at High Point Solutions Stadium Saturday.

``A lot of things have happened that we're not used to, that we're not accustomed to hearing about,'' Rutgers linebacker Khaseem Greene said. ``They say adversity builds character in you as a person.''

A 35-23 loss to Kent State two weeks ago preceded the superstorm by two days, and then this week, as Rutgers prepared for the Black Knights, a Nor'easter dumped more than a foot of snow in the region.

``I know some of the guys have some more serious stuff going on at home,'' Scarlet Knights defensive tackle Scott Vallone said. ``But getting into the groove of the week and getting into the routine of a game week will allow us to get focused.''

This will be the sixth straight season that Rutgers and Army have met in non-conference play, and the Scarlet Knights will look for their ninth straight win against the Black Knights, who are coming off an impressive win over Air Force.

The key to the game will be Army's triple option offense. The Black Knights lead the nation in rushing (375.4 yards) and they will be facing a defense that is ranked No. 4 nation against the run, giving up 88.5 yards and only four touchdowns rushing this season.

``I think everybody knows how accomplished Rutgers is,'' Army coach Rich Ellerson said. ``They're having a great season. That slight advantage that we have because of what we do is mitigated by the fact that they had two weeks to prepare for us.''

Army quarterback Trent Steelman and running back Raymond Maples are the biggest threats. Steelman has rushed for more than 100 yards the past two games, and he is 89 yards shy of posting the 16th 1,000-yard season in school history.

Maples is 93 yards shy of becoming only the third Army player to have rushed for at least 1,000 yards in two or more seasons.

``It's a different scheme of defense that we have to play when we see an option attack,'' Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said. ``But we've been playing this defense against this offense for a number of years now. I know the players who have done it before, they really take pride in their ability to change gears for a week and get this game plan mastered as best we can.''

While the return of senior linebacker Nate Combs helped the Black Knights against Air Force, Rutgers has more skill overall. Running back Jawan Jamison is averaging 107.8 yards, 21st best in the nation, and sophomore receiver Brandon Coleman has a career average of almost 21 yards per catch. What's more, eight of his 12 touchdown catches have covered 30 yards or more.

The big question mark this week is how Scarlet Knights sophomore quarterback Gary Nova responds after throwing six interceptions in the loss to Kent State.

``Frankly, we don't match up especially well with them,'' Ellerson said. ``I'm thinking about our guys on the defensive side of the ball. Rutgers has a nightmare of a running back who has made some really good defenses look bad. They also have some guys at receiver who are hard to cover and are hard to tackle if they catch it.''

The key will be for the Black Knights to force turnovers.

``We know what they do,'' Nova said. ``We know they're going to come out here and fight. And we just have to be prepared and come out and execute a lot better than I did (vs. Kent State).''

Army has lost 11 straight games away from West Point, and 14 straight vs. Big East competition. It hasn't upset a ranked team since knocking off Air Force in 1972. However, last week's win over the Falcons will certainly help the spirits.

``There's no doubt that everybody is a little bit lighter in their step,'' he said. ``Throughout the season, I'm really proud of the way our guys have come to work refocused.''

Rutgers is looking for its sixth eight-win season in seven years. But more importantly, there is a three-way race raging on top of the Big East with Cincinnati and Louisville.

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Here's a small example of Dwayne Haskins' leadership, as told by Matthew Berry

Here's a small example of Dwayne Haskins' leadership, as told by Matthew Berry

ESPN Fantasy Football expert Matthew Berry was at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere last weekend in Los Angeles, where he got the chance to interview the three Redskins rookies in attendance: Dwayne Haskins, Terry McLaurin, and Bryce Love. 

Berry, who was a guest of JP Finlay's on the Redskins Talk podcast on Thursday, has been a fan of the Burgundy and Gold since he was a kid, so he was eager to talk to three of the team's newest players and learn more about them.

It was during those interviews where Berry got a quick glimpse of a side of Haskins that now has Berry really excited.

"I thought what was really cool was... When I was interviewing McLaurin, Dwayne Haskins came in and interrupted the interview to give him some crap," he told Finlay. "It was really a wonderful moment to see. Obviously, they know each other very well from Ohio State, but just the fact that they felt comfortable enough and he wanted to come over and mess with him a little bit and have some fun, I was impressed with that."

Once Haskins left, Berry explained how he asked McLaurin about the interaction. Redskins fans will like McLaurin's answer.

"That's Dwayne, Dwayne is being a leader," McLaurin said, per Berry. 

Haskins did something similar to Love during Love's interview as well. Berry even caught up with Colts receiver Parris Campbell, who also played with the QB at Ohio State, to inquire about the 15th overall pick. 

"I asked him, 'Listen, I'm a diehard Redskins fan, what am I getting?'" Berry said. "He couldn't have been more effusive. 'You're not only getting a guy who puts the ball where you want it, but you're getting a leader. You're getting a guy who makes sure everyone in the huddle is included.'"

You can be skeptical of how much these little moments mean, and that's fair. Ultimately, how quickly Haskins picks up Jay Gruden's playbook and how accurate his arm turns out to be will factor more into his success in the NFL than being able to joke around a bit with some of his guys.

But you can also hope that these little moments are hints of a bigger personality and approach, a look into an athlete who can get a football team to buy into him. That's the side Berry is on.

"I thought that was really cool, and just showed somebody who's very comfortable in the leadership position and who's trying to be inclusive of everyone," he said. "It's early in the process, but I have yet to hear somebody on or off the record say something bad about Dwayne Haskins."


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WNBA Finals loss only more fuel for Elena Delle Donne, Mystics heading into 2019 season

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WNBA Finals loss only more fuel for Elena Delle Donne, Mystics heading into 2019 season

For Elena Delle Donne and the Mystics, last season's heartbreak in the WNBA Finals is only fuel for another potential postseason run in 2019. 

"That's something I don't think I'll ever let go," Washington's star forward told Chris Miller on the latest episode of the Wizards Talk podcast. "It's always tough when you get to that Finals and you can't finish it off. But I think it's something that can fuel you. You don't want to let it just bring you down and depress you and make it so you can't get over that hump."

"If you use it as fuel and motivation, it can help you get better. I think that's what we're all gonna do."

The Mystics reached their first WNBA Finals in franchise history in 2018 but ultimately lost to the Seattle Storm. Delle Donne, recently named in's GM survey as the favorite to win league MVP, is back for her third season in Washington and headlines a strong team that has the talent to compete for the title again.

Her status for Saturday's season opener against the Connecticut Sun is up in the air due to a left knee injury, but Delle Donne believes the Mystics will have another great season given the continuity on the roster from last season and the return of All-Star forward Emma Meesseman. 

"We feel great. We've got our core back," said Delle Donne. "And to be able to add a superstar like Emma to that roster is pretty scary. Especially with her style of play and the way that our team started playing last season, where it was such positionless basketball. Spreading the floor, just spreading it, making it easy for one another to attack, get some threes. She's just gonna add so much to that."

NBC Sports Washington will be broadcasting 10 Mystics home games during the 2019 WNBA season. For the full regular season schedule, click here.