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A Must Win For Both: The CORN NATION Q&A With Rutgers

Nebraska shoots for two conference wins in a row for the first time since 2018 - but Rutgers may need this win as badly as we do.

Nebraska v Rutgers
Travis will be playing his old team for the second time.
Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images

Three and four weeks ago, things felt like they had hit a rock bottom which was a combo platter of the Riley Era with Kevin Cosgrove scheming. A bye week and a win over Indiana later and suddenly we’re in a 6-way tie for 1st place in the West and the defense not only held a D1 team under 500 yards, they held them under 300 yards! Man, woman and child did that put us in the aisles!

The reward for that victory is a big ol’ cup of raise your tray tables and fly to Jersey for a game against Rutgers whose defense, Ohio State aside, has been tough to crack. After a 3-1 start, they’re looking for some must-wins to carve a path to bowl eligibility, and, gee whiz, I wonder if we’re on that list?

To answer that question and others, Greg Patuto of SBNation’s On The Banks was kind enough to shoot us some responses to our queries about Friday night’s game. Many thanks to Greg and let’s get right to it:

Hey, let’s talk fake punts right out the gate! So, since Rutgers loaded up for a punt block, got jammed up and put nothing but green grass in front of Jesse Mirco, was he entitled to run free at that point? Or was getting decked out of bounds by Aron Cruickshank a reasonable reward for engaging in an episode of “Play Stupid Games, Win Stupid Prizes!”?

I’ll say this, there are certain cases where multiple sides can be right and this is one of them.

This is Big Ten football. Yes, I get Ohio State was ahead by 39 points but if Rutgers was loading up to block a punt, the Buckeyes can counter it by making a play. With the style of punting that Mirco, and Adam Korsak for that matter, uses that is common as the punter looks for room to maneuver while rolling out. If it was not called from the sideline, which I never thought it was, then there is no problem with Mirco trying to make a play.

At the same time, if Cruickshank wants to get a hit in, he is also well within his rights. With that being said, it is never right to do anything dirty but if you watch the hit, it is late but it is not vicious. It is to the body with no contact to the head or neck area. That is simply taking offense to a play when you are getting beat down, which is fine. Greg Schiano getting in the face of Ryan Day is also fine, in my opinion.

I am a bit old-fashioned when looking at this play. I believe in the sentiment of if you don’t want to be put in a situation like this, then make a stop. You touched on both sides in the question and both can be right in this situation. All you have to do is put yourself in a competitive mindset and think about what you would do. If I’m Mirco, I’m trying to make a play and if I’m on Rutgers, I wouldn’t like it. In my opinion, it’s no harm, no foul on either side.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch
For me, it was the looks on all their faces after Cruickshank blasted Mirco :-)
Kyle Robertson/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Will we see more of Wahoo, NE native Noah Vedral this week and, if so, how much more do you anticipate? When he is deemed 100% does he replace Evan Simon?

Vedral is still dealing with an upper-body injury. He spoke with the media this week for the first time this season and remains week-to-week. He dressed the last two weeks but has not attempted a pass. He played four snaps against Ohio State, all rushes. If he is able to play this week, I see a similar role as last week.

Even at full strength, Rutgers would likely be using multiple quarterbacks. There is not an option in the room that does all things well enough to be the full-time starter. Now, I am personally not a fan of using multiple options under center but I can understand why Rutgers is doing it. If Vedral is active this week, he will not replace Simon 100% but Schiano and Sean Gleeson will have a plan of attack.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Rutgers
Will Vedral finally get a chance to compete against his former teammates?
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

In the quest to become bowl-eligible, is Friday’s game firmly in the must-win category for the Scarlet Knights? Or do see three potential wins in your remaining six games?

Friday is absolutely a must-win game for Rutgers if it wants to become bowl-eligible. This was the case coming into the season and it remains the same.

Rutgers gave itself a chance by defeating Boston College in Week 1. This was a game that was put in the loss column by many. If the team started 2-1, it was unlikely to win four games in the Big Ten gauntlet. Now that we have seen what teams have to offer, Nebraska remains a must-win game.

If the Scarlet Knights lose, they will have to find three wins over the toughest part of the schedule. After Nebraska, Rutgers will take on Indiana – another must-win contest. There is still Michigan, Minnesota, and Penn State on the schedule. Those are losses. Michigan State was a preseason loss but with how the Spartans look, that might be a winnable game but Michigan State still has the advantage. Also, the final game of the season is against Maryland, who looks good so far.

Long story short, it will be very difficult to find three wins if Rutgers is unable to beat Nebraska.

There appears to be a 3-way RB by committee going on with freshman Samuel Brown and sophomore Al-Shadee Salaam showing the most ability so far. Is this a plan for the full year or do you expect someone to be logging the lion’s share of the carries before season’s end?

Samuel Brown V has led the team in rushing in each of the last two games. As a freshman, he is showing great promise and will only improve from here. Brown has great size and vision in the backfield. Brown will continue to get a bulk of the work but all options will be used in the backfield.

This also includes Aaron Young, who continues to work his way back from injury. Young and Kyle Monangai were the backups last season behind Isiah Pacheco. Now, Salaam and Brown have entered the mix. The backfield has been deep and does a lot well. Monangai is a polished runner while Salaam brings excellent speed.

Johnny Langan is also used in this role but Rutgers likes to line him up all over the field. It does not seem like they will name a true starter but it is telling that Brown has been getting a bulk of the work over the last two weeks.

NCAA Football: Wagner at Rutgers Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Any recommendations for the best places to find food, drink and entertainment near SHI Stadium (or anywhere in the general area) for our Husker fan road warriors who will be rolling in for Friday’s game - and I’m guessing making a long weekend of things?

Take advantage of the pizza and bagels! This cannot be stressed enough. In New Jersey, we are picky about pizza but the truth of the matter is that you can find a good place every half mile you drive. New Brunswick is a great college town with plenty of nightlife as well. The Husker fans might not prefer the Rutgers pubs but there are plenty of attractions to see!

Finally, it’s prediction time - can Rutgers get its offense going again against a Nebraska defense which kept Indiana under 300 total \ yards but had previously failed to hold a D1 opponent under 500 ?

At the end of the day, I don’t trust the quarterback play for Rutgers and that says all you need to know. I would not be surprised to see an ugly game between these two teams. Rutgers has lost 20 consecutive Big Ten games on its home field. I need to see a victory before I can trust them in a pick. Give me Nebraska 28-20.

Nebraska Cornhuskers