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Rutgers Football: Knights Travel to North Carolina to Take on the Tar Heels

UNC's Bryn Renner is key to this week's game
UNC's Bryn Renner is key to this week's gameKevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Jayson LoveCorrespondent IDecember 13, 2016

On September 10th, Rutgers will resume its series with the University of North Carolina.

The Knights make their first trip to Kenan Stadium since 2006 when the Rutgers held off the Tar Heels for a 20-16 win.  The win spring-boarded what was a magical season for Rutgers—its best under Greg Schiano.

The two teams have since met twice at Rutgers Stadium—once in 2007 when the Tar Heels blew out Rutgers 44-12, and last season where a depleted Tar Heels team eked out a 17-13 win.

Both teams come off blow out wins over FCS opponents.  North Carolina won its opener against James Madison 44-10, and Rutgers shut out North Carolina Central 48-0.

The Tar Heels come into the game under new interim head coach Everett Withers.  Withers is looking to both win football games, and shed North Carolina's image of academic scandal and misgiving of benefits to student athletes.

Last season, the Tar Heels had many suspensions, including 12 before a huge clash against LSU that included the suspension of tackle Marvin Austin and  Greg Little who is now in the NFL.

Despite the mess, the Tar Heels managed eight wins, and a bowl game appearance in the Music City Bowl—a win against Tennessee.

Rutgers however, had its string of bowl games snapped in 2010.  Between 2005 and 2009, RU had attended five straight bowl games, and enjoyed four straight bowl wins.

In 2010,  The Knights dropped their last six game due to erratic play on offense, poor defense, and the team had to be affected by the devastating loss of Eric Legrand to a spinal cord injury.

This game marks an opportunity for both programs to turn the corner. 

The opening game win for the Knights was Rutgers' first since beating Army at The Meadowlands on October 16, 2010—the day Legrand suffered his devastating paralysis.

UNC comes in with a potent offense.  Against JMU, the Tar Heels used a potent passing attack to put the game away.

Sophomore Bryn Renner completed 22-23 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns.  Dwight Jones caught nine of Renner's 22 completions and two touchdowns.

The Tar Heels will seek to use the high octane passing attack against the young Scarlet Knight secondary.  Rutgers scored twice on defense against UNC Central—a sack and fumble recovery and an interception return.

Last season, RU's pass defense was exposed down the stretch.  It remains to be seen whether the pass defense was improved, or whether the performance was a result of a matchup against an inferior team.

The key to this Saturday's game will be this matchup.  Can the Knights' secondary keep up with the athletes of UNC?

If they can, this could be a winnable game for the Knights.  If not, the Tar Heels will roll.

Note: Rutgers' will sorely miss Mason Robinson who tore his ACL this week.  He had really settled down the punt return team which was a huge issue for the Knights the past few seasons. 

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