53F High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, NJ
Considering the last two meetings between Rutgers and Syracuse have been decided by three points, having an injured field goal kicker isn't exactly encouraging news for Scarlet Knights coach Kyle Flood.
With Kyle Federico's services uncertain, remaining undefeated could be tough for No. 20 Rutgers on Saturday when it hosts the Orange.
Federico injured his hip on a third-quarter kickoff in last Saturday's 19-3 win over Connecticut. He has been ruled out for kickoffs this week, but Flood is still clinging to hope that Federico can kick extra points for the Knights (5-0, 2-0 Big East), who are off to their best start since opening 9-0 in 2006.
Flood doesn't have a lot of confidence in the kicking department if Federico can't go. After he got injured, backup Nick DeLouisa missed an extra point, which elicited Flood to have some students try out for the kicker position.
"We tried out a number of guys," he said. "All hands on deck."
Even if Federico, who has converted 6 of 11 field goals, is unavailable, Flood doesn't believe he'll have to attempt two-point conversions following touchdowns.
"I think we'll have the ability to kick extra points," he said. "I think probably where it has its biggest effect is that area of the field where you're trying to decide, are you trying a 50-yard or 40-yard. You have to figure out what the top end of his range is and game plan accordingly."
Field goals have been a crucial part of the series.
The Scarlet Knights won at Syracuse 19-16 in double overtime last October, and the Orange won 13-10 on a kick with 1:07 remaining in New Jersey in 2010.
In last season's matchup, quarterback Gary Nova replaced an ineffective Chas Dodd and rallied Rutgers from a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit. Then a freshman, Nova threw for 122 yards and a TD and became the team's starting quarterback the following week.
Nova has 10 touchdowns this season - tying him for the most in the Big East - yet the defense has been the Knights' biggest strength.
Rutgers is fifth in the FBS in scoring defense at 10.8 points, second against the run with an average of 60.6 yards, and first in the Big East with 10 interceptions.
The Knights are facing a Syracuse team that has scored two offensive touchdowns in its last two games. Senior quarterback Ryan Nassib has three interceptions in those contests, and threw three picks against Rutgers a year ago.
Despite some offensive concerns, the Orange (2-3, 1-0) are brimming with confidence after beating Pittsburgh 14-13 last Friday.
The defense led the way, as Dyshawn Davis returned a fumble 52 yards for a touchdown while Brandon Sharpe finished with six tackles for loss and four sacks. Syracuse came into the game allowing an average of 176.3 rushing yards, but held a Pittsburgh team that entered with an average of 187.5 on the ground to 27 yards on 37 carries.
"It finally felt like we (were) clicking," defensive tackle Deon Goggins said. "During the bye week we were working on little things and it came together."
The Orange, who haven't opened with two straight conference wins since a 5-0 start in 2001, will now turn their attention to slowing down Jawan Jamison, the Big East's leading rusher with 601 yards.
Jamison finished with 110 yards on 28 carries last week for his sixth straight 100-yard game. He needs two more to match Ray Rice's school record for consecutive 100-yard performances, set in 2007.
As a freshman last season, Jamison didn't do much against the Orange, rushing for 48 yards on 24 attempts.