The second annual Pinstripe Bowl features two teams that return to postseason play after sub-par seasons last year.
In the first meeting between the Cyclones and Scarlet Knights on the football field, both teams will try to bounce back from lackluster regular season finishes with a strong bowl showing. Iowa State is 3-7 all-time in bowl games, defeating Minnesota 14-13 in the 2009 Insight Bowl its last trip to a bowl while Rutgers beat UCF 45-23 in the 2009 St. Petersburg (now Beef O’ Brady’s) Bowl the last time the Knights went to the postseason putting them at a 4-2 all-time bowl record.
Iowa State started off the season 3-0, including a win over in-state rival Iowa after James White ran in the ball from the 4-yard line as time expired giving the Cyclones the 44-41 victory in week two, before losing its next four straight – three to ranked teams. The skid ended with a 41-7 win over then-number 19 Texas Tech in Lubbock on October 29th, the first of three straight wins. With the pendulum swinging upward, Iowa State rallied from a 17 point deficit in the third quarter to upset then number-two Oklahoma State 37-31 in overtime, thus changing the BCS picture for the Cowboys with only two games to play.
The only loss on Oklahoma State’s schedule caused enough damage late in the campaign for the Cowboys to finish third in the BCS standings behind LSU and Alabama, thus missing out on the national championship game and being relegated to the Fiesta Bowl. However, Iowa State couldn’t continue its momentum following the monumental win and lost its final two homes games against Oklahoma (26-6) and Kansas State (30-23) to finish the regular season at .500.
Iowa State’s offense is led by red-shirt freshman QB Jared Barnett, who took over for struggling Steele Jantz in the first quarter against Texas A & M in October. Barnett passed for 1,178 yards with six TDs and six interceptions, including a season-best 376 yards and three touchdowns while running for 84 yards in the upset of Oklahoma State. Combined with White, the QB-RB tandem has rushed for 1136 yards and nine touchdowns. Iowa State’s defense has been suspect all year, allowing opponents an average of 432.3 yards of total offense, 99th in the FBS. Both rushing defense and passing defense are weak, allowing on average 195.17 ypg (100th) and 237.2 ypg (73rd), respectively, while giving up 29.6 points per game.
Rutgers will play its second game at Yankee Stadium this year, after defeating Army 27-12 on November 12th, and will look to rebound from a 40-22 blown out by UConn in the regular season finale. The Scarlet Knights struggled all season running the ball, rushing for five total yards or less against North Carolina (1 yd.), Syracuse (5 yds.), USF (-7 yds.), and UConn (-9 yds.). Rutgers posted wins against the Orange (19-16) and the Bulls (20-17) largely due to a stingy defense and great special teams play. San San Te kicked a combined six field goals in the two contests, while Jeremy Deering returned a kickoff 98 yards for a score against USF.
Against an Iowa State defense that allows almost 200 yards per game on the ground, head coach Greg Schiano will try to improve on the season-worst mark of negative nine yards against the Huskies using Jawan Jamison, who rushed for 200 yards and two touchdowns in the 20-3 win over Cincinnati on November 19. Schiano’s best offensive player is unanimous first-team Big East WR Mohamed Sanu, who set a school and conference record with 109 receptions and finished with 1144 yards and seven touchdowns, both second-most in the league. Sanu has had two different signal callers throwing the ball to him this year in sophomore Chas Dodd and freshman Gary Nova. Dodd and Nova have combined for 2931 yards, 20 TDs, and 16 INTs in the 2011 campaign.
The defense is led by LB Khaseem Greene who announced earlier in the week that he would forego the NFL Draft and return to Rutgers for his senior year. Greene led the conference with 127 total tackles, which tied him at 14th nationally and recorded 11 TFL, 3 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. The Scarlet Knights had a Big East-best scoring (18.8) and passing defense (167.8 ypg), while allowing a league-worst 143.67 yards on the ground.
Dory LeBlanc, covers Gator sports for Gators First and BourbonMeyer.com. Not just a college sports enthusiast, Dory is also a fan of NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB. Born outside Philly, she moved to Tampa, and now resides in Illinois, giving her a broad perspective on the sporting world. You can follow Dory on twitter @DoryLeBlanc