The rivalry between Rutgers and Connecticut will take a hiatus for a bit Saturday as the Scarlet Knights pay homage to slain Huskies cornerback Jasper Howard.
Pending approval from UConn head coach Randy Edsall, the Scarlet Knights will wear Howard’s No. 6 on their helmets for the game.
“A lot of our guys knew Jazz, and I did, and it’s just a tragic event. And you ask yourself, ‘Why?’ ‘’ Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said. “We’re going to have something on our helmets to recognize him. I have to talk to Randy. I don’t want to do anything without asking him, and Randy’s down at the funeral today.
“I talked to our team about it. They want to do something. I want to do something. I just want to make sure Randy’s ok with it.’’
Scarlet Knights receiver Tim Brown referred to Howard as his “best friend’’ while speaking with reporters Monday. The two grew up in Miami, although Howard graduated from Miami’s Edison High and Brown went to Miami Northwestern High.
Brown said he was trying to make arrangements to attend Brown’s funeral.
“I had to stay up here with my team and finish practicing, but I talked to everybody down there and they gave him my jersey and they signed the book for me,’’ Brown said. “They did everything for me down there that I was going to d so I feel fine right now.’’
Before the NCAA disallowed teams running summer camps in other states, Howard attended a camp run by Rutgers at Edison High.
“He really did a great job in our camp,’’ Schiano said. “Not only playing the game, but just his attitude, the way he handled himself, he stuck out to me. I remember last year he was returning punts and stuff and, yeah …when you hear the news you say, ‘Oh, no.’
“And then you find out who it is, and you know him, it’s even more personal. I just keep thinking, that’s crazy. Where are we that this stuff keeps happening. It’s just a tragedy.’’
Fellow Miamian Antonio Lowery, Rutgers’ junior linebacker, said he met Howard through Brown.
“He was a fun guy,’’ Lowery said. “We’d chill, have fun and hang out. We went out a whole bunch of times. He’s a cool kid.’’
Running on …medium
Although Rutgers settled on Joe Martinek as its top running back, it is not a position Schiano is not fully enthralled with the running game.
“We’re still a work in progress at the running back position,’’ Schiano said. “We have to finish things.’’
Martinek ran for 139 yards and scored twice on 25 runs, and 79 of his rushing yards came in the fourth quarter.
“I thought what Joe did a very good job of all night was he was not easy to tackle,’’ Schiano said. “He was harder to tackle than I’ve seen him in the past. I thought he played his best game against a very good defense. I was impressed by his effort.’’
Rutgers’ depth on the offensive line should remain the same, despite the potential availability of red-shirt sophomore Caleb Ruch, who has been out with an ankle injury.
“Caleb may be a go,’’ Schiano said. “His development during the week will be key.’’
However, offensive tackle Desmond Stapleton, who started at Army, isn’t expected to play after suffering a left ankle injury against the Black Knights.
Stapleton is the guy that I don’t think is going to make it.
Red-shirt freshman defensive tackle Scott Vallone had another strong game against Army, recording five tackles, including two for loss, and was a disruptive force in the backfield.
“I thought Scott played his best game to date,’’ Schiano said. “He played at a high level. He made some moves, stemming and doing things, that made them call two timeouts. I haven’t seen triple option teams do that too much.
“I thought he played a really strong game. He has all the skills to be a great, great defensive lineman and he’s starting to show those already. As he gets bigger and stronger and faster and all those things …he could be one of the best.
Rutgers freshman receiver Mark Harrison made the first two catches of his career at Army, and his development continues.
“Mark has some issues early in the year that were keeping him from being 100 percent,’’ said Schiano, speaking of a groin injury. “I still don’t think he’s 100 percent, but I think he’s learning the scheme, getting more comfortable with his assignments.
“Mark’s a tremendous talent. It’s just a matter of time before it starts clicking for him.’’
Rutgers linebacker Antonio Lowery was available but didn’t play at Army because of what he called “bumps and bruises.’’ The Scarlet Knights also spent much of the game playing in a nickel package, so his time would have been limited anyway, but he is healthy for the Huskies. …Connecticut is 4-3, with the three losses coming by a combined eight points. The Huskies led deep into the fourth quarter of each loss.