Rutgers at Penn State: Here’s what you need to know

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College Football: Penn State Nittany Lion mascot with fans in stands during game vs Indiana at Beaver Stadium. State College, PA 9/30/2017 CREDIT: Rob Tringali (Photo by Rob Tringali /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images) (Set Number: X161419 TK1 )

It’s Homecoming in Happy Valley.

After a heartbreaking stretch of back-to-back road games that saw their Big Ten championship and College Football Playoff hopes dashed with consecutive tough losses, Penn State returns home Saturday to host Rutgers at its Homecoming and Military Appreciation game.

Kickoff is at noon. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.

More than 7,500 servicemembers and their families will be in attendance at the Veterans Day game, as well as thousands of alumni. Active duty, guard and reserve military, veterans, and fallen and Gold Star families were able to apply online for complimentary-donated tickets to the Penn State-Rutgers game as part of the Seats for Servicemembers program at Penn State’s Military Appreciation Week.

Penn State is 10-2 in its last 12 homecoming games. The Lions could use a win; their back-to-back losses at Ohio State and Michigan State dropped them into a third-place tie with Michigan in the Big Ten East Division.

Rutgers has won three of four. The Scarlet Knights are fighting to become bowl eligible.

Here’s what you need to know about the game:

Rutgers (4-5) at Penn State (7-2)


TV: Big Ten Network

BETTING LINE: Penn State is a 31-point favorite

SERIES: Penn State leads 25-2 in a series that dates back to the earliest days of college football

ABOUT PENN STATE: It’s been a rough few weeks for the Nittany Lions, who fell 27-24 last week to Michigan State on a 34-yard field goal by Matt Coughlin as time expired. The game, delayed for more than three hours by a line of thunderstorms that arrived late in the first half, took more than seven hours to play.

It was the second straight loss for Penn State, which fell 39-38 to Ohio State the week before. The Nittany Lions’ last five losses, dating back to the 2016 season, were all decided by three points or less.

Penn State is still in the hunt for a New Year’s Day bowl game, but the Lions need to end their losing streak.

Trace McSorley threw for 381 yards against Michigan State and became Penn State’s career passing touchdown leader with three TD tosses, boosting his career total to 50 and breaking Christian Hackenburg’s previous record of 48. McSorley leads the Big Ten with 2,452 passing yards this season.

Running back Saquon Barkley’s status as the top contender for the Heisman Trophy has been set back by back-to-back sub-par performances, but he’s still having a tremendous season. Barkley needs 136 rushing yards to hit the 1,000-yard milestone for the third straight season, and is 30 yards shy of becoming the second player in school history to rack up 5,000 all-purpose yards. Barkley is the first Penn State player to total 3,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in his career.

ABOUT RUTGERS: The Scarlet Knights are coached by Chris Ash, who is in his second season. Rutgers is 3-3 in Big Ten play, matching its team high for conference wins in a season. The Knights joined the Big Ten in 2014.

Rutgers’ conference wins have come against Illinois (35-24), Purdue (14-12) and Maryland (31-24).

The Knights haven’t won in Happy Valley since 1988.

Rutgers’ offense will revolve around RB Gus Edwards, a Miami transfer who ran for 109 yards on 21 carries against Maryland, and caught a go-ahead, 23-yard touchdown pass to beat the Terps. Edwards has 653 yards and six touchdowns on the ground and is third on the team with 12 catches for 102 yards this season.

Rutgers ranks third in the Big Ten with 14 passes intercepted. Eight of the interceptions have come in Big Ten games. Kiy Hester is one of just 12 players in FBS to return two or more interceptions for touchdowns. He has returned two of his three interceptions this season for touchdowns.

Quarterback Giovanni Rescigno has started the last four games. He has completed 32-of-63 passes for 407 yards and two touchdowns in six appearances.