Rutgers Seeking To Kill With Kindness The Coach Took A Long Look At Penn State. He Decided Not To Make The Nittany Lions Angry.

Posted: October 03, 1992

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — His weekly trip to the video room last Sunday was all it took to bring Rutgers coach Doug Graber down from the high that came with the Scarlet Knights' third straight victory.

Graber, who spent seven years as an NFL assistant coach, trusts his ability to judge talent. And what he saw while evaluating eighth-ranked Penn State made him squirm.

"It was pretty sobering," the third-year Rutgers coach said. "This will be the best team we've played since I've been at Rutgers. They're much, much better than they were last year. No comparison. They have everything. I knew they were good, but I didn't realize they were this good. To be honest, this may be a little bit of a mismatch."

The Scarlet Knights (3-1) nonetheless will show up to go against Penn State (4-0) at 6 o'clock tonight before an anticipated crowd of 50,000 at Giants Stadium.

The Nittany Lions have scored 150 points in their last three games, a frightening total although the points were scored against three teams - Temple, Eastern Michigan and Maryland - that have one victory among them.

They have done it with a running game that's averaging 278 yards and is led by tailback Richie Anderson. And they have done it with a passing game that has yet to surrender an interception in four games.

Quarterback John Sacca, a redshirted junior from Delran High, has begun to establish himself as the triggerman of State's offense in the absence of Kerry Collins, out with a broken index finger.

"I was hoping, frankly, that quarterback would be their weak link after Kerry Collins went down, because from what everybody tells me, he was spectacular in the spring," Graber said. "So I was assuming the quarterback position might not be as strong.

"But I'm amazed at how well Sacca's playing, considering his lack of playing time. He throws the deep ball so well and with great touch. With their running game and a quarterback who can hurt you deep, well, that makes it very difficult to defend them."

After going a wobbly 1 for 6 and suffering a bruised collarbone in the opener against Cincinnati, Sacca has completed 22 of 40 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns.

"Sacca's become a good college quarterback," State coach Joe Paterno said.

Told of Graber's effusive praise of his team, Paterno responded: "I appreciate what Doug's said. But Rutgers is measurably better than they were last year. They have an outstanding defense. And it remains to be seen how good we really are."

This likely will be the best defense State has faced this season. The Scarlet Knights have allowed only 13 points a game, and have two shutouts since an opening-day 37-20 loss at Boston College. But the shutouts came against Colgate and Navy, teams hardly in Penn State's class.

Still, it won't hurt Rutgers' cause to have veteran defensive backs Malik Jackson and Jay Bellamy back in the starting lineup after a one-game suspension for violating team rules.

The Scarlet Knights might also get a lift from quarterback Ray Lucas, a redshirted freshman who will make his first start in place of Bryan Fortay, the much-heralded transfer from Miami who was on everyone's recruiting list coming out of East Brunswick High.

But Fortay, who had to sit out last season because he transferred, has been inconsistent, with five interceptions along with five touchdown passes. The quicker Lucas came off the bench to kick-start Rutgers' offense in the 40-0 rout of Navy, and he has completed 17 of 24 passes for 248 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.

Graber indicated that both quarterbacks would probably see action against Penn State.

"The expectations on Bryan have been ridiculous," Graber said. "He's a fine athlete and he's going to be a good quarterback. But he didn't play last year, and I don't care who you are, you have to play. At times he's struggled, but I think the totally unrealistic expectations have been a factor."

For Penn State, the game will end an early schedule loaded with heavy underdogs. Miami visits Happy Valley next week; then come Boston College and West Virginia. All three are undefeated.

"The last couple of years, we feel we've lost to teams we shouldn't have lost to," State defensive tackle Tyoka Jackson said. "That's why I don't think we'll be looking ahead to Miami."

NOTES. Paterno said early this week that Collins took snaps for the first time in practice Monday and that his index finger swelled a bit. "I'd have preferred he waited a little longer, but the doctor gave him the go-ahead," Paterno said. "It's a day-to-day thing." . . . Penn State, which has won 18 straight games against Eastern opponents, is 18-2 against Rutgers.

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