Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Rutgers Relishing Its Role as Big Underdog

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Rutgers Relishing Its Role as Big Underdog

Article excerpt

Julian Pinnix-Odrick wore a knowing smile as he answered the question.

"We're aware," Rutgers senior defensive end said, noting the fact that his teammates feel the same way he does. "We like it."

Pinnix-Odrick and the rest of the Scarlet Knights are aware that outside observers expect very little from them this season. That's why Rutgers is a consensus choice to finish seventh in the seven- team Big Ten East Division, and why the Scarlet Knights enter their game against formidable Washington as a 27-point underdog, which is what Pinnix-Odrick was asked about specifically.

"We talk about it all the time," he said, "about being the underdogs and I love that. I wouldn't want it any other way."

Certainly Rutgers won't lack for motivation when it takes the field today at Husky Stadium at 2 p.m. Instead of starting the Chris Ash era with a soft touch, Rutgers has its hands full.

Actually, that easy game will take place next week, when Rutgers hosts a hapless FCS team, Howard. The Bison won only one game last year and recently held open tryouts for walk-ons.

"It's not a game that I would probably set-[up] to open up on the road clear across the country," Ash said when asked about the circumstances. "But it is what it is and it's set and we're going to play it. I'd rather, like most coaches, probably want to open the season at home, if you had the opportunity to."

Instead, this is a going-away present from fired coach Kyle Flood, who set up this home-and-home series which will conclude 52 weeks from now when Rutgers hosts Washington on Sept. 2, 2017 in the season opener for both teams.

"But this is going to be a great test for us," Ash said, in terms of "just how we manage the trip and go play in that environment against this football team."

"I guess we're turning this thing into a positive rather than a negative," Ash added, "and we're looking at this as a great barometer to find out where we're at. Can we compete against teams like this in an environment like this?"

That environment is a 70,000-seat stadium which figures to be energized by the preseason hype surrounding the Huskies, who are ranked 14th by The Associated Press and 18th by USA Today as they attempt to break the stranglehold that Stanford and Oregon have had upon the Pac-12 North Division. …

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