2010-10-13 / Sports

Sanu leaving his mark on Rutgers football

South Brunswick’s Mohamed Sanu was the first of Rutgers University’s 2009 recruiting class to verbally commit to the state university. Now in his second year as a starting wide receiver and sometimes quarterback in the wildcat formation, he is making the case that he was the year’s top recruit.

South Brunswick High School graduate Mohamed Sanu races into the end zone, scoring one of his two touchdowns for Rutgers University against Tulane Saturday in Piscataway. PHOTO COURTESY OF RUTGERS ATHLETICS South Brunswick High School graduate Mohamed Sanu races into the end zone, scoring one of his two touchdowns for Rutgers University against Tulane Saturday in Piscataway. PHOTO COURTESY OF RUTGERS ATHLETICS The sophomore is easily the most valuable player on a Scarlet Knights team desperately in need of stars. This was evident on Oct. 9 when the 6-foot-2, 218- pounder scored Rutgers’ only touchdowns in a 17- 14 loss to Tulane. His first TD was a 91-yard keeper on the second play of the game, which set a school record for a rush from scrimmage. The other came on a pass from quarterback Chas Dodd late in the third quarter when Sanu gathered in a short toss and bulled his way to the end zone.

Sanu again found pay dirt last Saturday when the Scarlet Knights bounced back from their disappointing loss to Tulane to beat Connecticut, 27-24, in the Big East opener for both teams.

The former Viking star leads Rutgers in rushing with 272 yards (5.6 yards per carry), receptionswith 23, receiving yards with 245, and touchdowns with six. His 38 points (six touchdowns and one two-point conversion) also top the Scarlet Knights.

Sanu is hoping for more of the same success that enabled his high school team to finish 9-2 in 2008, his final season. Because he turned 19 in his senior year, the NJSIAA declared him ineligible to play that year.

Ask Sanu about his decision to come to Rutgers, and he responds with how proud he was to declare his intent to play for his state university. Without fully understanding how special Sanu would become, Rutgers has to be overjoyed he decided to wear scarlet. It’s obvious the coaches want him to become involved in the offense, whether it’s catches or how many times he runs the ball.

Despite an uncanny ability to deliver as much — if not more — punishment when he is tackled, the question has to be posed about Sanu’s durability over the course of the season. In the four games Rutgers has played, Sanu has carried the ball a whopping 45 times in addition to his 23 catches.

“Mohamed won’t last the season if he keeps getting the pounding he’s taking,” said RU head coach Greg Schiano, when asked about Sanu’s frequent touches.

That is why in the game against Tulane, freshman Jeremy Deering saw his first playing time of the season in the wild cat and was again involved against UConn. It’s an effort to minimize the times Sanu carries the ball.

Sanu burst onto the Rutgers scene in 2009 with statistics that included 51 receptions for 639 yards and three touchdowns and 62 rushes for 346 yards and five touchdowns. That nominated Sanu as Big East preseason “best athlete” in the conference by Sporting News, and he was named preseason first team All-Big East and voted “toughest to bring down” in the Big East by Lindy’s.

His performance has caught the attention of the national media. Before the season, he was named to the watch list for the Paul Hornung Award, given to the nation’s most versatile player. He is also a preseason third team All- American selection by Athlon.

All of which, no doubt, gives Sanu a sense of pride. However, he dismisses statistics if the spotlight is on him instead of his team. When informed that he had broken the school record for a single rush with his 91-yard scamper against Tulane, he just nodded.

“We didn’t perform the way we need to,” was all Sanu said. “It’s about executing as a team.”

Rutgers’ execution was much better on Friday night, when the Scarlet Knights rallied in the fourth quarter to defeat UConn, 27-24, on San San Te’s 34-yard field goal with just 13 seconds left in the game. Sanu had scored on a twoyard run in the second quarter that gave the Knights a 14-7 lead at the time.

The win over UConn could be a seasonsaver for Rutgers, which is 3-2 overall but 1-0 in Big East play.

Rutgers will play its final non-conference game on Saturday when the Scarlet Knights meet the Black Knights of Army at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford. Kickoff is 2 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPN3.com. Army brings an identical 3-2 record into the 37th meeting between the two schools, and it will be the tiebreaker since the series is tied 18-18.

The Rutgers-Army game is the first game at the New Meadowland Stadium between Football Bowl Subdivision members.

After the Army game, Rutgers has two important Big East away games: at Pittsburgh on Oct. 23 and then at the University of South Florida in Tampa on Nov. 3.

Rutgers does not return to Piscataway until Nov. 13, when Syracuse University makes a call.

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