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Kyle Monangai punishing defenses in leading Rutgers to 3-0 start




The most important player for Rutgers in its 3-0 start this season is unquestionably running back Kyle Monangai. He is averaging 6.2 yards per carry and a 119 yards rushing per game. Saturday’s performance against Virginia Tech was his best so far. He ran it 16 times for 143 yards at 8.9 yards per rush and 3 touchdowns. His 19 yard scamper for the score to start the game put Rutgers in a front running position. His 55 yard score changed the dynamic of the game and broke the will of the Hokies. Monangai also scored touchdowns against Northwestern and Temple that put the game out of reach.

“Yeah, he’s running very, very hard, running smart, running determined,” said head coach Greg Schiano after the Virginia Tech win. “Thank goodness, right, because he’s helped us win games.”

With Sam Brown seeing limited action in his two games since returning from injury and Aaron Young not having played at all, Monangai has prospered with the opportunity to be the main running back. While true freshman Ja’shon Benjamin has been good behind him, Monangai has proven to be a beast in the Rutgers backfield.

The best thing about Monangai’s performance is how he gets stronger as the game goes on. He has been much more productive in the second halves this season. It’s a product of Rutgers wearing defenses down and Monangai has been a big reason why. He’s gained muscle since last season and runs hard on every play. He doles out punishment to those defenders willing to try and tackle him.

“Well, I think it certainly is important to be able to continue to call the runs,” Schiano said when asked about Monangai having big fourth quarters in back to back games. “It’s like if we were a boxer those are body blows, body blows, body blows. Eventually a guy drops his hands because the body blows hurt too much. That’s when you can take a knock-out shot.”

Monangai certainly delivered the knockout shot on the 55 yard touchdown run on Saturday. He then added a 12 yard scoring run on the next drive. The Virginia Tech defense was overmatched as Monangai ran ragged against a unit missing a few key players in the fourth quarter.

Schiano explained the key to being in a position to do that to your opponent.

“If you’re winning the game then you have a chance to continue to do that. If you get behind it’s hard to get all those body blows in,” Schiano explained. “That was important, getting the lead today, and being able to do that. They’re a very aggressive defense, well-coached, but I thought if we could play with a lead today that we would be able to wear them down. I think that’s what happened.”

The biggest reason why is Kyle Monangai. While the running back room is the deepest on the RU roster, injuries have kept the group from being fully available this season. Normally, that would be a concern and an issue for the Scarlet Knights. Not this season because of Monangai.

He is also a major reason for optimism for Rutgers as Big Ten play resumes next week at No. 2 Michigan. It’s been a breakout season for the former Don Bosco Prep running back. He’s only 88 yards away from topping his rushing total from all of last season (445 yards).  offense. Part of the reason is usage. Monangai only received double digit carries in four of 12 games played last season. He had a big game at Michigan State last season but otherwise rarely had the opportunity to play the role of delivering body blows. This season he’s been the catalyst for an offense that’s averaging 31.7 points per game.

New offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca has found his favorite weapon for the Rutgers. Monangai is averaging 19 carries per game and has rewarded his coaches for calling his number so many times. It’s a long season to go and Rutgers has a long way to go towards bowl eligibility. Gavin Wimsatt hasn’t thrown an interception, the defense has been very good and special teams has been solid. That being said, Rutgers is exactly where they hoped to be at this point in the season and the biggest reason why is Monangai.

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