By Matt Sugam
PISCATAWAY – Khaseem Greene took his time to slip into his grey Rutgers’ sweat suit and pack his overnight duffle bag as a hoard of media began surrounding his locker, waiting to speak to the most dominant force on the football field today.
He was all set to talk when he forgot one thing. His Snickers bar. He took a few seconds to scurry through his duffle bag and then his locker before finding it on the top shelf.
It was his only mental miscue of the day.
Greene was all over the field, forcing a career-high three fumbles, intercepting Ryan Nassib once and notching 14 tackles and one and a half sacks to lead No. 19 Rutgers past Syracuse. Yes, Greene is a beast of an athlete that can fly all around the gridiron from his weakside linebacker spot, but it’s his mind that results in games like today.
The reigning Big East Defensive Player of the Year has a football IQ that is off the charts. He’s constantly flowing to the football and is in the middle of virtually every play.
“He’s just an instinctual kind of guy. That’s just the type of player that he is,” defensive tackle Scott Vallone said. “He’s not a guy that’s bogged down by scheme.”
However, Syracuse was able to keep Greene in check early on. The 6-foot-1, 230-pounder was a non-factor in the first fifteen minutes of the game.
That all changed with :41 left in the opening quarter when Greene was flagged for a 15-yard penalty for a personal foul due to a late hit on Syracuse punt returner Steve Rene.
“He was just on top of me and I just tried to get him off me,” Greene said, ”But you know what, I had to show that I was a smart player. I’m not a guy that’s going to late hit anybody. I’m more or less trying to defend myself.”
And after a sluggish start to the game, it was the play that fueled Greene to have one of the best games of his career.
“It fueled me a little bit,” Greene said, adding. “I took it a little personally and I stepped my game up after that.”
His head coach called it and “All-American, player of the year type of performance,” and it was just that.
“We all know that Khaseem’s a tremendous play maker, so it doesn’t surprise me when he has games like this,” Kyle Flood said. “Certainly opportunities presented themselves and he made the plays.”
But the most impressive part is how often those occasions occur. And they happen because Greene creates them.
The Elizabeth, N.J. native credits his nose for the football to his pre-snap reads. More times than not, Greene said he knows what the opposition is going to do before the snap of the ball.
In turn, Greene can have days like today.
“It ranks amongst one of my best games personally,” Greene said. “But I got more in the tank.”
And even more dominant performances ahead.
“I could have played better,” Greene said. “I played really good though. That’s what people are telling me.”