Penn State Football

New Jersey natives gear up for Rutgers game

CDT photo

Penn State tight end and New Jersey native Mike Gesicki received a text message from his dad on Tuesday morning.

“If you can get 100 tickets, I can get 100 people to go,” Gesicki recalled with a smile. “So I’m definitely scrapping for some tickets right now. I’m asking everybody. Doing whatever it takes.”

Gesicki isn’t alone, either. With the Nittany Lions set to visit Rutgers at 8 p.m. Saturday, he and 18 other New Jersey natives will be chomping at the bit to perform in front of their friends and family.

“It’s really going to be a great opportunity for not only myself, but for everybody,” Gesicki, a Southern Regional graduate, said. “I have a bunch of friends and family and people back home that want to come and support not only myself but this entire Penn State football family.”

Same with linebacker Jason Cabinda. The Hunterdon Central graduate said he has pulled together 10 tickets, but it probably won’t be enough.

“I’m going to need a few more, actually,” Cabinda said. “It’s going to be cool to see them after the game.”

Of course, many New Jersey natives on the Nittany Lions were recruited by Rutgers at some point in the process. A few, like wide receiver Saeed Blacknall, were committed to the Scarlet Knights before flipping to Penn State, or at least had strong interest in playing their college ball at High Point Solutions Stadium.

That wasn’t the case with Cabinda, though.

“I’d say they joined the party a little bit late,” the junior said. “I took a good look at them, but at that point in time it was too late for me to consider them.”

Cabinda doesn’t take Rutgers’ late interest personally, but to him and the rest of his New Jersey-born teammates, there’s always a certain excitement to playing the Scarlet Knights.

Penn State has won both matchups with Rutgers since the Scarlet Knights joined the Big Ten in 2014 — a tight 13-10 victory on the road two seasons ago and a 28-3 triumph last season at home. The third matchup as conference foes is expected to be a lopsided affair. Penn State opens as 28-point favorites, according to Bovada Sportsbook.

Regardless, Gesicki remembers the trip to Rutgers in 2014, and knows it’ll be a tough atmosphere.

“There were a lot of boos and all that kind of stuff,” the tight end remembers. “But as a competitor and a guy from there, you love that kind of stuff. You feed off of it.”

Plus, it can’t hurt for Cabinda and his New Jersey teammates, namely his fellow starting linebackers Brandon Bell and Manny Bowen, to play in front of some familiar faces.

“We’re going back to New Jersey,” Cabinda said, “so we’ve got to put on.”

John McGonigal: 814-231-4630, @jmcgonigal9