2012 Russell Athletic Bowl: Postgame Grades from the Rutgers Loss

Jonathan McDanalContributor IIIDecember 28, 2012

2012 Russell Athletic Bowl: Postgame Grades from the Rutgers Loss

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    Rutgers and Virginia Tech are finished with the 2012 Russell Athletic Bowl. Virginia Tech pulled off a stunner in overtime after Rutgers missed a 42-yard field goal that would have forced a second overtime.

    After leading Virginia Tech 10-0 in the first quarter, quarterback Gary Nova committed two turnovers that gave the Hokies just enough clock advantage to score 10 points in the fourth and hang onto the tie.

    Check out the next five slides to see how Rutgers handed the Hokies their seventh win of the season. From the quarterback to the coaches, here is the complete breakdown of how the game was handed over to the Hokies in the final minutes.

Quarterback

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    Overall Grade: D

    Gary Nova: 17-of-40 for 130 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception.

    Gary Nova has had a seesaw season that saw the Rutgers Scarlet Knights ranked as highly as No. 15. Toward the end of the season, his success came to a grinding halt. The 2012 Russell Athletic Bowl was no different.

    Nova threw three almost-interceptions on deep balls throughout the game before finally connecting with a pick to Virginia Tech's defense. After that pick, he shied away from the deep ball, but he should have quit while he was ahead. His pick was returned to the 20, and the Hokies found the end zone on that drive.

Running Backs

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    Overall Grade: D

    Both running backs for the Scarlet Knights averaged fewer than three yards per carry, and the rushing attack clearly was a liability throughout the game. Jawan Jamison got off to a decent start, but he was shut down quickly. He never found the success that has made him a household name throughout the regular season.

    Jawan Jamison: 13 carries for 24 yards.

    Savon Huggins: 18 carries for 45 yards.

    The tailbacks did not poke holes in Virginia Tech's stifling defense, and the quarterback couldn't connect with enough receivers to take any pressure off the rushers at any point during the game. Rutgers did not score any touchdowns on offense, and the running backs' lack of success was a big part of that.

Wide Receivers

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    First OT—B

    The Hokies led off with a 22-yard pass play in the first overtime, and the Rutgers defense was backed into a corner. Rutgers' defense stood up and nearly intercepted the third-down pass. That forced Virginia Tech to take the field goal. After starting on the 25, that should have been more than enough for Rutgers to win.

    Qtr 4—C+

    Virginia Tech only scored a touchdown on the drive that started in the red zone. The only other score was a field goal off back-to-back passes of over 25 yards.

    Rutgers' ability to push the Hokies out of field-goal range after they recovered a fumble in-range was the biggest reason this grade wasn't a “D.” The other major reason was the game-saving interception near the end of the quarter.

    Qtr 3—A+

    Rutgers continued to shut the Virginia Tech offense down through the third quarter. Virginia Tech still hasn't gotten any points at all. Rutgers should sell its game tape to other schools that aren't in competition with it.

    Qtr 2—A+

    Rutgers defense continued to play headline-worthy football in through the second quarter. The Hokies punted on every offensive drive of the second quarter except the last one. Brandon Jones yanked the ball out of the air for an interception on that drive.

    The most success Virginia Tech has seen all game has been a punt. Rutgers is playing stunning defense.

    Virginia Tech: 83 passing yards and -10 rushing yards.

    Qtr 1—A+

    Khaseem Greene came up with what he thought was a safety on the first Hokies drive of the game. Instead, Greene scored the first touchdown of the game after recovering the fumbled ball in the end zone.

    The defense followed that up by bringing stifling pressure on the Hokies for the rest of the first quarter. Rutgers even forced Virginia Tech into a delay-of-game penalty after all the terror it wreaked on the Hokies. Virginia Tech has scored zero points against Rutgers, and that's an "A+" performance for sure.

Tight Ends

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    First OT—F

    The 42-yard field-goal attempt to force a second overtime was wide right, and the Hokies won the game. While it may seem harsh to give the unit an “F” for just one missed field goal, the missed field goal was the only play to evaluate in overtime.

    Qtr 4—A

    Rutgers' situational unit did nothing to hinder the Scarlet Knights from winning the Russell Athletic Bowl. The unit did not allow big returns on any of the fourth-quarter punts, and that's huge in the rainy conditions.

    It's easy to slip and miss a tackle in conditions like tonight. All special teams has to do to earn an “A” is do its job correctly. Mission: accomplished.

    Qtr 3—A

    The special-teams unit did a good job in the third quarter with two 29-yard punts to put the Hokies far enough away that the Scarlet Knight defense could take care of business. Rutgers did not attempt any field goals in the third.

    Qtr 2—A+

    Rutgers had a huge punt in the second quarter. Rutgers booted it 33 yards from the 35, and the Knights downed it at the two. Rutgers did not attempt any field goals in the second quarter.

    Qtr 1—A-

    The punting team has done a good job, and has gotten off two punts. One was for 42 yards, and the other was for 37. The only downside is that Virginia Tech is returning kickoffs for 20 or more yards on every opportunity. If Rutgers tightens up the kickoff coverage, this grade will be a solid “A.”

    Rutgers has attempted only one field goal, and that was good from 36 yards.

Offensive Line

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    Overall Grade: C-

    Rutgers' offensive line couldn't counter the speed of Virginia Tech's defensive line. They were swim-moving, deking and out-jumping the Scarlet Knights on every other play. On the plays where Rutgers did stand up, Nova would flounder from the pocket and stall the drive. The offensive line should have provided more consistent protection for Nova, but the fact remains that Nova was asking for too much time to throw the ball.

Defensive Line

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    Overall Grade: A+

    Virginia Tech rushed for four yards in the game. Yes, you read that correctly. For every quarter of play, Virginia Tech averaged gaining one yard against Rutgers. The defensive line crushed the Hokies' rushing attack, and there was no chance that Logan Thomas was going to break off a huge run.

    Even the pitch plays were well-covered and stunted behind the line of scrimmage. If Virginia Tech walked into the game with a plan of attack on the ground, Rutgers made sure it didn't show. If you want to learn how to be a defensive lineman, go back and watch this game whenever you can.

Linebackers

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    Overall Grade: A+

    Thanks to Khaseem Greene, Rutgers made it to overtime. The second play of the game was a bad snap that Logan Thomas picked up in the end zone. Greene tackled Thomas, tackled him, celebrated the safety, looked down and saw the fumbled football, picked it up and celebrated the touchdown.

    There was so much happening on that play that you had to see the replay just to make sure you had all the elements correct and in the right order.

    The linebackers were in the backfield disrupting the Hokies at every turn. Virginia Tech punted the ball 10 times and ended four others on turnovers. (A couple of those turnovers belong to the defensive backs, but we will get to them next.)

Defensive Backs

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    Overall Grade: A-

    The secondary was unstoppable for most of the game. Virginia Tech didn't score a single point until the fourth quarter, and the big plays were few and far between. In the fourth quarter, Virginia Tech only scored off the drive that Gary Nova started for them on the 20 yardline.

    Late in the game, when Virginia Tech had a chance to mount a game-winning drive, Brandon Jones intercepted Logan Thomas's first pass of the drive to give Rutgers the ball with 1:31 left in the game. The defense did everything possible to help the offense win the game, but Rutgers just couldn't do anything with the ball.

Special Teams

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    Overall Grade: B-

    The special-teams unit did a great job of giving Virginia Tech bad field position for the entire game. There was never a field-flipping return allowed by either the punt-return or kickoff-return units, and the field-goal unit made its 36-yard attempt during regulation.

    In overtime, the kicker missed a 42-yard attempt by roughly 10 inches, but the offense had managed to use three plays to set him up on the 25. In case you didn't know, that's where you get the ball in overtime. He would have made it from the center of the hashes, and running the three plays only managed to throw the kicker under the bus.

    Ultimately, the kicker missed the game-tying field goal, and the unit got an “F” for the overtime period. One play can't mar the entire performance, though, and this unit did an excellent job for four quarters. Unfortunately, the offense couldn't end the game in regulation.

Coaching

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    Overall Grade: B

    Every coach on the team except the offensive coordinator got an “A” for the bowl game. The defensive coordinator did an amazing job putting Rutgers in the right packages against the Hokies, and you could see that the players were all physically prepared for the game. Even when the rain set in, the players adjusted seamlessly with rare exception. There were occasional slips, but none that affected the outcome of the game.

    The offensive coordinator, however, is a different animal. He called deep ball after deep ball in an attempt to boost his team's confidence. Normally, that wouldn't be an issue, but Gary Nova made it one. Nova was almost picked off on a deep ball, and the coordinator didn't change anything. That made sense. You don't abandon a cross-country trip because you hit a pothole in your driveway.

    The second near-interception should have made him more cautious, but it still made sense to see him call deep balls after that one. After all, it's not like every deep pass Nova threw was almost picked off, they were just all way off-target. The third pass that was almost picked off should have confirmed to the coordinator that Nova was simply incapable of tossing a deep pass during this particular game.

    Three is a nice number for something like that, especially when the only reason for not being intercepted was that the defenders dropped the ball every time. However, the coordinator called another deep pass, and that one was intercepted. Some may not fault the coordinator for this, but the deep balls stopped coming after that pick. That pick gave Virginia Tech the ball in the red zone, and the Hokies scored a touchdown on that drive. Without that touchdown, Rutgers would have won 10-3.

    Offensive Coordinator: F