The Rutgers football team this season had the #1 defense in the Big East. Thats #1 in both scoring defense and total defense. They had given up the fewest number of touchdowns of all the Big East schools, the least amount of yards, and the least amount of first downs.
Rutgers opponents converted just 30% of third downs against them, and 33% of fourth down tries. The third down defense was 1st in the conference and fourth down defense was 2nd.
Rutgers defense gave up an average of just 17.4 points per game this season. Included in the #1 overall ranked defense, they were 3rd against the run behind Syracuse and Pittsburgh, and 2nd against the pass behind South Florida.
Rutgers easily was tops in forcing turnovers as well. They gained 32 turnovers this season, 19 fumble recoveries and 13 interceptions. When in the red zone, Rutgers defense wasnt as good, but they were still ranked 3rd in the Big East in those situations.
The Big East announced their All-Conference teams yesterday, and only one Rutgers defender could be found on the 1st or 2nd teams. How does the #1 ranked defense have just one lone player on the All-Conference 1st team, not to mention the 2nd team as well? It's simple. This unit was not flashy and certainly not about individuals. This unit worked together and got the job done.
The Big East may not have awarded these players with All-Conference selections but I would like to take a look at some individual highlights of this Rutgers Scarlet Knights defense.
Senior cornerback Devin McCourty was the only player to be honored. McCourty was selected as a first team cornerback. McCourty led the team in tackles with 78. That number places him 14th in the Big East. That alone shows how much of a group effort this was. Your leading tackler was just 14th in the conference. McCourty was also tied for third in pass deflections with 11 on the season.
Jonathan Freeny and George Johnson showed their ability to get to the opponents quarterback. Freeny ranked 4th in the Big East in sacks with 8.5 while Johnson was 7th with 6.5 sacks. Johnson was also 7th in the conference in tackles for a loss. He had 13 of those this year. Freeny and Alex Silvestro were tied for 11th in that category with 11 tackles for loss.
David Rowe finished the season ranked 5th in pass deflections with 9.
Linebacker Damaso Munoz and Silvestro were tied for the league lead in fumble recoveries. They each had 4 recoveries.
Those are just a few names. Some other big contributors were senior linebacker Ryan D'Imperio, safety Joe Lefeged, Zaire Kitchen, Steve Beauharnais, and Scott Vallone, among others.
All season long, this defense worked together and performed as a group. It was never about individual efforts or statistics. They just kept choppin' and got the job done, successfully.