Last game against Norfolk State the Rutgers football team rolled to a 31-0 win.
In the first half however, the Scarlet Knights managed only six points. In the second half the Scarlet Knights picked their game up and scored 25 points.
But that was against an FCS team.
Nobody really knows which Rutgers team will show up Saturday, Sept. 11, against Florida International, but what we do know is that these four things will be the key to a Rutgers victory.
1. The passing game must improve
To say the least, Rutgers' passing game was sub-par against Norfolk State.
Tom Savage completed 10-of-19 passes for 148 yards and no touchdowns.
Yes, Savage was sacked three times but two of those sacks were because he held onto the ball for too long. This was the big problem of Savage last season and this off-season Savage was said to have corrected that issue.
Savage attributes this to being extremely nervous, something very normal for a freshman, but expected to have gone away since he is the most experienced quarterback in the Big East.
"That was the most nervous I ever was." Savage said after the Norfolk State game.
Last game was the season opener of his first season as the full-time starter, so don't expect Savage to be as nervous as he was then.
If anything, he'll be playing with a chip on his shoulder.
Savage was also plagued by four dropped passes, two of those short throws dropped by Mohamed Sanu who's supposed to be the reliable veteran of Rutgers' wide receivers.
When they weren't dropping passes Rutgers' No. 2 and No. 3 receivers failed to get open and seemed blanketed by the Norfolk State secondary. Sophomore Mark Harrison caught one pass for five yards and freshman Jeremy Deering was targeted only once and dropped that pass.
If the Scarlet Knights plan on succeeding at all in the passing game Savage needs to get rid of the ball quicker.
It will help that after dealing with some personal issues, Rutgers' great third down running back Kordell Young will be back to help protect Savage on third downs. His best games were when Young was the third down back and he struggled when Young went down due to injury for the third time in his career.
Also, the receivers need to get open and work on catching and securing the ball while running before they pick up speed.
2. The Defense needs to continue its dominant ways
Rutgers' defense was dominant against Norfolk State, but that was against an FCS team with a junior college transfer who never had played a snap of division 1 football.
Last season the Knights held Florida International to zero points until Head Coach Greg Schiano took the starters out and FIU scored twice in the last seven minutes.
Can Rutgers put up such a defensive effort again, this time against an FBS team?
3. T.Y. Hilton must be stopped
Florida International has the best wide receiver nobody knows about.
That is, after Mohamed Sanu of course.
In his two season career T.Y. Hilton has accumulated 98 receptions for 1645 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Hilton is also a dangerous returner with the explosiveness that he's used to score three touchdowns off kick and punt returns.
It's no wonder that Hilton will be major competition with Sanu for the Paul Hornung Award, given to the most versatile player in the nation. The defense and special teams need to be wary of this guy but Rutgers players have the speed to shut him down.
4. San San Te needs to improve his consistency and long range accuracy
Rutgers' kicker San San Te made three field goals against Norfolk State. He also missed two.
Te has a history of struggling with his consistency during the first couple of games each season and always has picked his game up by the third or fourth game.
But over his career Te has only made 4-14 field goals from 40 yards or longer.
The problem isn't a lack of leg strength; rather, it's Te's long range kicking accuracy.
Almost every one of those missed field goals was an off target kick.
Coach Schiano relies heavily on the kicking game, but if Te can't improve his long range kicking game the ever conservative Schiano might have to start going for it on fourth down, something he's almost always staunchly opposed to.
Many teams struggled in the first half of last game. Florida was down 3-0 at halftime against Miami-Ohio and Penn State was losing 7-6 to Youngstown State at halftime.
West Virginia was only beating Coastal Carolina 10-0 at halftime and also won 31-0.
Most of the errors made by Rutgers were mental ones that can be corrected in practice.
Florida International has two first year offensive coordinators, a quarterback battle that is still going on, and was ranked in the "bottom 10" by ESPN this preseason.
If Rutgers can get some scoring early and can stop Hilton this could be a blowout.
If not, it will be a long season for the Scarlet Knights.
Rutgers 34-FIU 7
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