Rutgers Football: 10 Things We Learned from the Victory over South Florida
Rutgers finally replaced starting freshman QB Gary Nova with the more experienced Chas Dodd and the outcome was a positive one for a RU team in desperate need of a win.
Though it wasn't always pretty, Schiano and the Scarlet Knights pulled one out when they needed to most.
Saturday's game taught us a lot about this Rutgers team and here are 10 things that we learned.
Rutgers Is Still Inconsistent in Close Games
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Yes, I know what you’re going to say—Rutgers has won two games in overtime and beat Navy by one.
But how impressive are those wins actually?
RU won in impressive comeback fashion against the Orange and again Saturday night vs. the Bulls, but neither team is considered a "big win." Syracuse is 1-3 in the conference and South Florida has dropped to 0-4.
In their losses, they lost to a North Carolina team that turned the ball over five times and are not as powerful as they were in years past. They followed that performance up with a loss a few weeks later to an above average (yet very beatable) Louisville team.
So yes, Rutgers has proven they can win the close games but they also have shown they can’t get the big play when needed. With two very key Big East games left on the slate, the Scarlet Knights need to find a way to win by any means possible.
Winnable Games Are All Schiano Can Achieve
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Don’t get me wrong, Greg Schiano deserves the highest praises for what he has done with this Rutgers football program. He has turned a perennial bottom feeder into a team that is competitive on a regular basis.
But this weekend proved that Schiano can only beat the beatable teams. In years past, Rutgers and South Florida had a nice rivalry going, but Rutgers could only win games in which they were favored. Now, USF has fallen and they still just barely squeaked passed the Bulls.
Yes, Schiano has bowl wins against Big 12 and ACC foes, but both were average teams at best. They also smoked Ball State (MAC) and Central Florida (C-USA), but neither of those teams are consistently good or competitive.
Other than the memorable Thursday night win over Louisville in 2006, Schiano has never led them to victory over a top squad. They need to be able to beat teams that are ranked and just overall better than them.
I would say that when Rutgers finally takes down West Virginia they’ll have some more credit. Oh wait, WVU is going to the Big 12. That could be a good thing after all since Rutgers may have one less loss on their schedule for years to come.
The Gary Nova Experiment Has Failed
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When Gary Nova first saw success against Syracuse, I think the majority of this fan base thought he was going to be the next best thing. He handled the game well, led Rutgers to a victory and limited turnovers and mistakes.
Following that game, during which he had an efficiency rating of 114.78, he continued to improve. Against Pitt he had two touchdown passes and an efficiency rating of 134.23. The following week, he doubled his completions, had a completion percentage of 74 percent, had two more touchdowns and once again raised his efficiency to an astounding 156.01.
Not bad numbers for a freshman.
It’s been a roller coaster since then. He has thrown more picks than touchdowns, and in the past three games his efficiency rating has dropped from: 99.05 to 87.70 and last week down to 84.33.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it was a total collapse. Nova played well but eventually his inexperience and youth became obvious. Once a young quarterback starts turning the ball over on the regular, it’s time too look for different options.
On Saturday the Scarlet Knights did and it proved successful.
Chas Dodd Has It
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Last season, Chas Dodd trotted on the field as a freshman, looking to give Rutgers the spark their offense desperately needed. He finished the season with a few wins, some experience under his belt and a knowledge of the offense he'd be running for years to come. He finished the season with 1,637 passing yards, 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
This season, Dodd came into the season confident and ready to lead this team to a Big East title. Those plans were quickly changed.
After starting the first four games, he had six touchdowns compared to two interceptions and the Scarlet Knights were 3-1.
Enter Gary Nova.
Dodd did not record a stat in any Gary Nova start. Rutgers proceeded to beat the Pitt Panthers and the Navy Midshipmen.
However, back to back losses against Louisville, West Virginia and down multiple scores to South Florida, Schiano put Dodd into the game. Dodd not only sparked the offense, but the defense and special teams as well, giving Rutgers a win in overtime.
Listen, I’m not completely on the Chas Dodd bandwagon just yet. I still need to see him become a little more consistent, get some big wins and play well. By the same token, he is the best shot Rutgers has to win and win now, so I applaud his valor.
He may have just what it takes to get the job done.
Mohammed Sanu Is the Best WR in the Big East, Maybe the Nation
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In three short seasons, Mohammed Sanu has accumulated 176 receptions, 1901 yards and 12 touchdowns. Granted, he would get those numbers in a single season at Oklahoma State, but for this offense that is really good.
This season especially, Sanu has proven he is one of the top talents at his position. This season alone, he has five games of 10-plus receptions. He also has accumulated 100-plus receiving yards in those same five games. Finally, he has tallied seven touchdown receptions.
Sanu is fifth in the nation in receptions, 18th in yards and tied for 26th in receiving touchdowns.
I know he has been solid all year, but this past weekend solidified Sanu’s place among the best receivers in college football. In a game where South Florida religiously double covered Sanu, he still grabbed 11 balls for 113 yards. He played exceptionally when Dodd entered the game for Nova.
Sanu deserves a little more credit than he is being given and expect this guy to garner Big East or even All-American accolades.
Rutgers Still Can't Run the Ball
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I don’t think much has to be said here—the Rutgers Scarlet Knights are ranked 116th in the nation in rushing. Yes, 116th. That is 116 out of 120. Unbelievably, they rank even worse in yards per game, sliding in at 117th in the nation.
Jawan Jamison, the only guy who frequently touches the rock, is averaging a lowly 3.1 yards per carry.
Saturday pretty much sums up the season up to now. They totaled (and yes this number is correct) negative seven yards on the ground. The problem with that total is that the South Florida Bulls are nowhere close to the '85 Bears defensively.
I’m just baffled as to how this team continues to win without a running game.
The Rutgers Defense Does It Again
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Minus the 20 unanswered points Rutgers allowed versus West Virginia, the Scarlet Knights’ defense has been fantastic.
They held off Syracuse multiple times in RU territory to secure a win, forced five turnovers in a near loss to North Carolina, shut out North Carolina Central and held Navy when the game mattered most.
This year, the Scarlet Knights are fourth in the nation in interceptions, fifth in the nation in sacks, tied for seventh in defensive touchdowns and are 17th in the nation in scoring defense, only giving up 18.9 points per contest.
On Saturday, the Scarlet Knights defense came through time and time again, giving the offense a shot. If this team wants to continue to make noise, their defense has to continue to play to their abilities.
Defense will be key in the game against Cincinnati and in the weeks to come.
San San Te Is Just Good Enough
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If you looked in the dictionary next to the word "consistent," kicker San San Te’s picture definitely doesn’t appear. Te’s career has been a roller coaster ride with easy kicks missed, difficult kicks missed, and the occasional much-needed kick made.
Te is a career 68% kicker and has made 44 of his 65 attempts.
This season, Te is 15-for-24, a lowly 62.5 percent. In the double overtime win over Syracuse, Te missed three field goals at various points in the game, but made the ever so needed one in the second overtime.
Against Pitt, he was a perfect 2-for-2 with kicks from 40-plus and 50-plus .
The following two weeks he missed four times, once from 20-29 yards out, once from 30-39 yards out, once from 40-49 yards out and once more from beyond 50.
On Saturday, Te missed one from 50-plus before banging in two field goals. The first was a 33-yard kick and the next was the all important game winner from 37 yards out.
All year Te has been able to come through when Rutgers has needed it most. His inconsistency is a problem, but as long as he blasts one through when they need it most, he’s good in my book.
Rutgers Is Bowl Eligible
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The Scarlet Knights achieved their sixth win of the season, making them bowl eligible for the year.
The win Saturday did a lot for this team. They were reeling from two losses in a row and their confidence was down. This game they proved to themselves that they are still near the top of the Big East and they can rebound from a loss.
Obviously a six-win season and a Toilet Bowl birth are not what they are looking for. They should win against Army and Big East rival Connecticut. The game versus Cincinnati could shape up to be a big one depending on what happens with these teams in the coming weeks.
When it is all said and done, I see Rutgers with eight or nine wins. Those wins should hopefully be good enough so they aren’t playing on a Tuesday night the second week of December. Hopefully they can keep winning and raise their bowl stock.
In any case, they are bowl eligible and it’s better to be in the postseason than not.
Rutgers Still Has an Outside Shot for a Big East Title
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Believe it or not, Rutgers still has a shot at a Big East title this season.
Obviously, the Scarlet Knights would have to beat Connecticut and Cincinnati. That would bring their conference record to 5-2.
Cincinnati still has WVU on the slate, along with games at Rutgers, at Syracuse and against UConn. If they lose to Rutgers and someone else, both teams would have a 5-2 record and Rutgers would own the tiebreaker.
Louisville still has games against Pittsburgh, at Connecticut and at South Florida. If Louisville stumbles during two of those final three games, they will be out of the race with three losses (4-3).
Now, WVU also beat Rutgers so they'll have to lose at least one of their final games. They travel to Cincinnati, take on rival Pittsburgh in Morgantown then finally head south to Tampa to play the Bulls.
Connecticut has Louisville and Rutgers at home before heading to Cincinnati. Connecticut would need tons of help, but with only two losses have a shot themselves.
Finally, if Pittsburgh wins out and Rutgers does as well, RU would have the tie breaker on them.
Overall, don't get your hopes up Scarlet Knight fans because I don't expect both Cincinnati or Louisville to fall and if WVU wins out, they will move ahead of Rutgers too. Basically, RU needs to win out and then it's time to root for Pitt, USF and Syracuse against everyone else.