CFN Take: Rutgers & James Run By Howard
2014 Rutgers Scarlet Knights ... Head Coach: Kyle Flood
2014 Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Sept. 6 at Rutgers 38, Howard 25
2014 Schedule |
Aug. 28 at Wash St W 41-38
Sep. 6 Howard W 38-25
Sep. 13 Penn State
Sep. 20 at Navy
Sep. 27 Tulane
Oct. 4 Michigan
Oct. 11 OPEN DATE
Oct. 18 at Ohio State
Oct. 25 at Nebraska
Nov. 1 Wisconsin
Nov. 8 OPEN DATE
Nov. 15 Indiana
Nov. 22 at Michigan State
Nov. 29 at Maryland
And You Care Because … Rutgers rolled up a 31-7 first half lead and finished with four Gary Nova touchdown passes on the way to a rout. Paul James scored three times on pass plays from 69 and 31 yards away and a seven-yard scoring run. Howard scored 12 fourth quarter points, but the game was well out of reach.
What Else? Gary Nova took target practice, completing 15-of-19 passes for 282 yards and four touchdowns.
- There was a chance late of the game being called because of lightning, but it finished.
- Paul James ran 13 times for 43 yards and a score, and caught two passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns.
- Rutgers allowed 6.4 yards per carry. Howard ran 42 times for 269 yards and four touchdowns.
Game Rating: D
Aug. 28 Rutgers 41, Washington State 38
And You Care Because … Rutgers’ power overcame the Washington State flash as Paul James ran for three touchdowns including a three-yard score with just over three minutes to play to cap off a 17-point fourth quarter, and then it was up to the defense to come up with one final stop – it did. Rutgers started off the season with a 78-yard touchdown catch from Leonte Carroo on the first play from scrimmage, but Connor Halliday and Wazzu bombed away for 532 yards and five touchdown passes. The Cougars had control of the game, but a fumbled punt gave Rutgers new life late leading to the final James score from three yards out.
What Else? Connor Halliday was terrific, completing 40-of-56 passes for 532 yards and five touchdowns with a pick, and Vince Mayle caught 12 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown, but Rutgers applied pressure in key spots. Halliday was only sacked three times, but he was beaten up.
- The Scarlet Knight combination of Kemoko Turay and Steve Longa were all over the place and popped Halliday time and again. Turay came up with two sacks.
- Rushing yards: Rutgers 215, Washington State 6. Paul James ran for 173 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries.
- This was a great moment for the Big Ten. Rutgers few to the opposite side of the country and powered its way to a win that’ll be a decent feature in its new conference’s cap. It was a gut-check game needing to come up with some key plays late, and it did.
Game Rating: A
To be kind, the Rutgers athletic department could use something positive to focus on.
It’s been a rough run for Scarlet Knight athletics, known more for the Mike Rice fiasco than for anything that has happened on the field or court, but with the big, giant, huge move to the Big Ten, suddenly the narrative should change. At the very least, the football program has a chance to make a national name for itself if it’s able to rise up and make some noise in the new league.
The fit seemed like a natural ever since Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany started throwing out the idea of expansion and realignment. The Big Ten has a network it wants to sell advertising for, Rutgers has one of the few programs that has anything to do with the New York City market, and from academics to school size to alumni base, it all works out from a business perspective for the league, and it obviously ups the football profile in a huge way for Rutgers.
Now it’s up to the team to be more than just a speed bump in the nasty Big Ten East.
Flying slightly under the radar in recent years with nine-win seasons in 2011 and 2012 before a rocky 6-7 campaign last season, it took a little bit of rebuilding, but this could be a really, really deep sleeper to do big things in its inaugural year.
The run defense was a killer last season – okay, partly because everyone was having too much fun bombing away on the beleaguered secondary – and it should be dominant up front. Nine starters return to an offense that was inconsistent, but showed enough life to potentially shine on the ground with a loaded backfield to work around.
But after sputtering through the American Athletic Conference, and previously beating up on mediocre Big East teams, can Rutgers avoid the flake factor?
The Scarlet Knights lost in a wild 52-51 shootout with Fresno State to start the season, and was able to come back to beat Arkansas, but they were obliterated by Houston, Cincinnati and UCF, and lost to a horrible UConn team. Two years ago, they were strong enough to beat a good Cincinnati squad and gave a great Louisville team all if could handle, but it lost to Kent State and dropped their final three games of the season.
There aren’t any real layups in the Big Ten schedule, but Rutgers won’t be the automatic win that several big boys might think it’ll be. It’ll be head coach Kyle Flood’s job to provide the right attitude, and the pieces might really be in place for this to be a fun campaign.
What to watch for on offense: The offense that couldn’t seem to find its identity and couldn’t come up with anything it could reliably count on should be far more explosive and far more dangerous with new offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen – the former Maryland head coach – taking over. The big key will be to take control of games early on, and the Scarlet Knights might be able to do it with a very deep, very quick, very talented backfield working behind a line that gets all five starters back. Time of possession was an issue throughout last season, and too often the passing game had to start bombing away to keep up the pace after the secondary got torched on a regular basis, but if a backfield with Paul James, Justin Goodwin, Savon Huggins, Desmon Peoples and Devan Carter can shine, all of a sudden, the tone of games will change.
What to watch for on defense: With all due respect to Ohio State’s phenomenal front and Michigan State’s tough line, Rutgers has the potential to crank out one of the best front fours in the Big Ten starting with a pair of undersized but ultra-athletic tackles who can get into the backfield and are extremely active against the run. In a perfect Big Ten world, you’d like to have a couple of 310-pound monsters in the middle to gum things up, but that’s not how the Scarlet Knight defense works. This might not be the most physical group, but it’s able to swarm around the ball and it’s great against the speed teams, allowing over 200 rushing yards just once last season after reloading from a fantastic 2012 season when the front seven gave up just 1,263 rushing yards and six scores.
The team will be far better if… the secondary can start coming up with more stops. The pass rush helped the cause with 32 sacks and consistent pressure, but that didn’t seem to matter to a secondary that got ripped apart for 236 yards per game and allowed 300 yards or more a whopping nine times. Everyone got fat on the Scarlet Knight secondary with Fresno State’s Derek Carr rolling for 456 yards and five scores, SMU’s Garrett Gilbert throwing for 484 yards and five touchdowns, and Cincinnati quarterbacks combining for 507 yards and six touchdowns. Not surprisingly, Rutgers gave up 300 passing yards or more in all seven losses, and only managed to get past Eastern Michigan and SMU in wild shootouts. With Washington State coming up in the opener, and with Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg, Michigan’s Devin Gardner, Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, and the Indiana passing game to deal with, the secondary has to be night-and-day tighter.
The Schedule: The Scarlet Knights need as many breathers as they can get, and starting out the season against Washington State in Seattle isn’t a way to do it. Four of the next five games are at home, with relatively easy non-conference dates against Howard and Tulane, with the one road game at Navy. Penn State starts out life in the Big Ten, and Michigan comes to Piscataway on October 4th.
The schedule the following weeks couldn’t be more brutal after playing Michigan, but at least there’s a week off before going to Ohio State, going to Nebraska and hosting Wisconsin. The team deserves another week off after that, and there aren’t any major breaks with the Indiana game the final home date of the year before closing out at Michigan State and at Maryland.
Best offensive player: Junior RB Paul James, but watch out for sophomore RB Desmon Peoples, one of the stars of spring ball, and fellow backs Savon Huggins and Justin Goodwin. It’s been a long, long time since Ray Rice was dominating the Rutgers running game, helping the team average 4.78 yards per carry with a 2,012-yard season in 2007, but the combination of backs should help the offense roll against most Big Ten defenses. James is a good-sized, tough back who can move the chains and come up with big runs now and then, and he should be rested with all the other options to keep him fresh.
Best defensive player: Sophomore LB Steve Longa. Defensive tackle Darius Hamilton could turn out to be the most important and most disruptive defender, but it’s Longa who held things together against the run last season with a team-leading 123 tackles
at middle linebacker. The Scarlet Knights play around with several different formations, and go to a 4-2-5 more often than not, but it’s Longa who has to clean up most of the messes making double digit stops in eight games. Consider it a shock if he isn’t one of the Big Ten’s leading tacklers.
Key players to a successful season: Senior CB Gareef Glashen and sophomore CB Anthony Cioffi. The pass rush will shine, but unless the pass defense is far better, the team isn’t going to improve. That means the corners have to shine and be positive factors. The Scarlet Knights came up with just eight picks last year and linebacker Jamal Merrell led the team with two. The corners didn’t just struggle to come up with big plays; they struggled to make plays, period. Glashen was a spot starter who was okay, but allowed too many bombs, and Cioffi took over late and got his feet wet.
The season will be a success if ... the Scarlet Knights win seven regular games and get to a bowl game. Expect many to predict doom and gloom against a schedule that sees Michigan, at Ohio State, at Nebraska, Wisconsin and at Michigan State, but Rutgers might be just good enough to win at least one them. Getting by Washington State would be nice, and beating Penn State, Navy, Tulane and Indiana is a must. There could be problems if a 13th game depends on beating Maryland on the road in the final game of the regular season, but if all goes well, the bowl bid should be secured by then.
Key game: Sept. 27th vs. Penn State. Considering the two schools are only around 220 miles apart, and considering their respective roles the college football world in the northeast part of the country, it’s a little bit of a shock that they’ve only met 24 times. The last matchup was in 1995 – a 59-34 Penn State win – and Rutgers is just 2-22 in the series, coming up with a win in the first game in 1918 following the victory over Hoboken Navy. Unfortunately, the momentum didn’t continue, losing the next week to Great Lakes Navy 54-14. This year, it’s the Big Ten opener with Rutgers desperately needing this win with Michigan, at Ohio State, at Nebraska and Wisconsin up next in conference play.
2013 Fun Stats:
- Third Down Conversions: Opponents 82-of-197 (42%) – Rutgers 65-of-184 (35%)
- Rushing Yards Allowed: 100.8 per game – Passing Yards Allowed: 312 per game
- Punt Return Average: Rutgers 11.4 yards – Opponents 6.4 yards
- 2014 Rutgers Preview -
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