Instant Analysis - St.
Rutgers 45 ... UCF 24
Bowl games shouldn't always be a key measure for a head coach who
struggles to win them. Jim Tressel and Bob Stoops aren't bums because
they've struggled in BCS games over the last few years. But coaches who
can win bowls on a regular basis do need to be given extra credit.
Rutgers hasn't just beaten up the mediocre teams from non-BCS
conferences, like UCF this year and Ball State in the 2007 International
Bowl; it has also come up with wins in recent years against NC State in
last year's PapaJohns.com Bowl and over Kansas State in the 2006 Texas
Bowl. Head coach Greg Schiano has led his Scarlet Knights to four
straight bowl wins after losing a whale of an Insight Bowl to Arizona
State in 2005, and he has proven that no matter who his team is going
against, with time to prepare, it's going to play tough and up to its
Playing to its strengths, namely a strong pass rush and timely big plays
from the offense, Rutgers was able to get by UCF relatively easily, as
it was supposed to. And that's the biggest battle for most of the
favorites in the bowl season: can they play as well as they're capable?
Not everything went smoothly. The running game didn't work when Mohamed
Sanu wasn't operating out of the Wildcat, Tom Savage was a bit erratic
on his throws, and the pass defense had some struggles, but the defense
jumped all over several of UCF's pass plays and appeared to have done a
great job in film study and with the extra prep work. This is a young
team with big reasons to believe it should be among the favorites for
the 2010 Big East title. And no one will be fired up to deal with a
Schiano team in the post season.
Let it Sanu, let it Sanu, let it Sanu.
As the entire East Coast, including the Rutgers campus, was getting blanketed by a wintry mess, WR Mohamed Sanu was just beginning to warm up inside cozy Tropicana Field. One of the most exciting true freshmen of the 2009 season, he sent one final warning to the rest of the Big East, scoring three touchdowns in a Scarlet Knight rout, two on the ground out of the "Wildcat" package and one on a catch. It was a harbinger of things to come for the playmaker the program has desperately sought since the recent departures of RB Ray Rice and receivers Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood to the NFL.
Over the last few games, Sanu has flashed the potential to do a little bit of everything for the Scarlet Knight offense in 2010 and beyond. At 6-2 and 215 pounds, he has a phenomenal blend of size and athleticism, which the UCF defenders will attest to after failing to stop him over 60 minutes. Best of all, he has the kind of work ethic that ensures he won't rest on his early success. Add in fellow rookie Tom Savage under center and leading rusher Joe Martinek, a sophomore, and Rutgers has the parts for a dynamite offense for the next couple of years.
Savage to Sanu. Get used to hearing it plenty in the future. It's a connection that's capable of bringing Rutgers that long-overdue Big East championship before running out of eligibility in 2012.
1) Give young Rutgers quarterback Tom Savage a great deal of credit for standing in the pocket and converting stacks of third downs. This "Knight Fight" acquired a distinctly Scarlet hue because UCF's normally stout defense (it contained Houston and Case Keenum, after all) made two good plays in a series of downs, but rarely three.
While giving Savage his due, it also needs to be noted that the red-clad muscle men on RU's offensive front gave Savage ample time in repeated third-and-long situations. If Greg Schiano can get that kind of pass blocking in 2010, a more mature quarterback will enable the Scarlet Knights to attack defenses with Savage precision. Let's see this team answer the bell on day one, however; recent season openers have not been kind to the home team on the banks of the Old Raritan.
2) Mindful of the fact that last year's Conference USA champion, East Carolina, lost to a plucky but average Kentucky team in the Liberty Bowl, this lower-tier FBS conference needed a shot in the arm at the beginning of a new bowl season. With Rutgers bringing a relatively thin 8-4 record (fattened by cupcakes) to Tropicana Field, the home-state Knights had an opportunity to help the C-USA cause. Their inability to hang with Rutgers for more than 35 minutes says a lot about their relative impotence, but this decisive loss represents an even more alarming sign for Conference USA.