Sept 8, 2012; Piscataway, NJ, USA; Howard Bison offensive linesman Terrell Hawkins (73) blocks Rutgers Scarlet Knights defensive tackle Scott Vallone (94) during the second half at High Point Solutions Stadium. Rutgers defeated Howard 26-0. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-US PRESSWIRE
At the very minimum, impatience is starting to grow with the Rutgers offense following two consecutive subpar outings against weak opponents. Is the culprit quarterback Gary Nova, receivers who drop too many catchable balls, or new coaches Dave Brock (offensive coordinator) and Rob Spence (quarterbacks)? One argument in favor of the latter is that Rutgers cannot exactly fire its players, and Gary Nova looks significantly different than he did in 2012. Another is that the scripted drives at the beginning of games seem to be struggling significantly. It's either that, or the team is coming in with nerves and settling down. While the offense wasn't a world beater afterwards, that first quarter was just a mess. That won't exactly fly with USF, or even John L. Smith-ized Arkansas. For one thing, the offense needs one of Quron Pratt or Tim Wright to emerge as a dependable possession WR (we already know that Brandon Coleman is either going to be awesome or terrible on any given play), and a healthy Paul Carrezola would help a lot too.
It's not 2009 at least (good defense, bad offense) for a couple reasons, chiefly of which being the renewed success of the offensive line and running game. Yes, it was just Tulane (who were hammered by Tulsa yesterday mind you) and Howard, but Rutgers has not had a back like Jawan Jamison in some time. It's incredible how far much he has improved even with the markedly better OL play. It's too early to compare Jamison to Ray Rice despite the stylistic similarities, but at this point, a Montel Harris or Benard Pierce (in terms of workhouse backs who seemingly come out of nowhere) aren't huge stretches. Savon Huggins isn't playing bad mind you, and his power style is a nice complement to Jamison's, but Jamison has vision and knows when to cut. He just bounces off defenders with his low center of gravity. Rutgers has finally found its new workhorse back. And no, I'm not talking about Ben Martin giving the De'Antwan Williams memorial garbage time performance when Rutgers let up early in the 4th quarter.
Beyond the offensive struggles (the defense was awesome, as per usual), what kept this one from turning into a blowout besides Kyle Flood lacking Greg Schiano's affinity for style points were a number of self-induced errors. Rutgers just couldn't quit it with dumb penalties yesterday. How do you botch two extra points? More concerning still were the injuries. Carrezola, KR Jeremy Deering, and DT Al Page were already out. Center Betim Bujari and guard Andre Civil were replaced by Matt McBride and Taj Alexander respectively, which was fine against Howard, but Bujari especially would be a big loss with how he's playing if he misses any significant time. I missed it during the game, but Savon Huggins and Marcus Thompson are now out too. Huggins badly hurts the RB depth with Paul James already hurting, and no Thompson is frankly a disaster with Mike Larrow being suspended and Marvin Booker hurt. Ka'Lial Glaud and Jamil Merrell are good starters, but after that, there's Myles Jackson (fair enough), and Max Issaka, who missed all of training camp this year. Not good!
- Beyond not running up the score, the crazy penalties, and awful Scarlet uniforms (sorry! it's true!), one new stylistic change under Kyle Flood seems to be sewer fair catches for Mason Robinson. It was hard to get a read on Shuler as a KR yesterday given how bad Howard's offense was.
- The concessions were a big improvement, but they still have a few kinks to work out with the credit card system being overloaded and crashing.
- 50k for Howard?!?!!? So much for Rutgers fan attendance being in decline. They beat USC/Syracuse by over 10k! That 10k of course were the students, who were awesome and came out in force. Well, before everyone left at halftime because of the rain.
- Thanks John L. Smith, for creating a no-win situation for us in two weeks. Ugh. Worst coach in the universe.
- There were some very scary developments with Tulane and Arkansas players yesterday. All of our thoughts should be with the injured players as they work towards a safe recovery.