Rutgers will be going bowling for the seventh time in eight seasons, as the Scarlet Knights dominated the USF Bulls to complete its final season as a member of the Big East/American Athletic Conference. The performance was vintage Rutgers, with a suffocating defense bottling the running game and a strong defensive line frustrating the quarterback. Offensively, it was all ball control, as Chas Dodd had a strong command of the gameplan while Kyle Flood utilized a heavy dose of runs for a ball control offense.
Rutgers' second drive of the game set an early tone for the entire night. Screen passes and easy completions allowed Chas Dodd to build some early confidence, with a rushing touchdown completing a nine-play, 49-yard drive. After a USF fumble on the next series, Dodd capitalized on the opportunity by throwing a quick touchdown to Andre Patton. An early 14-0 first quarter lead by Rutgers was never relinquished, as USF just couldn't get it going offensively.
It seemed as if the early success passing the ball led to a resurgence from Paul James, who looked like his former self once again rushing for 113 yards on 26 carries with two touchdowns to boot. Rutgers as a team did very well on the ground, totaling 176 yards on 45 carries from efforts by Justin Goodwin and Savon Huggins, in addition to James. I can't forget to mention the fantastic effort by Michael Burton tonight. The senior fullback led the way on many runs, neutralizing the first defensive player with back-breaking blocks that created huge holes in the defense. Burton was rewarded with a touchdown pass from Chas Dodd in the second quarter, which was a well-deserved prize for a player who will sorely be missed next year in the B1G.
Defensively, Rutgers was finally able to make a freshman quarterback look like a freshman. QB Mike White was a Gary Nova-like 14 of 31 for 141 yards with an interception, as the Rutgers defensive line wreaked havoc all night long. Darius Hamilton was an absolute force in the middle, and Marcus Thompson showcased his speed coming off the edge. Oddly, it looked as if USF avoided passes to the middle of the field, which happens to be the biggest weakness of the RU defense. The Bulls' running game didn't help matters much. Team-wise, they totaled ten yards after sacks, with Marcus Shaw leading the way with a scant 16 yards on nine carries (a long of four). That isn't too surprising considering Rutgers boasts a top-ten rush defense, but it was nice that RU actually played a team that runs the ball this time.
Overall, it was the kind of effort that we expected all year, but never happened consistently. Furthermore, it's important to keep things in perspective: USF is not a good team. One only needs to look at the record to see the evidence. The players deserve to go to a bowl, and it's nice that Rutgers will still be in the conversation of college football as we prepare to enter bowl-season, but many problems still remain. Kyle Flood has a lot of work ahead of him if he wants to be successful in the B1G. Playing a Brian Kelly-coached Notre Dame team will be a good test to see if he's learned from his mistakes.
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