It's bad. That cannot be understated.
What can you really do except get back on the horse and prepare for UNC. Like most games in the Schiano era, today was a story of what ifs. What if Rutgers gets a few more breaks. What if they had worked out the kinks first vs. a cupcake. Outside of 2006, that's what it's been like to be a Rutgers fan in the Schiano era. A lot of excitement, and a lot of heartache. It's hard at times. The only way to stave off reaching for a razor blade is to perform the mental flagellation of remembering 1996-2000. "We're mediocre! That's an improvement, right?"
Mike Teel did not play well today, and the game will serve as further ammunition for his critics. He played poorly for sure - not on a Glennon/Steffy level, but poorly. Teel has had an up and down career; he certainly has a couple stinkers in him this season. Let's hope he has a few more big games in the tank. The long and short of it is that there is no other quarterback on the roster who is nearly as good as Teel. We had better win this year, because Chris Paul-Etienne, D.C. Jefferson, and Tom Savage (who was at the game with his teammate Corey Brown) will have to take their lumps. Jabu Lovelace did not see the field in his option package.
The biggest tragedy was that Teel was this close a number of times to connecting for a big pass downfield. Part of it was he again lacked touch on his deep throws. Tiquan Underwood had a miserable game, and has not lived up to his billing since October 2007. Tim Brown was Tim Brown. Kenny Britt had a very strong game, and would have looked even better if he had connected on near-catch in the first quarter that would have been a sure touchdown. Kevin Brock was adequate in the passing game, but I think our Tight Ends struggled in run blocking.
The running game was up and down. Kordell Young was passable if not good at times. The problem is that he is a first and second down back, and lacks the power to convert short-yardage runs. Mason Robinson didn't play much, and struggled when he did. He also is a very similar runner to Young. Surprisingly, beefy Jourdan Brooks did not see the field. Jack Corcoran looked much more poised in the receiving game than he had in 2007, but his blocking is still a work in progress. I would have liked to see more of Andres Morales.
The offensive line was sorta meh. Teel mostly had time to throw, and they did create some holes, particularly outside of the tackle box. The unit struggled inside, particularly with center Ryan Blaszczyk and guard Caleb Ruch.
I was actually quite impressed by the defense yesterday. The pass rush made life absolutely miserable for Fresno QB Tom Brandstater in the first half. To their credit, Pat Hill and co. adjusted in the second half. RB Ryan Matthews, doing his best Ray Rice impression, finally wore down the Knights in the second half on the ground. Overall though, no complaints. Pete Tverdov had a terrific game, and all four rotational DEs made plays all game.
The linebackers were far improved over 2007. As far as buying into camp hype goes, Teel may not have gotten the job done, but they were every bit as good as advertised, despite the run defense giving out late. Ryan D'Imperio is such an enormous upgrade over Damaso Munoz against the run that it's almost impossible to fathom. Manny Abreu looked every bit the athletic freak out there. He had a nose for the ball, and did a good job (with a lot of safety help) of mostly bottling Fresno TE Bear Pascoe.
The secondary overall played well, but Jason McCourty was burned several times when the team needed him the most.
The special teams were bad. Jeremy Ito's accuracy was extremely spotty at Rutgers, but even he wouldn't have shanked a chip shot field goal like redshirt freshman San San Te did. The coverage units were improved over last season, but still overall well below average. The return units are still strangely lacking, given the caliber of athletes tasked with returning kicks. New punter Teddy Dellaganna did relatively well, considering that he was average, and our punting unit was the worst in I-A last season.
I don't hate the overall gameplan. Teel's game is throwing the deep ball, and that's inherently streaky. What I do have to take issue with was a decision to go for it on fourth down in the first quarter instead of kicking a field goal. It's understandable with the team breaking in a new kicker. But between that, and a flea flicker play that Teel basically tossed up in the air, Rutgers squandered what would have been an opportunity to go up big early on Fresno State.
I've already covered my thoughts on the overall defensive play. Greg Schiano is in charge of that unit, and I don't have many complaints about his performance as defensive coordinator. They bend, and try not to break. They finally did after the offense was giving them very little to work with. As an overall head coach though, let's try to look at his performance objectively. Greg Schiano has a job for life at Rutgers if he wants it for bringing the program back from the dead and having the strength of personality to upgrade the football team in every conceivable aspect. He sold the team to recruits that had no reason to believe them, and revived a moribund fanbase. But as a gameday coach, strictly as a gameday coach, he's lacking in a way that's hard to articulate, but obvious if you follow Rutgers football and aren't a complete homer. He's Herm Edwards. That's the best way to put it. The execution and fundamentals leave a lot to be desired. That doesn't mean that he's as bad as others (far from it, as I think Jim Leavitt has similar issues, and he's clearly better than at least three Big East coaches). It does explain my skepticism as to when Michigan fans wanted to anoint Schiano as their next coach last season, and as to the current fascination with putting him in a Penn State blazer. Why, exactly, do they want him when they can clearly do better (i.e., Brian Kelly)?
I've refrained from speculating on the post-Schiano era, but there's no reason necessarily that an Al Golden could perform at a similar level. Yeah, he's good at the ancillary stuff, and that's attractive. It's very difficult for me to write this paragraph - as my eternal gratitude to Greg Schiano cannot be understated enough, yet it's diametrically opposed by my longstanding criticism of his ability in certain capacities on the football field. He's the head coach; the buck stops there. He brings in the players, he hires the assistants. He's one of the most hands-on coaches in football; every aspect of the program has his fingerprints in it. He even designed the team's logo.
Is the season over? Not even close. I can recall many similar heartbreaking losses in Schiano's tenure. I believe that they can beat a UNC team that struggled vs. McNeese State next Thursday, and they can still have a respectable season. I recall a gut-wrenching loss vs. Illinois in the 2005 opener. Yet, the team came back the next week and improved throughout the season.
Many expected Rutgers to lose this game. The painful and discouraging part is the manner in which they lost. It was not as bad as other embarrassing performances over the past few days, but it was a sucker punch none-the-less. To see the fans emptying out of the stadium as time wound down, it wasn't a pretty site. Fresno is a great team. Let's give them credit. They kicked our asses, and hopefully they will give the BCS a rude awakening this year.
As bad a day as it was for Rutgers, it was worse for the Big East. They still have West Virginia, South Florida, Cincinnati, and Connecticut to carry the conference's water in OOC play, and our Scarlet Knights are not dead just yet. Expect the conference to face a lot of criticism over the next few weeks, and frankly, it's well-deserved. At least we have ACC fans to commiserate with in our misery.
There's my catharsis, and I can only imagine how bad it is for the team right now. You dwell for this loss for the next 24 hours, but then you move on. There is no other option. Good night.