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The offense we've been craving

It's not easy, but I am going to try to keep this entry Stull-free. Whenever something that unnerving happens, it's always going to cloud your analysis of the game.

Today, RU's passing attack came out of the shadows for their first top-tier performance of the year, and possibly the best game of Mike Teel's career. It's possibly the last scenario I would have ever expected. Outside of one errant throw, Teel was purely masterful. After the abuse he took last week at Rutgers Stadium, he deserves a standing ovation the next time he's in front of his home crowd. Kenny Britt must have heard that a NFL scout was in the stands, because he made Aaron Berry (who also had a crucial fumble in the second half) look silly. More encouraging signs were to see another solid game from Tiquan Underwood, a terrific performance by Timmy Brown, and solid performances by the rest of the receivers. After so many near misses, it was beyond refreshing for Rutgers to finally connect on a couple of deep passes.

RU's ability to stretch the field did not open much at the line of scrimmage however. The OL was again a trouble spot for most of the day, with Caleb Ruch replacing Howard Barbieri at LG. Teel had time to throw as he racked up yardage in the first half, but Pitt's DL (which is very good) was in his face far too often. What was really disturbing was how poorly RT Kevin Haslam played, and how the team's backs and tight ends had a very difficult time picking up blitzers. Once again, Kordell Young did not have much room to run, and Schiano and McNulty again forget to call the numbers of Mason Robinson or Jourdan Brooks very much.

It was more of the same on defense, with another stellar performance by the front seven, and more shaky secondary play. How many standouts can you have in one game? Pete Tverdov, Kevin Malast, Ryan D'Imperio (except for one time where he bit on play action), Blair Bines, George Johnson, all of them had very good games.

Pittsburgh's Bill Stull did a great job picking apart RU's secondary today before his injury, and he was aided by an Al Bundy-esque performance from LeSean McCoy (four touchdowns), and Jonathan Baldwin utilizing his freakish athleticism to make a couple of Britt-level catches. It's hard to estimate hwo big the psychological blow from losing Stull was. Underclassmen Pat Bostick was not nearly as effective, lacking both Stull's accuracy and his pocket presence, as RU dialed up the blitz to test the young quarterback, to mostly-effective results.

It was, without question, a very sloppy game by both sides. RU was aided by two questionable coaching decisions by Pittsburgh - to attempt a fake field goal, and for not calling McCoy's number on a key third down conversion in the second half. As Wannstedt is now 0-4 against Schiano, and possibly on his way to another late-season collapse, there is going to be a lot of soul-searching in Pittsburgh tonight. Rutgers was too penalty-prone all day, two extra points by San San Te were blocked, and Rutgers was extremely lucky that they did not turn the ball over on a botched punt return by Dennis Campbell. Teddy Dellaganna also turned in a very solid performance.

Today's game was, without a doubt, Rutgers's best performance of the year, and hopefully a sign that RU's offense will turn back to form in coming weeks. The defense gave up a lot of big plays in today's shootout, but they largely did their job, and finally came up with the big, momentum-shifting turnovers that have been so sorely missing to this point.

It was also a useful illustration of the importance of momentum. Alas, if only Rutgers had seen this kind of play earlier in the year; they certainly would not have five losses at this point. Now Rutgers has the chance to go on a bit of a run and build on these last two wins. It's going to be nice to be able to hold our heads up high as Rutgers fans this week. And with all apologies to anyone who does not root for the New York Football Giants, this weekend can only get better if they come into Pittsburgh tomorrow and score a clean sweep for this area. I hope Darnell Stapleton does well though.

As one closing note, I still feel very bad for Pittsburgh fans. The Panthers lost their starting QB today, and this loss was a bad sign that may portend more hardship for a fanbase that hasn't gotten very many breaks lately.

Bottom line: this is the happiest I have been about Rutgers football in the past two months. Let's hope the team builds on it, and that Mike Teel can keep up the good work.