For the second straight year, Rutgers would spot Syracuse two touchdowns quickly following kickoff.
Once again, it did not matter.
Those gaffes are very disturbing. Let's hold off on the talk of going on a run - I know USF has been struggling, but if they get an early lead, they're not going to cough it up so easily.
The passing game did a nice job of putting together a few drives against Syracuse. Teel was shaky at points, and I got the feeling that he made mistakes that another team would have capitalized on. It would have been nice to give Natale a series, especially at some point in the second half after the Knights had pulled ahead. I looked at some of the highlights this morning on SNY, and a lot of Teel's throws required major adjustments by the receivers. The tying TD sort of did, but I did like that Teel made a throw there that the DB had absolutely no chance at. He also did a great job of finding a wide open Underwood in the endzone for the first score.
Tiquan Underwood had one classic Underwood drop, but otherwise kept that to a minimum, and the other receivers really shined. Brown was great, and Britt, on that TD catch, well, more on that later. Syracuse's secondary was probably the worst that I've seen all year in terms of athleticism. They were giving major cushions to RU's receivers, and yet still frequently gave up big plays.
The offensive line was opening some holes for Kordell Young in the first half, particularly on the left side. It got ugly in the second half. The right side of the line (beatwriters say Haslam and Forst started) was really having trouble in all facets of the game. Joe Martinek really showed some jets on his direct snap run. One nitpick is that I'd like to see Mason Robinson utilized a little more. What's up with Brooks by the way? He's running very tentatively right now.
The playcalling was a little too deep-happy as usual, but I saw some nice new wrinkles today. That draw in the first quarter on third down was a great call. Syracuse was dropping a lot of players into coverage early (seemingly basing their gameplan directly on the Pitt film), and Teel started looking to the backs a little, which had a two-fold benefit. That opens up things downfield, and it can give Teel a little confidence by having a reliable checkdown option. The screen pass has been missing from the playbook to this point, and hopefully that continues to change. Teel seemed to be audible quite a bit, and the offense sprinkled in some shotgun formations (frequently using trips to one side) to mix things up.
What an incredible game by the defense, and that's the last thing I was expecting after early in the first quarter, when Syracuse had the perfect draw playcall against an all-out blitz, and scored a long touchdown. In a way, that was bad for the Cuse, because Brinkley has been their bread and butter all year. I think that, for them to have had a chance in this contest, what they really needed to do was establish the run early and keep moving the chains on their opening possession. Instead, their defense was quickly tired out by staying on the field so much, and the defense was allowed to tee off on their QB.
Probably, a lot will be made today about Rutgers knocking yet another opposing QB out of the game, even though I think that's a little silly. Rutgers likes to blitz the QB, they're going to get a lot of hits. When you add in the fact that Syracuse cannot protect their QB, at all, then of course it's going to get ugly fast. That's why QBs can get hurt, they're not taking any cheap shots. I looked at a replay of the sack just now, and it definitely was clean. Rutgers gang-tackled Dantley, and he landed awkwardly on his leg. It was fierce, but fair.
Syracuse did absolutely nothing in the passing game, even though neither of them really had a chance in hell. Just a jaw-dropping performance by the front seven. I can't really single out anyone (Westerman had a ridiculous sack in the third quarter where he came in unblocked and flipped Dantley in a play reminiscent of Lawrence Taylor), partially because they all played well, but partially because it's hard to pick out defenders from the stands, and I have to go back and look at the gamelog to put names to each play. Subsequently, the secondary was never tested. Zaire Kitchen forced his second straight absolute dagger of a fumble, that shattered any lingering momentum that Syracuse may have had from their first two scores.
Can Rutgers go one game without a major special teams error? How about not giving up good field position after every kickoff or punt? Dellaganna has a decent leg, so I wish that he'd get a few more touchbacks on his kickoffs. By large, they did do a better job returning the ball though.
There were also two big mistakes by the refs that I noticed - they screwed up RU's trick play early in the first quarter, and gave Dennis Campbell a terrible spot on what should have been a TD. Neither ended up a difference maker however.
After going up 14-0, Syracuse did have a little fight for the rest of the first half, but you could just see everyone on that sideline's body language worsen as the second half went on. Their fans are probably ready to roast GRob, but this game was as much an indication of their complete lack of depth and team speed as anything. It's not like players 1 through 85 for them are all terrible. Some of them can play; just, not enough though. Speaking of coaching, that kicking sequence at the end of the first half was definitely cringe-worthy.
Alas, GRob, your tenure is going to end far too soon for Rutgers fans. If Terry Shea can ingratiate himself enough to somehow find work in the NFL as a position coach, I'm sure that the enduring power of cronyism will assure that you land on your feet somewhere. This is the end, for probably the worst coach in the history of division one football. Thanks for taking that distinction away from a Rutgers hire at least, if you were capable of nothing else, at least we don't have to bear that ignominy any longer.
I actually had a longer eulogy for GRob typed out, complete with spooky 1995-era quotes from Fred Gruninger overlaid with what Daryl Gross said a decade later after firing Paul Pasqualoni. I thought better of it, figuring that it was far too presumptious to have queued before the game. I don't really believe in those sort of things, but if I somehow played a part in RU initially going down 14-0 to in the first quarter, my sincerest apologies.
The 12:00 starts are getting old. Combined with the rain, that undoubtedly hurt attendance in the seats. There was hardly any time to tailgate before the game. Another benefit of the 3:30 games is that New Brunswick is much funner after a win. There just isn't that level of enthusiasm after an earlier win, and it was further depressed by the weather. I haven't been in New Brunswick for over a month, and for the Morgan State game I had to run quickly after the game, so I was looking forward to making a day of yesterday's trip.
After the game, my group stayed in the stadium for a little bit while the crowd filtered out, then we finally found a shuttle bus that had room. I think we arrived at a house on Barlett at about 5:30. I tend to wear myself wragged in the stands, so with a really sore neck and aching knees, I crawled up onto a couch and tried to take a nap, with not much success. It was nice to let off some steam during and after the game.