Book your tickets now (an Auburn fan recommended the Tutwiler and the Redmont), because Rutgers is going to the Papajohns.com Bowl in Birmingham, Alabama.
Well, it's not in stone yet, but that's the feeling I get off this contest, and I couldn't be happier.
Let's be clear about one thing: this was a winnable game for USF. Never have I seen a team do so little with so much. Jim Leavitt has done a great job to build up the USF program, but his teams are consistently among the worst-coached in America, and he looks like an absolute clown with his sideline temper tantrums.
USF was able to drive most of the day against a shaky RU secondary and special teams. However, they simply could not resist shooting themselves in the foot. After the third quarter, Rutgers started capitalizing on USF's mistakes, and didn't let them back into the game.
Mike Teel had a few errant throws, but overall played a very solid game. Where was this guy in September? The trio of Teel, Schiano, and McNulty have taken some heat this year, but there's little to criticize on all fronts after this kind of performance. Teel had some good chemistry with his receivers today. It's nitpicking, but Natale should have seen more reps at the end. Kenny Britt definitely did NOT have an incredible 93-yard TD to ice the game early in the fourth quarter. Go away NFL, nothing to see here. USF badly misses CBs Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams.
One reason the passing game may have been so effective was that RU finally consistently ran the ball, for really the first time since the Navy game. That opens up play action.The young OL seems to be finally making progress. Kordell Young played well, but it was the former fourth-stringer Joe Martinek who had a breakout game, showing an impressive combo of burst and power. It was nice to see a real RB platoon for once. Teel didn't face much pressure today. George Selvie made a few plays, but I really thought Anthony Davis had his true breakout game today, as Rutgers silenced Selvie for the second year in a row. it was nice to get some more contributions from the TEs and FBs too.
DT Pete Tverdov was a monster, yet again, as he races towards certain all-conference honors. The DL had some trouble tackling the slippery Grothe, but really turned it on in the second half, forcing Grothe into several awful decisions. LB Ryan D'Imperio had a few coverage gaffes early, but he redeemed himself as the day progressed. The secondary did give up too much yardage in the air, but today was really the first day where they really made some tremendous plays on the ball. For all the credit that should go to the offense for RU's turnaround, let's not forget that the defense has finally started forcing turnovers.
It was not the finest hour for Teddy Dellaganna, as he struggled with kickoffs all day, and seems to take too much time in getting his punts off. That may have contributed to the coverage woes on S/T, as the balls broke off far too many big returns. Jason McCourty did break one really good return, coupled with a lucky recover of a fumble on another kickoff. RU also blocked a long field goal before halftime.
With the way Rutgers is playing right now, you absolutely have to put them in the top tier of the Big East with Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. This team is building confidence by the week. My only regret is that they weren't playing like this months ago, because this is the team that we expected all year. The offense is living up to the preseason hype. The defense is generating big plays. Look out Birmingham, because the Knights are coming.
(Freaking Navy, if they had beaten Notre Dame today, the Tire Bowl could have been ours...)