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Bullet points on FIU

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Standard disclaimer: I don't believe that it's possible to learn all that much sitting in the stands. Even from the television broadcast, you're probably going to follow the ball, and only pay attention to big plays. For instance, a corner could have an excellent day in coverage, and falter by giving up one big play at a critical time. These are my initial impressions however.

facade

  • The game wasn't as close as the final score; Rutgers dominated in all facets, and the end result was never in doubt, but the Knights simply could not put up any points. The offense struggled all day. They couldn't get anything done on first or second down, which put them in drive killing third-and-longs. Nor could they find the end zone, and left more points on the field with a blocked and missed FG.
  • What was up with Savage and his receivers? I counted several bad drops by Brown, Sanu, and Young, among others. Were those pure drops, or overthrows? There were a lot of other throws, especially early in the first half, that just seemed to be the result of timing issues or miscommunication. I really couldn't assess the blame on any specific parties without at minimum rewatching the replay, which I don't really care to do. There were a couple near picks on deflections, but ultimately he didn't turn the ball over. It's interesting how no one is apologizing for Savage today by saying that he managed the game effectively, when that phrase is thrown around quite a bit for the various turnover machines out there.
  • Anyone else notice the play where a receiver was streaking downfield, and Savage was going through his reads slowwwwly, not noticing until a corner had time to come in and break up the play? Offense was very much out of sync all day however. Savage was using a lot of Shotgun early, trying screens and quick outs. They were clearly trying to get him into a rhythm, which isn't a bad strategy. Get some confidence under his belt, and get into manageable third downs. Not sure why it didn't work. It's not realistic to expect even the best freshman to look great right away, but Savage is capable of playing a lot better.
  • Savage left in the second half, and the stadium was in a state of visible panic for several minutes before he walked off under his own power. Dom Natale finished the game. Honestly, Natale didn't look too bad, connecting on a nice long throw with Timmy Brown. I did notice him staring down Brown for about ten seconds on that one, which was note a good sign. Whether it's due to injury, or ineffectiveness, Natale still has a role to play this year. He's not an awful option if he can improve his decision making. And who would have counted on the Jabu package actually looking effective for once, and then Natale running the ball in for a touchdown?
  • Rutgers is far too fond of giving away its first and second downs, but the Flea Flicker with Sanu honestly wasn't that bad of a call. It almost worked. Generally though, the play calling needs to emphasize high percentage stuff more. Keep the chains and clock moving.
  • Schiano admittedly likes to ride the hot hand in the backfield. Jourdan Brooks didn't look half bad, but it was Joe Martinek's day today, with Kordell Young returning for third down duty. While Martinek broke several big runs, I still want to see that Ray Rice-consistency of just grinding out four or five yards on every carry, and moving the chains. Right now, they're not getting much in the way of help from the offensive line. RU badly needs to get this going in order to work in some more play action. And for pete's sake; if the offense isn't going to throw to Corcoran, start Morales.
  • The offensive line looks much improved in pass blocking. Forst was in at LG today, with Des Wynn sliding in at RG. There were a lot of runs to the right, and not all that much in the way of running room. Still need to get a lot better here.
  • There were the afore-mentioned drops with the receivers. One other comment is that Sanu's frame is very impressive in person; especially after four years of watching Tiquan Underwood. Like Underwood, I noticed that Sanu's first instinct is to cut upfield after each catch. Cooper and Stroud were in there for a bit behind the starters.
  • Man, D.C. Jefferson moves very well for such a big guy. Tony Trahan (who Joe Nolan kept calling "Harris") saw a lot of time, too. How exactly does Shamar Graves go from a productive starter to third-string?
  • FIU tried to spread the D out like Cincy, but didn't really have the personnel to pull it off. That's a good sign for the rest of the season. That loss was just as much about talent as about scheme and coaching. Their line could not protect the quarterback, who didn't have much accuracy downfield.
  • Rutgers was able to get back to its game of getting after the quarterback. The front seven is back. All in all, a spectacular day for the defense, with FIU not scoring until midway through the 4th quarter. Great pressure off the edge from the ends (Freeny, Johnson, Silvestro). Justin Francis had an excellent stop on a zone-read play. Ryan D'Imperio's spectacular pick six was the play of the game.
  • The DBs didn't look half bad either. Devin McCourty had several good pass breakups. The tackling was better, even from scapegoat Brandon Bing, before he limped off the field about midway through the fourth quarter. For those clamoring for David Rowe, he did miss at least one big tackle.
  • Penalties were an issue as well. I can understand FIU having three false starts in a row, but Rutgers at home? The offsides are an issue, but not as big of a deal. You want the defense to keep their aggressiveness. More of concern were the issues with the clock running down and delay of game penalties. On nearly every play, Savage or Natale would check towards the sidelines after getting a look at the defense, which infuriated the home crowd.
  • Nice dive by the FIU punter early in the first quarter, which fortunately wasn't called. Apparently there there a phantom DPI on FIU on the first TD drive, which I didn't get a good look at being on the other side of the stadium. I did see a blatant non-call earlier in the game against Brown (I think) in the end zone, and there was another uncalled mugging on a third down early in the second half.
  • I was initially confused by the two short early kickoffs in the first quarter, but then I remembered that Hilton from FIU is a very good returner. You can't get away with muffing punt returns for so long, and I was disappointed that there wasn't much room for Sanu to do anything with returns. FG unit has issues too. One good aspect from the day was that Rutgers nearly blocked several punts.
  • So, exactly how bad is FIU? They're clearly better than a Howard or Texas Southern. These games happen all the time; FIU, for instance, played USF close last year, and kept Alabama at bay for a half last week. Rutgers had opportunities, but failed to execute. Receivers were open, but they either dropped catches, or couldn't connect for whatever reason. I didn't see FIU generating much pressure up front, or playing tight coverage. Take solace in the fact that Rutgers wasn't beaten, and be concerned because RU can't play like that and beat better teams. It was an ugly win, but so would have been a shootout. Either way, half of your team isn't getting the job done.

nighttime

  • There was a decent crowd. Not anywhere near Cincy level, but a sure rebound from last week. There were the expected empty seats in the upper deck and end zones, and a surprising number of fans with primo seats on the sidelines didn't show up. Fans were late getting into the game before kickoff (I just made it in), and many left at halftime and after D'Imperio's interception in the third quarter to beat traffic. It'll happen with a 5 pm kickoff.

daytime

  • Anyone notice that the NFL montage still includes Cam Stephenson? If they're going to include PS guys, where were Underwood and Brock? Was Nate Jones in it? I might have missed him if he was. The largest cheers were for Britt (sort of big), Leonard (a pause as everyone's wondering which alumnus plays for the Bengals, then 'LEAPLEAPGOTTACHEERGOTTACHEER'), Rice (arguably biggest cheer), and O'Hara (crowd goes absolutely nuts with the SB 42 footage). There weren't as many boos for L.J. Smith this week, but he's still clearly not a crowd favorite. And, while I didn't hear boos for Mike Teel, I did overhear quite a few mean comments about him. Savage and Martinek get the loudest cheers during the lineup announcements.
  • Stop playing Bon Jovi. Rescind the season tickets of anyone caught dancing to Living on a Prayer on the scoreboard. That is all.

tailgate

  • I have a bone to pick with awful concession offerings, which haven't improved at all with the stadium expansion. $100 million dollars for it all, and they can't buy some decent hardware? If it's on Aramark, why exactly can they provide offerings at Giants Stadium that are far better? I didn't have time to tailgate, so at halftime, I went to the Churro stand by the front gate. They didn't look all that appealing, being the exact same subpar offerings from the Middlesex County Fair last month (as opposed to the wonderful ones at Costco). Those were at least vaguely edible. Yesterday's weren't, being cold with the texture of cardboard. I took one bite, and wondered whether I'd be able to finish it. Two bites later, I chucked it into the trash.
  • Don't be fooled by the stadium pizza either, which now carry the Uno's brand, but are more accurately described as a store-bought Elios warmed by the bulb from an easy bake oven. It's not actively revolting for those in search of empty calories, but it should be against the law to label that as "pizza" in New Jersey.
  • You can hear the cannon better now, but not nearly well enough, and it's still hidden in the corner of the South End zone. I didn't even know where it was until I caught a glimpse as I was leaving.
  • I gathered most of these thoughts by making brief notes on my phone during the game. The last note I took (at some point during the third quarter) was "rcb5d", and this morning I don't have the slightest clue in trying to remember what I intended to mean with that last night. Hope it wasn't important.

I'll try to get some other thoughts on the season going forward including Maryland, and the rest of the weekend up at some point later in the day. Generally feeling though is caution (but I'm always cautious), not relief or panic