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We'll take it

Winning "ugly" is such a, well, ugly turn of phrase. Sure, reserve quarterback Dom Natale only completed 4 of 12 passes for 42 yards in the entire game. Haven't not watched Boston College/Clemson a few weeks back, I would definitely nominate this for the worst all-around offensive performance on the FBS level this year. Certainly, it was the worst I've seen since Rutgers/Pitt a few years back, when Jabu was under center.

Clearly, the coaching staff does not trust Natale to the point where they'd rather run for two and three yards up the gut than even attempt a screen pass in the flat. No offense is preferable to turnovers. Tom Savage may not be the next Elway at this point, but clearly, the offense needs him under center to even have a chance at scoring points. Thankfully, we escaped with a win without risking turning his brains into mush. For the record, I would have been much more upset at risking his career, and possibly, his life than with losing the game. We are fortunate to have avoided that dilemma. The only points I can give in Natale's favor today were that Cooper (on a bad throw, but he should have caught it), and Sanu had drops, and the rain created a miserable environment for passing. Gotta think Natale is at least somewhat better in the sunshine.

However, the rain did work in our favor. Rutgers wanted a physical, run-heavy, low scoring affair, and the conditions helped it happen. The running game looked somewhat effective with Brooks in the first half, before Maryland completely discounted the pass and started bringing eight in the box every play. Watching Brooks stammer up to the line of scrimmage for little to no gains, was frustrating, but it served a purpose. Maryland is thin in the trenches, and that tired their lines out (34:18 to 25:42 TOP advantage is amazing, considering our defensive scores which put their offense right back on the field).

Using Brooks as the battering ram definitively led to some huge holes for Joe Martinek late in the fourth quarter, which turned what had been a previously close game into a blowout. That's the way I want to see it; don't get fool by the statistics. Brooks needs to be in the there in the first half to soften up defenses, then you unleash Martinek and his fresh legs late to run around exhausted defenders. The OL is slowly making progress. There were some protection issues early when Maryland was bringing pressure, but they're getting there.

This, this was the game we've all been looking for from the front seven. I said that Cincinnati was a unique situation that wouldn't be replicated, and that looks to have been the case. I'm convinced that we have the best pass rush in the conference. It's almost pointless to give out superlatives, because there wasn't a bad game to be had. George Johnson is having a breakout campaign at DE. Youngsters Vallone and Legrand played very well inside (I saw Silvestro getting a few snaps there too on blitzes). Don't let anyone say that Ryan D'Imperio is slow, because he looks plenty fast in coverage to me. Antonio Lowery completely set the tone with a pick six on the first play of the game. I wanted Rutgers to start on defense for that reason. Great, great job by the front seven in shutting down the Terp rushing attack. Bottom line: I'm convinced that we win two years ago if D'Imperio was 100% at MLB. He's the team MVP.

Secondary looks shaky outside McCourty, but, oh well. David Rowe still has his issues with tackling. Lefeged did provide a couple nice big plays.

This was one of those games where not only did you not want to see the offense on the field, but there was a better chance of scoring with the defense in the game! I had been thinking that all throughout the first half, and it was proven without a shadow of a doubt on the forced fumble in the end zone. People will look at the 5:0 turnover margin, and the yardage differential, and think that Maryland gave away this game. Nothing could be further from the case. Rutgers forced Maryland QB Chris Turner (nice freudian slip btw, I really just started typing "Turnover" there) into crippling interceptions with relentless pressure and blitzing. Maybe we did get a little lucky on the catches and in recovering a few fumble bounces, but them's the breaks. Maryland pressed, and got sloppier. Probably a mistake by Ralph Friedgen to take his top RB out of the game because of one fumble.

The special teams units gave up a few big returns to Torrey Smith, but I'll let that slide given his past success. If not for Rutgers pulling away in the second half, Coach Schiano leaving 6 points on the board with critical mistakes would have been the story of the game, along with the awful passing game. Rutgers foolishly tried a fake FG with a SHAMAR GRAVES pass in the first half. Then, even more inexcusably, went for a 4th and goal at the one when they had been just stuffed the previously play, and were showing absolutely no ability to move the ball or score points. Their march to the end zone was directly aided by Maryland penalties.

This was a momentum game. Rutgers stared a crushing defeat in the face, hunkered down, and willed themselves to a victory. The defensive unit was superb on the whole, and simply refused to concede defeat. This wasn't a must win game for Rutgers, but it was for Maryland. The downside of which being (which we saw last year), when you have a must win, and lose, the bottom could very well fall out. Giving your all, and it still not being good enough can do that. True, if Rutgers lost, they would fail to accomplish what MTSU had (btw, winning by 21 > winning by 1), but it wasn't by any means a must win. Rutgers struggled at times, but they didn't press, and that's why they made this happen when the game was on the line early in the fourth quarter.

Despite the final score, this contest could have very well gone either way. Use all the pejoratives in the dictionary to describe how unpleasing it was to watch. The football team has a LOT to work on going forward, but they have a bye, and a glorified scrimmage to get it done. Hopefully, a big road win (against, admittedly, a cratering team, but a big name win nonetheless) will put a few fans back in the seats for TSU and Pitt. Savage will come back, the kids will get more reps, and maybe we'll look half decent on offense at some point. The key is, this has the chance to be a springboard win. The team pulled away big late, which can give them a bit of confidence going forward. Look at Pitt last year. UNC in 2006. Sometimes, you get out of there by the skin of your teeth, but that W on the schedule is all you need to get in gear.

I think it's going to happen. Rutgers held its end of the bargain today, winning its only OOC game of note (actually, FIU may end up being better...) USF, down Matt Grothe, beat FSU on the road. Pitt lost a heartbreaker on the road, preventing a bad day for the ACC from turning into a disaster. Clearly, the Big East is wide open. We've got as much talent as anyone, but were just waiting for the light to turn on. Like, it always seems to as the season progressed with a Greg Schiano team. With that, we're right back to square one.

Other thoughts:

  • Maryland is truly as bad as advertised on both lines. We do have to factor that into how our lines looked today.
  • The dreaded check-with-mes (looks to the sideline after reading defense) continue unabated, and Rutgers keeps burning timeouts as a result. Was a little better in the second half.
  • I'll tell you what - with a 5:0 turnover advantage, when you completely shut down the running game, you sure as hell BETTER win. Tell it to the Giants last week. Yes, it was very troubling that the outcome was in doubt until early in the fourth quarter.
  • Is RutgersAl a prophet, the Jeremiah of Please don't be sore winners and taunt Terp fans over the past few days, no matter how much vitriol and hostility they've directed towards our program recently. Well, we ARE in the midst of the High Holy Days.
  • At the end of the game, I think that I saw Coach Schiano smile for the first time all year. Saw him shake Alex Wujciak's hand too.
  • The ESPN 360 broadcast was shaky, and the Z-team announcers (Jeremy Bloom and someone else) were absolutely horrific. At least get someone who can read off a media guide.
  • As per Brendan Prunty, the Maryland student section is as dirty as ever. Before they left in droves.
  • If you were Brandon Coleman in the stands, are you impressed by the margin of victory? Eager for early playing time? Distressed by the inept offense without Savage?
  • I won't declare the season back on track just yet, but look at that Cal/Oregon score today. Bad games can and do happen to good teams. Don't overreact to one game, and that includes both today and Cincy.
  • Follow me on Twitter at @ruscoop. Except if you're a pornbot. Ok, especially if you're a pornbot. Not much action during the game; I didn't announce it yesterday for FF because of the whole jinx factor. You can thank me now.