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Time to move the goalposts

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You know, I would have thought that castrating a live bull on broadcast television was against the law in the great state of New Jersey (that's some great imagery to start off the morning with). Guess Rutgers wasn't kidding about the whole "learning is a lifetime commitment" thing.

"You can't spell FRAUDS without USF." -- anonymous longtime Rutgers writer of Italian descent - @NJ_StevePoliti

Glad to see people are starting to see things my way. I'll be lucky to get four hours of sleep after racing towards the exits midway through the fourth quarter and typing this post up, but I have a feeling that most of you were happy to forgo sleep for a game that was well worth watching.

The results pretty much speak for themselves; to the point where the only interesting question out of last night's game is whether it's best interpreted as the culmination of the ongoing Rutgers dominance over USF, or as proof positive that the fledging Rutgers offense is starting to gel. True, the Bulls did beat West Virginia last week, and they did have a relatively good resume on the season. However, USF has had WVU's number over the past few years, and WVU's offense has been in the tank as of late.

Truthfully, I never thought USF was any good at all this season. UConn is so profoundly better that it's a crime that the Bulls have the better win/loss record. Schiano's soldiers once again prevailed over an overmatched, frankly sloppy Jim Leavitt squad on a Thursday night stage. It was the most lopsided game yet in a series that is rapidly morphing into deeper levels of absurdist comedy by the year. What I wouldn't have given to be a fly on the wall in the Bulls' locker room at halftime.

Don't get me wrong, it was a good win. Certainly not "hollow" or anything of the sort. (By the way, is everything going to be a lovefest today on Rivals with everyone firmly back on the bandwagon? I'd say yes, because that's usually the rule when Rutgers seems to start their annual late season surge). However, it's only fair to temper your enthusiasm just a little, because there's still plenty to work on. No, Rutgers was not as bad as they played in the opener. Not even close. The light is obviously coming on, but they're not yet a team that will soundly beat good teams every week. This plea will probably fall on deaf ears, just as my optimism did earlier in the year, but; even keel, people. Please?

Now, when I evaluate offensive play, my preference is for an ability to sustain long drives down the field and move the chains. The goal has to be always to get into manageable second and third down situations, and dominate in statistics like total yardage and time of possession. That doesn't always correlate with points, but I think it's the best recipe for success, and bound to show results over the long run. That's why I wasn't too distressed by the offense's struggles in the red zone in the first half. The first (presumably scripted) drive of the game may have been the best the O has looked all year, marching down the field for the easy score, and setting the tone for the rest of the night. The kids are slowly getting it. You can see the progress from week to week; hell, they're seemingly improving by the play. Can they keep moving forward at this pace?

USF kept shooting itself in the foot with miscues, although a fair share of them were directly caused by a superb defensive performance. However, more than anything else, the game was won and lost in the trenches. USF want to run the ball between the tackles. Rutgers did early, and saw results as the game progressed. That's the upside in sticking with a running game. USF did come out playing well on defense, but that unit was worn down by their continued struggles on the other side of the ball. By late in the third quarter, they had absolutely nothing left. Conversely, the fresh Rutgers defense played inspired ball all night, and actually seemed to get better as the game went on.

It's to the offense's credit that they did have, by far, their best performance of the season. I don't know whether it's a positive or a negative that they still have far, far to go before they'll look like a consistent, productive unit. Tom Savage was once again inconsistent at points, but the difference between him and the freshman QB wearing white is that Savage keeps his mistakes to a minimum. The coaching staff is slowly upening up the playbook each week, and it's showing. The offense will still use the Shotgun formation and look to the sideline occasionally, but both have diminished dramatically. They're starting to get back to bread and butter football.

Even though the running game wasn't great statistically in the first half, I thought that the line was finally getting push off the ball on some plays. With the dramatic T.O.P. disparity, we were bound to see some success in that respect later on. Now, Joe Martinek's critics finally see what he's capable of with a little help. If the game had been close in the 4th, I wondered whether they would have thrown in Rocket in there for a dose of fresh legs. Going into the game, I did think that USF was a good matchup for our running game, with their emphasis on speed over size on that side of the ball. It was a rough break to see Kordell Young go down with an apparent injury.

You can't praise the line without pointing out that they made major strides in pass protection. As expected, George Selvie did nothing on the night, meaning that he's been a total non-factor against Rutgers over the past few years. Lil' Jovi could have probably handled him without too many double teams. I don't think it's a coincidence though that Anthony Davis suddenly picked up his play in front of a national audience, with a lot of scouts sitting in the press box. Selvie did have the much tougher matchup in Davis than what Pierre-Paul had on the other side, but you'd have to be blind to think that JPP isn't the far superior player. Giving credit where it's due, Haslam actually held his own on the night. I remember that one of the sacks was on an inside stunt where the RG didn't pick him up.

Mohamed Sanu had his strongest game of the year up to this point, making several big first down conversions over the middle, and giving the offense a spark as a rushing quarterback. I was a little surprised that Tim Brown didn't fight for the ball a little harder on that Savage interception. Apparently it was by Jerome Murphy, who usually has a lot of trouble covering receivers with deep speed. (Murphy also had the early late hit in the first quarter.) Nice to see Jefferson worked in a little at points too. I do recall seeing a lot of Graves and Wright out there, and barely any plays from Corcoran at fullback.

Last night...may have been the finest performance by a Greg Schiano (ok, technically the two co-DCs) that I've ever seen. Arguably, there was far more offensive talent on the field for the 2006 Louisville game (by the way, the anniversary was last Monday), but that was some pure domination right there. Can I just nominate everybody? George Johnson roughed up a patchwork USF line. Munoz and Lowery were making plays all night (my god, how about when Antonio dragged Daniels back about fifty yards). DMC, as the beatwriters now are apparently called him, has to get the nod on the night for player of the game with his yeoman effort on special teams. Frankly, I'm cutting this short because I'm long since exhausted at this point. They were brilliant, end of story, Schiano for Philosopher King of the Universe.

It was a windy night, so it's hard to hold Te's 51-yard miss against him (and to be fair, he did hit one from 49). Obviously, having that early block wasn't great, especially when the team was dominating early, but couldn't score any points. USF didn't exactly kick the ball off much, but you would have liked to see some more big retur...oh who am I kidding. Between the fumbles and the blocks, the special teams units gave Rutgers a needed spark in this one. If only the offense could have capitalized on them a little more, and blown it open earlier.

What was with the non-call on grounding on Daniels?

I think everyone will be back on the bandwagon today, and that's a good thing, because there were too many empty seats for this one. Bad weather or not, what's the purpose of donating a bunch of money for priority points, and then not showing up for one of the few decent home games on the year? It's not like those seats aren't being sold - I understand it for the end zones and upper deck. These are primo, cream of the crop seats. The big money donors just don't seem to be going to games this year. I understand that night games can be rough - there's work early tomorrow (ughhhhhh), maybe you have kids. Still, expecting a much better turnout for West Virginia assuming the guys take care of business over the next two weeks. At least Chris Christie was in attendance.

It's important not to go overboard with your enthusiasm, but be excited. Things are finally coming together, although there are sure to be more ups and downs along the way. Between that, and the end result, it did have a couple shades of UL '08. That's the kind of finish we could see going forward if Rutgers can finally get over that big West Virginia hump. Yes, Rutgers has played an awful schedule this season, and still shouldn't fairly be ranked next week (although, they are playing far better now than in September).

Rutgers hasn't beaten the Mountaineers in forever, and they've been the primary obstacle in the way of a Big East title over two of the past three years. We may not get to a good bowl this year (hopefully Charlotte, probably Tampa unless Notre Dame loses out), but this is a team with things to play for. There are still ways make the 2009 campaign a success. The young guys on offense need to keep getting better, and mainly, they need to finally overcome a West Virginia team that always seems to have their number, whether or not they're fading under the helm of Bill Stewart. In my book, they're still the team with our number until proven otherwise. Slay that dragon, oh Scarlet Knights, and it will have been a successful season. It's the only criteria left that matters.

Good win, good to be in the thick of things in confernece, good to beat my least favorite Big East team. Gotta run for now, will try to have a little more over the next few days.