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Where are the sacks?

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Want to know a surprising fact? Rutgers currently ranks dead last in the Big East at having recorded only five team sacks. Those numbers are skewed a little by UConn not having a bye yet, and a disparity in out of conference scheduling (i.e., comparing Pitt to Syracuse), but the point stands nonetheless. It is very surprising when you consider that Rutgers and West Virginia are the conference's two best teams in terms of total defense and points allowed. The Scarlet Knights have a reputation far and wide as one of the country's most blitz happy teams, and as far as the naked eye goes the pass rush has been about as effective as usual.

There are a couple things going on here. Part of it is just luck. Given X number of hurries or quarterback hits, a team should generally record some smaller total in sacks. That should work out in time, with my own concern being that too many post-season accolades are determined by statistics, which aren't a great measure of defensive performance.

I think there's also another factor at work: playing Rutgers causes opposing offenses to deliberately change their offensive strategies. It is clearly evident from watching games that opposing teams are mostly forgoing the deep ball, trying to beat RU with slants and hitches. The Rutgers defense is built around attacking the ball and moving forward, and their strengths are neutralized by this approach. A lot of the defense's use of zone coverage is probably a reaction to these initial adjustments, as part of the continuing game of cat and mouse between two coaching staffs over the course of a game.

What needs to happen is that Rutgers has to shoot out to an early lead, and force an opponent to both pass and take shots down the field. When those five and seven step drops start being used, that's when Rutgers should be able to pad its sack totals to numbers closer to where you'd expect. Like with seemingly everything else this year, the offense is once again to blame. Until that happens, low sack totals aren't really much to worry about. As long as the defense continues to get stops, and keep points off the board, they're doing their jobs effectively and should be lauded for their efforts.