Say goodbye to anything resembling a successful season. Say hello to the BBVA Compass Bowl. The meltdown is in full effect on offense and defense, and getting to bowl eligibility will be an absolute grind. How did we get here? A combination of attrition in the secondary and a quarterback incapable of controlling himself contributed to the downfall of the 2013 season.
Houston entered the game with the 118th ranked pass defense in the nation. Watching Gary Nova play, you would have thought they were Alabama. The junior QB threw for a measly 138 yards on 7 of 15 passing, along with three interceptions. That is not the level of play you expect from an FBS quarterback, let alone a BCS conference quarterback. Give him some credit though, because apparently it didn't matter who was throwing the ball for Rutgers, as Savon Huggins and Chas Dodd threw a pick each as well (Although Dodd's interception was on Brandon Coleman's shoulders). The wide receivers didn't help much, although there seems to be an odd connection developing. Every game, someone new emerges as the leading pass catcher on the team. Be it Leonte Carroo, Tyler Kroft, and now John Tsimis, it's as if either Nova or the coaching staff are doing their best to prevent any type of chemistry forming between quarterback and receiver. I'm all for spreading the ball around, but I find it difficult to accept that Coleman is covered on every single play. Even so, Coleman is 6'6" and has the body to make plays over defenders. If he wants to be a first round pick, he should be able to catch the ball in traffic.
Let's not get too off topic here, however. This game was about Nova's meltdown, and it is blatantly evident he is having trouble playing the quarterback position for Rutgers. He telegraphs throws. He takes way too long in the pocket. He is afraid to pass into the slightest threat of coverage. His accuracy is completely gone. Something has happened to make him lose confidence as a passer, and you could see it in his eyes on the sideline once he was benched. Kyle Flood will hold a QB competition between Nova and Dodd this week for the game against Temple, but honestly, whoever wins that battle will hold a dubious honor. Nova really is the more talented of the two, but his mental makeup is something else entirely. He has the size and arm strength to make any throw you want, but when he gets the yips, it is absolutely horrifying to watch. For that reason, Dodd might be a better option for now. The running game is actually a strength for this offense right now, and Rutgers could benefit from having someone who doesn't turn the ball over every other possession.
Speaking of the running game, Justin Goodwin continued to impress by rushing for over 100 yards by halftime. The offensive line had a good push to the left side all game, but Houston made some good adjustments by moving LB Derrick Mathews around, slowing down the RU rush. What's disappointing is that Prince failed to make adjustments himself, but it's not all on him when his QB can't produce. Building on the future, Rutgers should have a great tandem at running back with Paul James and Justin Goodwin in the backfield. Both are big, downhill runners that can pound defenders for extra yardage. Definitely something to look forward to heading into the B1G.
Defensively, the Scarlet Knights are in deep trouble. Another cornerback bit the dust yesterday, as Nadir Barnwell made the idiotic and dangerous decision to drive while intoxicated. It's hard to see the Rutgers secondary getting much worse, as true freshman QB John O'Korn had no trouble picking apart the defense for 400 yards and five touchdowns. The fundamental problem is that Kyle Flood focuses on stopping the run, but he doesn't realize that a lot of teams on the schedule are pass first teams. Fresno State, SMU, and Houston all focus on the pass. When your priority is to defend the run, you're letting the opposing team use their greatest strength against you, because a lot of these teams are already one-dimensional, and that works for them.
This is the time when the coaching staff starts to reevaluate itself. You can already hear the clocks ticking on Dave Cohen and Rob Spence. Kyle Flood was able to bring in a good coordinator in Ron Prince, and he should be able to do the same with defense and QB coach. Those changes will most likely wait until the season is over, however. Right now, the QB controversy is in full swing in Piscataway.