How many more times must Rutgers give up a lead until it's too late? You could already say it's too late since Rutgers gave up a second half lead to Fresno State, but that was somewhat more expected with how good Fresno State is. SMU is not Fresno State, and Garrett Gilbert is not Derek Carr, so it's that much more alarming that RU had to escape Dallas with a triple overtime win against the SMU Mustangs. Take a look at the highlights:
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When the score is 35-20 and there are about 12 minutes to go in the fourth, you expect a defensive-minded team to be able to close the game. Instead, Rutgers opened the floodgates and let Gilbert shred the secondary on his way to a career game that included five touchdowns and no interceptions. That top ten ranked rush defense does you no good when you can't stop a five-yard slant route that turns into a 30-yard gain. Missed tackles and blown coverage are an epidemic for the Scarlet Knights, and Dave Cohen is making a mockery of what defense means to Rutgers football. Anyone can point to how green the defense is, especially the secondary, but there is no excuse for leaving the top receiver on the opposing side wide open on several plays. Game film should tell you that Jeremy Johnson is the first target on most plays, yet there were so many shots of his running wild on the field. Letting the obvious target rack up 18 receptions for 217 yards and three touchdowns means that you are not making the coaching adjustments to win the game. For the second time this year, the 2013 defense achieved the dubious honor of setting the record for most passing yards allowed in a game (in addition to TDs given up), a record that was already broken earlier this season at Fresno State.
It isn't all the defense's fault, though. An extra-vanilla gameplan on offense served as a blatant sign to SMU that Rutgers is ready to go home and work on Louisville game prep. It wasn't just the gameplan though, as plenty of execution problems were to blame as well. Gary Nova's fumble near midfield was just another check in his long list of turnovers. He is quickly becoming one of the most frustrating players in history, the kind that can mount an elite level comeback, but a quarterback who is also good for at least one boneheaded throw or play a game (the interception thrown in the first half was mind-boggling).
One of the biggest questions is the decision not to go for a score before the first half ended. Rutgers had a good amount of momentum and the offense was playing well. Why on earth would you not go for a two-minute drill to try to score? If you look at the best teams in the nation, they don't take their proverbial feet off the gas until the game is certainly in hand. And by that, I mean at least a 50 point margin. Do you see Oregon taking it easy on opponents ever? How about Alabama? Does Florida State pull Famous Jameis when he's doing well to take it easy on the opponent (Maryland can tell you about that)?
Of course, we can't end this recap on all sour notes. Rutgers did win after all. A new unknown at running back has emerged again, and this time it's true freshman Justin Goodwin. Like Paul James before him, few thought Justin could produce immediately for the Knights, but he legitimately did his best Paul James impression, accumulating more than 200 total yards. Savon Huggins continues to struggle, and now he can add overtaken by a freshman to overtaken by a walk on to his stellar resume. I really feel for the kid, but the offense just doesn't seem to click with him in the backfield.
I shudder to think what awaits us in Louisville. Teddy Bridgewater has been living up to every bit of expectation so far, but granted he hasn't played anyone really of note. Still, after such a close call against SMU, you wonder what the Cardinals are capable of doing for us.
What do you think? Do you think Rutgers still deserves to get votes after that stinker of a perfomance? Leave your comments below and try to recover from the game in any way you can.