You know the philosophy: if you can successfully stop the run, you force your opponent to become one-dimensional, allowing you to take the surprises out of the opposing gameplan. This is the mantra that Kyle Flood lives by - run the ball, and stop the run. The rush defense is definitely working: Rutgers currently ranks 5th in the nation with 59 rushing yards allowed per game. So far, so good.
Great, the Scarlet Knights are completely shutting down opposing teams' running backs. That must mean they can turn the focus to stopping the pass. Let's check out the pass defense: 111th in the nation at 293 yards per game. Sounds gre...wait, what!? That doesn't sound right. Shouldn't opponents' passing games be diminished from becoming one dimensional? What gives?
I know what you're thinking. "It's obvious, dummy. Rutgers lost four veterans from the secondary a year ago. Of course there will be a decline." Aha! That must be it. Looking at the 2012 numbers, Rutgers was 39th in the nation with 214.5 passing yards per game allowed. That's definitely a big jump. 39th to 111th has a lot to do with Fresno State, but the Knights didn't exactly shut down Tyler Benz and EMU either. However, losing key personnel must be the case, so why don't we just leave it at that?
Just for kicks and giggles, let's check out the 2011 numbers, Schiano's last year as head coach and defensive coordinator. 9th in the nation, with an astonishing 171.8 yards per game allowed through the air. Not only that, but the 2011 secondary gave up a paltry eight passing touchdowns on the year - good for a tie for third in the nation.
What's the big deal? Maybe it isn't one. The way I see it, however, is a change in philosophy that could be for the worse. Think back to 2011. The run defense of that squad was not elite like it is now, ranking only 49th in the nation with 136 yards per game allowed on the ground. Yet, which defense do you think was more impressive? A defense that gives up some big runs every now and then, but completely shuts down a passing game, or a defense that can stop the run, but let's opposing QBs pick apart the back seven? I'd pick the former. The college game has become more QB heavy than ever, and giving up the pass is a surefire way to leave wins on the field.
The 2011 secondary was virtually the same as the 2012 edition, yet with a year of experience, the 2012 year saw a decline in performance. That wasn't all just gameplanning by opposing coaches. Kyle Flood changed the philosophy of the defense, moving away from Schiano's expertise as a defensive backs coach and focusing on stopping the run to make opponents become one-dimensional. It's a fine gameplan to use, but the problem is that opposing passing games aren't being slowed down. Eastern Michigan was able to find Tyreese Russell wide open on play after play. You have to wonder if it's worth to do something a certain way if it's not getting you the results you want.
It's only three games into the season, and this could all be overblown due to a couple of outliers. You can't deny the trend is there, however, and you begin to wonder whether Coach Flood is capable of changing the way he sees things.
What do you think? Is this a problem that is getting more serious, or is it a minor hiccup in what is otherwise a stout defense? Leave your thoughts below.