Accolades (3 Players Who Got It Done)
Andy Egan - Paul James (obviously). 173 yards and 3 TDs is good for, like, 35 fantasy points. Also very impressed by mutant planet destroyer Kemoko Turay and Michael Burton, for his blocking as much as his awesome catch and run, with two (!) Leonard leaps.
Kevin Recio - Johnathan Aiken came up big when we needed him. I'm not sure RU wins the game if he doesn't force that fumble on River Cracraft's punt return. I loved hearing Kemoko Turay's name during camp, so it's great to see his hard work came through. I think everyone will look at Paul James, and deservedly so for his awesome running game, so I'll go with Gary Nova. I think we can see that he's made strides during camp being in Friedgen's system. But he showed us that he can still be bad Gary at times. That might never change. Still, he has the capability to play great enough to lead this team to plenty of wins.
Ray Ransom - Paul James deserves the nod, but Leonte Caroo's monster 6-reception, 151-yard receiving day was so key. Big plays, first downs and blocking that doesn't make it onto the stat sheet came at critical times and provided a legit deep threat that opened up holes for James and Co. to get it done on the ground. Also worth a nod was the O-Line, who absolutely beat up the WSU front seven. By the end of the game, that defense had nothing left against an offense that had traveled cross-country and was playing well into the morning, east coast time.
Dave White: Me for actually making it into the 4 quarter, when my plan was to fall asleep at halftime. I know everyone is saying Paul James, and I want to be original, but James did what Rutgers needed. Remember, the team went into their tailspin last year when James got hurt, which leads me to believe he's the key to the team. He proved it last night.
Bob Cancro: Paul James. Awesome performance that drew praise and admiration from many in the B1G nation. Gotta say Michael Burton. Opened holes, made key blocks. Great job. And I'm putting Nova in the mix. As was stated, bad Gary still exists, but when he was confident and in a rhythm, he was good.
Demerits (3 Players Who Can Do Better)
AE: JPO - the only time we heard his name was a ridiculous late hit penalty at the end of the half that transformed a walk to the locker room into a long (but damn near almost made) Cougar field goal attempt. Desmon Peoples looked solid overall, but that interception in the beginning of the game was on him as much as Gary I think. Glashen/Goodwin - both got exposed on long YAC pass plays, but with an O like that, it was almost bound to happen at some point.
KR: Dave Milewski was sort of non-existent all night. It's a long season and there's time to improve, but it was disappointing to see. J.J. Denman was beat on a couple of plays badly that shows his lack of experience. O-line depth is very important, so it's a little concerning if a good backup isn't found. Finally, Glashen needs to be more consistent. He had some good plays and some bad ones, but if he can get it all together the secondary should be just fine.
RR: I'll just go with the defensive secondary, which we knew could use some work. They were terrorized all night and allowed completions on every level. There were some very ugly coverage breakdowns and some tackling that did not inspire confidence projecting to the end of the season. That said, they came up with big plays throughout the game and closed the game with a monster stand against a great offense.
DW: I think the defense, though that's more than 3 players. Wazzou did what they wanted for most of the game, and Rossi and Flood really have to address that over the next two weeks.
BC: Hate to be repetitive, but the defense. No one stood out, although there were some outstanding plays. And the secondary? Yes, we were going against a ridiculously prolific passing attack, but again to give up those totals through the air is simply unacceptable.
AE: How can you not like throwing for the end zone on the first play of the first game in our first B1G season? The Tsimis TD was slick too.
KR: The first play of the game. Really showed everyone watching RU isn't messing around.
RR: The opening play was absolutely genius. All anyone heard before the game was how RU would have to run to win the game and they took it to the house with a monster downtown pass. Honorable mention goes to the 29 playcalls where we gave Paul James the ball. I think there's going to be a pretty strong correlation between winning and PJ touches this season.
DW: Paul James long run after WSU scored. Reminded me of Ray Rice against Pitt in '06.
BC: Opening pass was great for shock value. Quieted the WSU crowd and gave us confidence. But Nova's 4th down throw showed poise and maturity. Signs of good things?
AE: Calling a fade pattern on 3rd and 2, on a crucial drive with a back who had been trucking like PJ was all game was too cute. Line up and dare them to stop us, which they could not do all game. Also, calling a timeout after Turay just blew up the QB to the point where he was limping was not good. Flood explained there were 12 men on the field, but that was a bad timeout (or penalty) at a bad time.
KR: In complete hindsight, not going for it on fourth-and-two was meaningless. The Knights ended up punting back to the Cougars and Washington State ended up marching the length of the field for an easy TD.
RR: Not playing Turay the entire game. That guy is a monster! It looked like he tried to eat the Wazzou QB on his second sack.
DW: That miscommunication between Nova and Peoples. TURN AROUND. Or. DON'T THROW THE BALL.
BC: I don't have that kind of insight. OCs make calls at certain times to set up other things, or to incentive players. Yes, that fade was...interesting, but there may have been a reason.
AE: Gutsy tough win on the road, and you always have to enjoy those. We knew their offense was going to put up a ton of yards and points, and we knew our secondary had potential to be a mess. We also saw a run game we can count on, with a three headed monster in James, Peoples and Burton. Each of those guys has different skillsets, and there is room for all three to make plays. Our O Line looked dominant, as they were pushing WSU's guys around all night. Some notable absences from guys we expected to see a lot: Boggs, Barnwell, Cioffi ( I know he was on the fumble), Agudosi, and Tyler Kroft, who was in but seemingly invisible. I love tight end slants over the middle coupled with power running - that combo just works, but the TE thing wasn't going last night. Overall, I am very satisfied with this win - it showed a lot of toughness, and the coaching upgrades are already obvious over last year's leadership.
KR: A lot of fans wondered how the season would have gone differently in 2013 had Rutgers won the opener against Fresno State. We have a different schedule this year, but we might get a sense of that in 2014. You can already tell that the optimism is high and the national media came away more impressed with the Scarlet Knights, as well as Kyle Flood. The secondary had issues, and both the defensive and offensive lines need a bit more work to become truly dominant, but it's hard not to have a feeling of unbridled enthusiasm.
RR: Reading the impressions from national writers, commenters and anyone with a keyboard, you got the sense that RU was playing Alabama in a man-down situation. Rutgers came out, scored a huge win, and brought home a Pac 12 scalp for the entire Big Ten Conference. From here on out, the schedule has some very winnable games and even if the conference portion of the schedule offers few reprieves, RU has a real shot at bowl eligibility or better in our first B1G season. This opening-day, Thursday night win sets the narrative conscience of the Knights and will go a long way towards establishing recruiting momentum over the next few weeks. Go Knights!
BC: Still secondary questions, but overall, we played a solud, tough game. This win does open doors for a bowl. It quieted some skeptics, I think especially in B1G country, about our competitiveness. It was gut-wrenching at times, but very satisfying.