Seven down, five to go, as we are more than halfway through the season. Rutgers is now 3-4 on the season. Makes me feel like John Daly’s pace on “What’s my line?” How did the units grade out against the Boilermakers? Let us know how you feel about the defensive performance with our poll and in the comments below.
Same format as we break down the defensive performance at each of the three levels organized by alignment, assignment, and technique. The players listed in each group are in order of how noticeable they were to me, but potentially not every player who saw action.
Defensive Line: B (Davis, Joseph-Day, Turner, Wilkins, Bateky, Turay, Nash, Lumor, Previlon)
Alignment: Rutgers was able to remain in generally 40 (even 30) fronts with an occasional 50 look. The 3 down linemen with Turay standing up with a wide split proved vulnerable on the run BUT ...
Assignment: Rutgers defensive line was in total stop the pass mode to avoid chunk plays. The three down linemen forced Purdue to audible to a lot of run plays by just taking what Rutgers game them. This alignment allowed RU to bring pressure from a few different places early in the game, and the Boilermakers seemed to be affected all day by the threat. In the run game, they did get pushed back and I’m not sure if that had more to do with two-gap assignments more than usual.
Technique: The defensive line did not stop enough run plays in the backfield (2 tackles for loss) and had zero sacks. That said, they did have three men going against five or four against six. Would have been nice to see a few more free arms to take down ball carriers near the line.
Individual other player thoughts: Wilkins (5 tackles, 1 TFL) played hard. Bateky (9 tackles) made a lot of plays. Joseph (4 tackles) completed the trio with a decent effort. Previlon (4 tackles) contributed, too. Turner (2 tackles) had less opportunities. Myles Nash had the only QB hurry from someone other than Turay. Darnell Davis added three tackles, too. Lumor (2 tackles) did not register a hurry. Kemoko Turay (9 tackles, 3 QBH, 1 pass defended) did not have a sack, but was asked to be superhuman. He may not have been at that level, but his skill set allowed the defense to be more creative.
Rutgers attempted to make Purdue one dimensional and they did. It almost felt like Super Bowl XXV when the Giants allowed Buffalo to run to avoid big pass plays.
Linebackers: A- (Morris, Roberts, Douglas, Fogg)
Alignment: Ross Douglas was a key in this game, playing more third and mediums than usual. This did confuse Purdue a little bit as Rutgers normally plays a nickel in those situations. Rutgers backers also seemed (may have been just to the naked eye) that they were lined up deeper than usual.
Assignment: Due to the fronts often of three men, the fourth rusher was Turay or occasionally Douglas. Morris may have even had a blitz or two. Otherwise the LBs were in pass first, run second defense. The distances between defenders shrunk the farther Purdue went down the field and it seemed to help RU more than they were hurt by being out of breath. Douglas played in effect as a third safety at times.
Technique: Tackling was ok but they deserve extra credit for the extra distance required to run plus the number of times linebackers were matched up on fast even slot receivers. With time, those angles to backs will get better. Several Purdue gadget plays were runs rather than passes.
Individual other player thoughts: Ross Douglas (6 tackles, 1 PBU) played a lot more than usual and was a key to the modified scheme. Trevor Morris (12 tackles, 1 PBU) continued solid play and could have been a star of the game yet again. Roberts (7 tackles) deserves credit for getting the team lined up against some hurry-up when RU was horrible at defending that earlier this year. Not sure how many snaps he played, Fogg’s tackle was on special teams I believe.
This group could not have done more in this game yet again. Changing tactics meant more free blockers attacking them and the LBs held up. Fans clamoring for the freshmen has quieted a bit with the good play from upperclassmen the last two weeks.
Secondary: A- (Gray, Harris, Hayes, Wharton, Hester, Campbell)
Alignment: The percentages of base compared to nickel was skewed more toward a 4-3 than usual.
Assignment: Rutgers was in man coverage with one, sometimes two high safeties. At times it may have even been a soft zone, Purdue receivers had so much separation. Like the linebackers they were playing super deep.
Technique: Jawuan Harris whiffed on his first tackle attempt of the game deep down the sideline, but Gray picked him up. It was that kind of day as the unit wasn’t perfect and was beaten in coverage few times, but Purdue could not make the plays. It’s hard to know if they were trying to avoid penalties and therefore less aggressive.
Individual other player thoughts: Gray (10 tackles, 1 INT, 2 PBU) again was solid and continues to meet my high expectations of him. Harris (4 tackles, 1 TFL) struggled more than last week against a better passing club though he did make a huge tackle on the Boilers first red zone trip. Hayes (2 tackles, 1 INT) and Wharton (4 tackles, 3 PBU) did their jobs. Hester returned in limited action (2 tackles). Zane Campbell (1 PBU) was really picked on, though he held his own. On the TD he was in decent position, just a great catch by the receiver.
The secondary was not tested as much as expected since there was so much success in the run game so Purdue did not pull as many gadget plays as they showed earlier this season. The Boilermakers did themselves no favors with all the drops, receivers could have caught the ball a lot but their QBs could have thrown it better, too.
Jay Niemann is a third down defensive coach. He usually plays it straight up on first and second down, then has particular third down packages. He mixed it up more against Purdue with solid results. Both last year and this year, Rutgers has done a great job on third down conversion defense which now seems to be extending to early downs. Purdue achieved a lot of big chunks on first and second downs like Ohio State and even Nebraska did earlier this year. Then on third, the Boilermakers converted just three of fifteen third downs and one of four on fourth downs.
With each game the rebuilt secondary is trusted a little more, and using Ross Douglas a lot on third down was a great string to pull. It would be nice to have not given up so many rush yards, just way too many to give the coaches an A. That said, it’s a Big Ten win, so it’s hard to question much of the methodology when Rutgers is not a juggernaut.
The defense had a 4th down stop early in the second quarter which was bottled up two more times to stop 4th downs in the second half. Even though Purdue scored a late TD, it was not from lack of effort, it had to happen eventually. The offense put the defense in some bad spots and thank goodness Ryan Anderson is an above average punter that each time the defense held save the last drive, but then redeemed themselves with a game winning 2 point stop. Defensive line was on fumes yet got enough pressure to disrupt Purdue on that last drive to force them to use every trick they had in the tank. The defense bent but never broke despite a string of five consecutive three and outs by the offense to end the game.
Overall grade: A-
Purdue is better than Illinois and Rutgers still got the win. For that reason against a .500 Big Ten team, the grade has to be in the A range despite the yards. Every unit did what they had to do to secure it, barely. The intangibles raise the grade higher than averaging its parts. Rutgers seems to have a legit Big Ten defense, though is an incomplete football team overall. 12 points allowed, I’m still in shock.
- K.J. Gray (2nd week in a row)
- Ross Douglas
- Jon Bateky
Reasons for pessimism: 1. Michigan will be out for blood. 2. Is Rutgers offense any better than the one that didn’t get a first down until the 4th quarter against Michigan at home last year? 3. What if Purdue just went for a long field goal rather than a 4th down conversion early in the 4th quarter? 4. What if Purdue didn’t drop roughly double digit passes? 5. Defense allowed 6.8 yards per carry? 6. How can you give up 279 rushing yards and win? 7. Six Purdue players had 10+ yard runs on the day 8. 474 total yards for Purdue to 217 yards for RU, wow 9. Can Rutgers hold any other opponent to only 12 points? Seems crazy. 10. Forget a tenth, RU just won again!
Reasons for optimism: 1. Rutgers proved Illinois was not a fluke. 2. Defense had two picks AGAIN, neither of which came from an expected starter at the beginning of the season AGAIN! (Gray and Hayes this time) 3. Defense allowed 12 points to a team who put up 28+ against 4 FBS teams earlier. 4. Purdue only had 195 yards passing, a team with a QB who threw for over 3,000 last year. 5. Only three 20 yard pass plays allowed. 6. Last week I was pessimistic Rutgers would be able to win a close game, but they did in a big way 7. Gio will hopefully get healthier 8. Same as last week, if you play in enough of these actual football games, other teams could give it away, like Purdue and Illinois. 9. Janarion Grant had one catch and they still won again 10. Team is 2-2 in Big Ten. 11. Other than OSU and PSU, are these other Big Ten offenses good either?
Dave wonders the same thing as last week, imagine if Rutgers beat EMU and was now 4-3?
How do you grade Rutgers defense vs Purdue.
This poll is closed
A: Best of the year, by far.
B: Good enough to win period.
C: Good enough to win with key drops by Purdue.
D: Poor, just way too many rush yards.