Eleven down, one more game to go in the roller coaster 2017 Rutgers football season. How did the units grade out against the Hoosiers? Let us know how you feel about the defensive performance with our poll and in the comments below.
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: D (Wilkins, Turay, Turner, Joseph-Day, Bateky, Nash, Lumor, Previlon, Hogan, Davis)
Alignment: Rutgers mainly stuck to 40 fronts as Indiana was gaining yardage on the ground.
Assignment: Rutgers defensive line didn’t do too much stunting or slanting. They tried to clog up the middle and force runners outside.
Technique: The assignments simply did not work, as the defensive line simply did not occupy space, shed blocks, or generate a pass rush. Props only to Turay who added 7 tackles as a lineman.
Individual other player thoughts: Skipping this section because to accurately complete it, I’d have to rewatch the game. Absolutely do not want to relive this massacre. Here’s a link to the box score for the stats.
The three big guys could not replicate their performance against an underrated Indiana offensive line. The biggest problem was that they could not get any pressure without a 5th rusher. As has been true most of the season, the lack of pass rush allowed Indiana to gain huge yards especially in the pass game when they were “on schedule”. Rutgers likely banked Indiana wouldn’t be as we documented in the pregame. Giving up over 100 yards to two different backs, come on!
Linebackers: C- (Morris, Roberts, Douglas, Onyechi, Russell, Fogg)
Alignment: When the game outcome was still mathematically in doubt, Rutgers played mostly nickel looks with Ross Douglas in a defensive back spot or substituting out for a 3rd safety.
Assignment: Rutgers was in some sort of short zone more than usual, trying to pick up Indiana receivers, tight ends, and backs in the intermediate routes. On running plays, they were playing it safe and not crashing down.
Technique: The line got some heat ironically for not generating any, but the linebackers have to make more tackles at the line. On paper Morris had 16 total (13 solo) which looks good, but only one was for loss. Notable is Tyshon Fogg’s 5 tackles off the bench, though his biggest impact to the game was a personal foul on the opening kickoff which RU opted for a touchback on, a sign of of the team’s overall lack of a mental edge all day.
The linebackers are equally responsible for the big runs stats as in the first half the line wasn’t playing well, but they weren’t getting pushed backwards. As a result the tackling lanes were still open to make plays in the first half, but Rutgers was a step slow. By the second half they were two steps slow and linebackers were getting caught a lot.
Secondary: C (Harris, Hayes, Hester, Hampton, Wharton, Bailey, Campbell)
Alignment: Rutgers was in some version of nickel virtually the entire game yet again.
Assignment: Rutgers looked to play a zone at the second level, at times with not enough high safeties to cover the receivers running deep. They seemed confused a few times hence why it’s hard to know who was at fault or if the coaches just put in too many different schemes/packages/coverages. Or maybe they were the same as Penn State, but Indiana had film to break down.
Technique: The on ball coverage, and normal man to man, was not particularly bad. Indiana has some good receivers who can defeat tight coverage with a well thrown ball. Any time Rutgers was in a zone, they did not defend the pass well and were clueless at taking angles in the run game. One pass defended (courtesy of Harris INT) on 28 attempts?
The secondary should have been better with more bodies I had thought, but maybe wasn’t with more guys to shoulder the load? Like not enough accountability? I just don’t understand how certain DBs can be viewed as so good by the staff yet when Harris or in past years Goodwin, Hicks, etc come in, they look like an immediate upgrade. I get it that the responsibilities may be less for Harris, but come on, has he ever been burned like this? For all the talk Hampton really needs to look like a star as a redshirt senior in 2018, or else he should be behind Gray and perhaps Harris on the depth chart.
This grade I feel pretty strongly about. After a great job of scheming against Penn State even in a loss, what was the game plan in this one? My best guess is that it was pretty similar to what I proposed last week but more complexity in the secondary coverage than we have seen. It seemed that Rutgers was trying to force downfield throws, evidenced by the second Indiana score but perhaps the Hoosiers simply handed the weather conditions better than RU predicted. Regardless, RU looked more confused in the zone (or what looked like zone) than they made Richard Lagow. Also contributing is how not ready to play Rutgers was overall. As a former player, I know you take responsibility, but the coaches will as well.
This team was down 17-0 before the RU offense got their first first down. In bad weather, on the road, in a game they thought they had a chance, the effort was simply not there. Just embarassing overall. The defense doesn’t get an F (unlike the offense) because they did make a few stops to try and keep it close (only down 20-0 at half).
Overall grade: C-/D+
Rutgers was the final ingredient for the Indiana offense to finally put it all together. I was disappointed by the level of effort and coaching staff. We can hope for more offense in 2018, but I am not sure if the defense can be better barring some major ability change to get a pass rush. That said, the reason I can’t give an F is because if the offense was once able to have a day of their own, Rutgers MIGHT have had a shot. Other teams seem to be able to win a shootout once in a while, even Rutgers did at the same stadium just two years ago.
CAPTAIN OBVIOUS: To become a legitimate team in the Big Ten East, Rutgers will need to beat
Penn State and stop the streak. Indiana and Maryland regularly without ever getting embarrassed like this.
Reasons for pessimism: 1. Maryland, Purdue, and Illinois are not very good. 2. Rutgers passing offense is beyond horrendous 3. Indiana was ready for the all the game plans. 4. Can Rutgers win without a huge turnover edge? 5. Why should we feel confident the offense will get better outside of a second year with Kill? 6. What if Rutgers had not beaten Purdue, would this season be a failure? 7. Have teams figured out how to beat Rutgers at their own game? 8. Michigan State has gotten their clunker out of their system. 9. Indiana entered the game 4-6 also. 10. Do offensive playmakers at the skill positions want to come here?
Reasons for optimism ... in 2018: 1. RU offense had 190 total yards, what can a defense do with that? 2. Saquon Hampton missed a ton of time and the LBs/DBs have a ton of experience returning. 3. If we only had a QB ... 4. If there is no penalty on the first drive to kill it, could RU have sent an early message to themselves and IU? 5. If Hayek doesn’t fumble that first punt, could RU have regrouped? 6. The team was without Grant again, finally in 2018 that won’t be a thing. 7.
Gio Lewis continues to get healthier and the Rutgers passing game simply can’t go backward again, can it? 8. Indiana is not as bad as their record. 9. Every team has at least one game all year when they don’t show up. 10. N/A ... I’m not THAT optimistic after this one.
Dave wonders, was this the annual stinker (usually away) you see from every football team, most notably RU @ Cinci 2006, RU @ Uconn in 2011, or RU @ Pitt 2012?
How do you grade the Knights defense v Indiana?
This poll is closed
B: They got some stops, but wore out like 2016.
C: They faced some bad bounces, but the unit didn’t regress.
D: The team relies on the defense and they have to do more.
F: Who cares about the offense, defense still gets a fail.