As most of you already know, Rutgers lost to Boston College by a score of 30-16 at SHI Stadium Saturday. Some of you already joined the coalition who have had enough, even though this game was at least watchable. Let’s review what happened.
Those who read my columns regularly know that allowing a score on the opening drive is not a big deal to me at all. This week it was the Boston College Eagles who reached paydirt on their first possession. Officially it went seven plays for 79 yards, but the frustrating part was that 42 of those yards came on a touchdown from backup tailback David Bailey. The Rutgers linebackers and safeties each had a shot at Bailey on a 1st and 10, but give BC credit for how well their tight ends and wide receivers crashed down inside at the second and third levels to spring their man free. We saw some of this from Rutgers in 2017 when Jerry Kill was coaching the Knight offense, and it truly this a thing of beauty.
Rutgers didn’t score on their first drive, but the offensive tone was actually set by Tre Avery on the kick return when he broke three tackles, including one solid trucking to get RU good field position.
After trading punts, Rutgers capitalized with a touchdown drive of their own to even the score. After back to back Isaih Pacheco runs that netted six yards, Rutgers faced a 3rd and 4 from their own 26. BC tried a cross-blitz but the perfect play call had Raheem Blackshear fake a block and then leak into space for an easy competition. The Rutgers offensive line handled it perfectly, and starting QB Art Sitkowski to his credit threw the ball to Raheem perfectly, who easily outraced his trailing edge defender. Courtesy of good downfield blocking, Blackshear only had to make one man miss, so after he juked the safety, it was a long 74 yard TD. On just that one play, Rutgers netted more passing yards than the entire game last week.
It’s not going to go down quite the same as the butt fumble in Jets lore, but Rutgers didn’t exactly act like they had scored before. I was worried RU would be down two quarterbacks to concussion protocol after Mike Maietti’s overzealousness in celebration that turned into an accidental punch to the helmet of Sitkowski.
Riding the momentum, the home team forced a quick three and out before embarking on a much more impressive drive. Rutgers gained a 10-7 lead, highlighted by a great individual effort from Raheem Blackshear to set it up. The Knights did have a second and 5 from the BC five yard line, so this could be viewed as a missed opportunity as we would find out later. Justin Davidovicz nailed his first field goal of the day.
Raheem Blackshear showing off his big-play ability. pic.twitter.com/EpzdQoq6dj— Rutgers On BTN (@RutgersOnBTN) September 21, 2019
Buoyed by their defense having a mini goal-line stand and recovering a Rutgers fumble at the RU 12 yard line the next time RU had the rock, BC punched in an easy TD to regain the lead 14-10.
After the teams traded punts, Adam Korsak did his best to flip field position after the impressive kick in the tweet below.
Unlike a week ago, Rutgers was able to score points after a BC three and out from deep in their own territory. Rutgers got the ball back at the BC 48 and after a few nice gains set themselves up with a first down at the BC 14 yard line. Unfortunately, the Knights were handcuffed by an illegal man downfield penalty on an incomplete pass. They had to settle for a field goal from Davidovicz, his second of the afternoon to make it 14-13 with just 44 seconds left in the half.
After a touchback from Davidovicz, BC quarterback Anthony Brown showed his worth. The New Jersey native completed several key passes for a total of 50 yards to allow the Eagles to answer back. Aaron Boumerhi nailed a 37 yard kick to re-establish the four point advantage heading into the locker room, 17-13.
Rutgers got the ball to start the second half and received good field position at their own 40. A big play to Blackshear down to the BC 41 called back, yet another critical error for the home team. An offensive pass interference call put RU in a bad spot and they had to settle for another Korsak punt.
Adam only pinned BC at their own 18 yard line so the Eagles had a little breathing room. They then embarked on a 13 play, 82 yard touchdown drive that featured just two pass completions. Most of the damage came from AJ Dillon and Anthony Brown himself on the ground. BC only needed to convert two third down plays (both short) before Dillon punched it in for an 11 point advantage.
Down 24-13, Rutgers needed a score to cut the deficit to one score. After the teams both gained yardage but again exchanged punts, the big play came on the only majorly successful Scarlet run play of the day, a reverse to put the Knights in field goal range.
Down to the 22 yard line, again Rutgers shot themselves in the foot. This time it was offensive holding on Bo Melton that moved the ball back to the 32. After two incompletions and a throw that was caught for no gain, Rutgers hung their hopes on the leg of Davidovicz to keep them in the game. Justin again delivered, this time from 50 yards to narrow the deficit to 24-16.
BC, as they have done time and time again in recent years, stuck to their guns and pounded their way to another score. 18 plays, 75 yards and Rutgers was simply unable to force a punt in what was just a one score game. Brown again was crucial on third down, completing a pass to Jake Burt and later scrambling 10 yards to achieve yet another first down. The latter got BC in field goal range, but they weren’t going to settle. Eight plays later, Dillon punched it in for a 30-16 lead. Rather than kick the extra point, BC went for 2, but failed.
Rutgers was in trouble, but still on life support down 14 points with a tad under 7 minutes to go. After two incompletions and a 1 yard gain to Mo Jabbie, RU faced a 4th down and 9 from their own 26. Though many suspected a possible surrender punt, offensive coordinator John McNulty pinned his hopes on the right arm of Sitkowski.
Art bought time and found Bo Melton wide open in the middle of the field past the sticks. Rather than be content with the conversion, Melton took off. If Melton could have escaped the tackle, he would likely not have been caught on his way to the endzone. The completion also pushed Sitkowski over the 300 yard milestone through the air on the day, the first time an RU signal caller breached the plateau since 2015 against a Power Five opponent. (McLane Carter did toss for 340 against UMass.)
BEEP BEEP— Rutgers On BTN (@RutgersOnBTN) September 21, 2019
Bo Melton is a big man: pic.twitter.com/egiKH6pYru
Rutgers couldn’t get much more and the fateful play came on a 3rd and 10. The combination of Sitkowski and the Rutgers offensive line failed to protect against three men. I have been an offensive line defender a lot in recent weeks and part of last season, but you have to do better than this. Art was disoriented after spinning away from not one, but two Eagles. He knew he was outside the pocket so all he had to do was throw the ball out of bounds beyond the line of scrimmage to give RU just one more chance without being flagged for intentional grounding. Unfortunately his pass went parallel to the sideline instead of across the boundary for an easy interception.
Boston College pounded the ball until the game was inside two minutes and knelt the remaining time away.
Key stat(s): Boston College rushed for 272 yards to just 76 for the Scarlet Knights on the ground. Two Boston College running backs on their own had more than Rutgers did (Dillon 150, Bailey 77).
Additional Takeaway(s): I noted several of my immediate thoughts in the instant reaction.
Last week I wrote “I want to love Art Sitkowski.” To his credit, Art did what everyone hoped he could a year ago. Our first comment on the instant analysis came from steelinnj who wrote, “Sit played as well any any QB can be expected to.” I’ll have to rewatch the film of course (lol), but from the stats alone, I have to agree. We don’t scrutinize every single throw from every other QB of every other team in the country. Art went 23 of 33 for 304 yards, one touchdown, one interception. And Rutgers didn’t protect him as well as I expected them to. If we saw that stat line every game against a roughly equal opponents the last three years, RU would have won double the number of games if not more. I’ve been a proponent of gadget plays, but for once RU got enough quarterback play to have survived without them. More on that in Monday morning quarterback.
B1G Boy Football: As mentioned in the key stat section by the rushing numbers, Boston College set the blueprint that ever other Big Ten team should use against Rutgers until proven otherwise. Pound the ball as long as you can because Rutgers has to prove they can go up two scores before there is any need to start chucking the ball around the yard and increasing the chances for a turnover. Sure Art tossed for 300 yards against a team daring him to pass, but I’d want to see that again before changing the game plan.
Next up: Rutgers travels to the Big House last week to face an angry (formerly #11) Michigan squad who was embarrassed at #13 Wisconsin (down 35-8 at one point before a 35-14 final) this week.
Look for more coverage of this game and the news heading into the BC game here at onthebanks.com
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