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Rutgers v. BC Monday Morning Quarterback and initial thoughts on Michigan

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A lot to digest in Knights’ uneven performance.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 21 Michigan at Wisconsin
Michigan spent most of the day out of reach of Taylor and the Badgers.
Photo by Lawrence Iles/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Rutgers Football team was downed 30-16 at home by former conference rival Boston College.

Hindsight is 20/20, so let’s dive right in after watching the film.

Expectations coming into the BC game

  1. Even if BC stacks the box, Pacheco will break a few explosive plays. (Result: No.)
  2. Rutgers will have success on plays designed to isolate Raheem Blackshear on linebackers. (Result: Absolutely yes.)
  3. Art Sitkowski will struggle any time BC gets pressure. (Result: Completely wrong)
  4. Boston College will win as long as they stick to their game plan. (Result: Yes)
  5. The Eagle offense will be inconsistent in the passing game, but some percentage of the downfield play-action will succeed especially as the RU D gets worn down. (Result: Painfully yes)

Initial reactions Saturday

  1. 7-7, all right. These teams are as evenly matched as we thought on the talent spectrum. (Film verdict: Mostly Correct)
  2. RU gets a field goal to narrow the game to 14-13, this is exactly what we all would have signed up for heading into halftime. (Verdict: Wait, BC scored in 44 seconds? Come on guys!)
  3. At one point I thought, even if you took the Blackshear 74 yard TD off the table, Art would still be 16-of-19 passing for 169 yards. None of us expected that for an entire game. (Verdict: Yet we are down 24-13?!?!?!?)
  4. Why can Anthony Brown never just royally mess up? He’s being outplayed by Art Sitkowski, can’t Brown just try to do too much and make a mistake? (Verdict: No, he stayed within himself.)
  5. Boston College is going to at some point decide to switch tactics on defense. (Verdict: Not until RU’s final drive)
  6. Aaron Young is pretty good and looked like a starting Big Ten wide receiver on his two catches. (Verdict: Still yes.)

Sunday-Monday morning quarterback

  1. How did Sitkowski from Iowa to today all of a sudden have pocket presence? Something absolutely “clicked” for the sophomore to a level I have never seen in a quarterback in such a short period of time. Boston College pass defense was porous and undermanned with so many guys committed to the run. More on what to do at quarterback moving forward in a subsequent post.
  2. Sometimes you have to tip your cap. Boston College’s offensive line willed their team to victory. There were plenty of good blocks, but lots of others where BC linemen reacted on the fly and adjusted to get a body on a Rutgers player long enough to allow a back to hit the crease even if it wasn’t textbook technique. In addition, the BC run game is exactly what a pro-set needs to be from an organizational perspective. Countless times they were perfect in leaving the right man unblocked (I counted Mike Tverdov at least three times) which is easier said than done. A week prior the New York Jets were atrocious at the same tactic, and pro teams have unlimited time to prepare.
  3. Rutgers’s offensive line was consistent, too. As in consistently inconsistent. When the defense has run blitzes or just nine men in the box, you can’t block them all. You could drive back the men in front of you, but RU did even less of that than they did at Iowa. True spread schemes don’t rely on pure maulers on the line, but with so many guys in the box other tactics weren’t working either. The pass protection was great at times and awful at others. For RU to have a chance in their other “winnable” games, it needs to be better.
  4. Boston College run defense didn’t even look like the same team as a week ago. This ability to “coach up” your team week to week is how BC can reach bowl games without impressive overall talent. As much as Coach Addazio is viewed by some on the hot seat, his staff can really flip the script when their team has a wake up call and is willing to absorb coaching. Had BC missed the tackles they did against Kansas, RU might win this game.
  5. Rutgers fell into a trap that they haven’t gotten themselves in recently. BC tricked RU into passing so much that the Eagle front did not get worn down as much as they would from a continual ground and pound. Then when the game was late, the Eagle pass rush had plenty left in the tank. This is one of those problems you don’t face when you are getting blown out all the time, coaches need to learn how to win “close games”, too.

Surprise Stat

Tie. 1a. Art threw for more yards than Anthony Brown. 1b. BC had two players each with more rush yards than the entire RU team.

Initial takeaways from Michigan’s major loss to Wisconsin

  1. Jonathan Taylor is pretty good. x 100,000,000,000,000
  2. When it was 35-8 the Wolverines looked shocked on the sideline and rightfully so because of the way it happened. Jim Harbaugh had his usual mean, confused, yet sinister face that could go in a number of directions.
  3. Last season Michigan was considered the best defense in the country for much of the year. Yes they lost a lost of players to the NFL per usual, but allowing 359 yards rushing?
  4. On the flip side, Michigan ran for just 40 yards on 19 carries. For those who still believe you win by running the ball and stopping the run, they were vindicated big time.
  5. Shea Patterson, 14 for 32, 219 yards. Excellent yards per completion, but not so much on the yards per attempt. He’s a lot better than that even without help from his running game.
  6. Maybe Michigan is what we saw against Army. Or did they miss that wake-up call due to gutting out that win?
  7. Will those 100,000 fans start booing at their first opportunity at the Big House?

Final Conclusions

The bottom line here is that in a vacuum, this game wasn’t a horrible defeat. The Eagles trotted out a bonafide star running back and an experienced quarterback with many wins to his credit. BC is a perennial bowl squad and RU who hadn’t beaten a Power Five foe in 686 days was using their backup quarterback. It was obvious that even if Rutgers had a slight edge in talent, BC was clearly the well oiled offense.

The problem though is that this is where Rutgers was in 2017 and should have continued to be in 2018. Instead perhaps due to the lack of close games they have participated in, Rutgers made the mistakes that lose you football games. When you get into the red zone, you need touchdowns. Rutgers penetrated deep into opposing territory so much more than usual, they were not prepared for the defense digging in harder, zones getting smaller, and the condensed space near the goal line. BC on the other hand, thrived in these situations by taking advantage of worn down defense, QB sneaking for huge yardage, and all but abandoning the pass to avoid mistakes to avoid compromising points. Jimmy Johnson when he coached the Dallas Cowboys explained that to be a good red zone team, you need to be able to run the ball because the passing windows are just too small to sustain success.

So moving forward, can Rutgers repeat these passing numbers? As a result of the competence, I do have more confidence Rutgers will be competitive against the non top-25 teams remaining on the schedule, but how significant is that improvement? Can they win those games?