Rutgers defeated Syracuse 17-7 on Saturday and despite winning ugly, there were plenty of big plays made in the game. This team’s ability to bounce back and not let a mistake sidetrack their focus has been key to the 2-0 start this season. There were several standout individual performances in the win over the Orange and we break them down here.
What more can you say about the Aussie wonder? Just appreciate every time no. 94 runs out onto the field the rest of this season because we are witnessing true greatness. He averaged 52.2 yards per attempt on six chances on Saturday. Five were inside the 20 yard line. His long of 69 yards pinned Syracuse inside their own 1 yard line. The defense did its job and Rutgers was able to score the game’s first points on the next possession in the third quarter, but it was Korsak who set things into motion.
“Now there was some really great punting. He is phenomenal,” said head coach Greg Schiano. “He’s special. He changed the field position several times in this game. We are very fortunate there.”
Korsak has had a great career already at Rutgers but in two games this season, he has laid the groundwork for a potentially special and historic campaign that could result in winning the Ray Guy award. Even if it doesn’t happen, he is a joy to watch despite having the duty of giving the ball back to the opponent.
There aren’t two more reliable players on Rutgers than Korsak and O3. He led RU with 12 tackles and registered his ninth double digit total of his career. If you watch Ted Lasso, you will agree it’s time to change the Roy Kent chant to say O3 instead. He is a monster and like Korsak, has begun the season in a way that gives hope his best year in a Rutgers uniform is taking place as we speak.
After a pick six last week and having a solid performance overall, the second year player and brother of Bo came through again on Saturday. He blocked a punt, recovered a fumble, broke up a pass and grabbed the second interception of the season in addition to making two tackles. Melton was thrown into the fire some last fall but he has made significant improvement in his game in part because of it. The secondary isn’t particularly deep, so the emergence of Melton as a playmaker in the back of the defense has been key.
(Editor’s Note: Max’s brother, Bo, had nine catches for 44 yards.)
He only had 8 carries for 20 yards, but Monangai’s 11 yard run to give Rutgers a 7-0 lead in the third quarter was huge. It happened on the first play right after Syracuse head coach Dino Babers was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct that allowed Rutgers to extend the drive. Monangai set the tone immediately by getting into the end zone right away and eliminating any possibility that Rutgers wouldn’t be able to take advantage of the situation. He now has three touchdowns on the season and saw extended duty in the second half. While Isaih Pacheco had a strong finish late in the game, Monangai is asserting himself as a back that warrants more carries this season.
While Izien didn’t light up the stat sheet, he had the fourth most tackles on the team with four. However, it was his pass breakup at the end of the first half that saved a touchdown that was so impactful on the outcome of the game. If Syracuse scored there, the entire dynamic of the game would have shifted and perhaps the outcome would have changed. Be glad we didn’t have to find out and remember that Izien is a legit playmaker at safety.
Haskins was once again talked up as a breakout player candidate in the preseason but was quickly doubted after he wasn’t involved with the offense last week. However, he had a big moment in the win over Syracuse as he caught a 30 yard touchdown to give Rutgers a second half lead they would never relinquish.
This probably won’t be a popular pick and yes, Vedral struggled at times and only threw for 145 yards in the game. However, he was very accurate in connecting on 22 of 28 pass attempts. Many were short throws, but he did what was asked of him and he had missed several of those same passes in the season opener. When he had a chance to throw downfield, he executed what turned out to be the game winning touchdown pass to Haskins.
Schiano said after the game that “I thought he did a heck of a job. Took care of the football. Made plays when he had the chance. I thought Noah did exactly what he needed to do. He needed to come here and play a clean game. He really did that. He got us in and out of the right calls. I was really pleased with his performance.”
Considering the pass protection by the offensive line was subpar and Vedral was sacked several times while also escaping pressure most of the game, he continues to protect the football. Zero turnovers in two games is impressive and if he can keep that up, living with his limitations will be worth it.