It was a beautiful day in the Hudson Valley. We went out for brunch at a nice little place with a spectacular view of the Hudson River. Before leaving for brunch, I was assured by my Spectrum Cable guide that the ACC channel would be broadcasting the Rutgers-Syracuse game. And why wouldn’t they? After all, I live 130 miles north of SHI Stadium and 150 miles east of the Carrier Dome.
So, it came as quite a surprise to turn on the television to the Virginia-Illinois game. Makes perfect sense, right? Who in my area could possibly want to see Rutgers play Syracuse? Well after tracking down something called ACC Extra to my Hulu streaming service and agreeing to pay $64.95 for a seven-day trial, I finally got the game on my TV about halfway through the 2nd quarter. Turns out I didn’t miss a thing.
After my frustration subsided, I thought for a few minutes they were showing a Rutgers Syracuse game from 2014. The innovative and creative offense touted by Sean Gleeson was nowhere to be found. But patience is a virtue and things are not always as they appear.
Yes, the offense sputtered but this had a lot to do with the Syracuse defense. Playing a 3-3-5 for most of the game with all eleven Orange defenders in a standing position, Syracuse to their credit had the Scarlet Knights offensive line confused and on their heels.
On the other hand, Rutgers to their credit didn’t panic and took what the defense gave them. Noah Vedral played within himself and did not try and force the issue. Vedral is not going to scare a good defense like Syracuse, but he did enough right to manage Rutgers to a win. I thought special teams would be the difference, but I was envisioning Aron Cruickshank taking a return or two to the house or at least give the Scarlet Knights field position. Turns out special teams did play a major role only it wasn’t by Cruickshank. Instead, it was a staple of Greg Schiano teams; blocking punts and the virtuoso punting of Adam Korsak that won the field position game that really won the game for us.
Still, for the Scarlet Knights to go bowling, the offense is going to have to be better. The offensive line, still a work in progress must continue to improve. While the Syracuse defense presented defensive packages that were designed to confuse, what was more troubling was that too many times the Orange defensive line simply beat the Scarlet Knights at the line of scrimmage. Many of the hand-offs from Vederal to Pacheco were not clean and while it is understood that these are designed to keep the defense guessing whether Vederal will keep the ball or hand it off, it didn’t matter who ended up with the ball because by the time the play developed, a Syracuse lineman was right there to join the party.
For much of the game, I was screaming at my tv set……………. “Throw it to Haskins.” My screaming at an inanimate object was finally rewarded when Vedral finally hit Jovani Haskins for the games first touchdown. But quick seam passes to Haskins was there numerous times. And we also have another good tight end in Matt Alaimo. I don’t recall any two tight-end packages that not only will give the offensive line help, but also gives the offense more options.
The goal was to go in there and get the win and that is what Greg Schiano’s team did. And this strategy likely will work against Delaware next week. But after Delaware comes the big boys and to get to six wins, Noah Vedral is going to have to show that he can stay in the pocket, take the hit, and make a few downfield throws against teams like Michigan and Penn State. Despite the offense being a work in progress, the only statistic that matters is being 2-0. To date, mission accomplished.