Through two games Rutgers has battled a few formidable positional groups. Temple has a pair or threats at wide receiver and Syracuse has an exceptional running game. Rutgers talented (great? elite?) defense was able to keep both groups in check.
There will be time during their conference schedule where Rutgers’ offense will have to be a key factor, but this week they go up against another key group on defense. Delaware has a good offense and they are pretty varied in their attack. Quarterback Nolan Henderson might be the best known of the bunch, but a matchup to watch this week should be the Delaware offensive line and the Scarlet Knights pass rush.
For the first two weeks, the Rutgers defense has kept their foes strong suit at bay, along with the rest of the offenses. Temple’s top receivers were held to 38 and 9 yards on a total of two receptions. Syracuse accumulated 67 yards on 30 carries. Sean Tucker, the Orange’s most dangerous player produced a total of 83 yards on 17 touches.
The Blue Hens currently rank 6th in the FCS and are averaging 30.5 points per game through two games. They are pretty balanced so far, actually having run the ball more than they’ve passed it. Some of that has probably to do with Delaware winning both of their games and trying to run the clock out, as they’ve run it 83 times compared to passing it 52. But running the ball isn’t Delaware’s bread and butter; averaging 2.9 yards per carry with a long of a 21-yard carry.
With that being said, Rutgers should have no issue taking care of the run against Delaware. They do have talented runners led by Dejoun Lee, but it shouldn’t be more than the Scarlet Knights can handle. That brings the passing game into the forefront. If Rutgers stops the run and makes Delaware one dimensional, it will be up to the Blue Hen’s offensive line to keep the Scarlet Knights’ compliment of pass rushers out of the backfield. While their size is not quite FBS level, they do have a majority of offensive lineman weighing at or over 300 pounds.
Syracuse’s offensive line wasn’t able to stop the Rutgers defense from wreaking havoc on their quarterbacks. The Scarlet Knights were in the backfield all day and came away with six sacks from six different defenders. They pushed the Orange back 34 yards on sacks throughout the game, helping the special teams and offense with field position.
Against Temple, Rutgers came away with three sacks, including one that resulted in a safety, and added six quarterback hits. Olakunle Fatukasi sacked D’Wan Mathis all three times in the contest. For the season, the Scarlet Knights have forced their opposition into tossing three interceptions as well. Delaware has thus far given up three sacks for 24 yards and Henderson has not thrown an interception.
Rutgers has been substituting between eight and 10 players on the defensive line, keeping it fresh and giving their opponents different looks throughout the game. If they are able to keep up the pressure, after stopping Delaware from running, the defense could come away with another phenomenal performance. Mike Tverdov, Aaron Lewis, Mayan Ahanotu, Ifeanyi Maijeh, Julius Turner, CJ Onyechi, and Mohamed Toure have all made their presences felt at different points through the first two game. Having that much talent on the defensive line should help push the Blue Hens around to get to Henderson for a few sacks and put pressure on him to make errand throws.
After two games against two position groups with impressive talent, it’s time for Rutgers defense to show up one more time in non-conference play to help the Scarlet Knights to a 3-0 start. Can the talent on the defensive line get the best of Delaware in the passing game after shutting down the run?