If you missed Rutgers’ triumph over Temple on Saturday, you would be forgiven for looking at the scoreboard and thinking the Scarlet Knights came into 2021 guns-a-blazing on offense. After all, the 61 points were the most the team has scored since a 65-0 victory over FCS member Morgan State in 2017. The last time Rutgers approached 60 on the scoreboard against an FBS opponent was when they put up 55 against Indiana in 2015. It wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine on offense, however.
Rutgers led 12-0 after the first quarter, scoring on a safety, a field goal and a 2-yard Johnny Langan touchdown run. Those two offensive drives accounted for 28 yards on 9 plays over three minutes. It’s hard to be upset with two scores on two offensive drives, especially since the Langan touchdown was the only play on that drive.
The Scarlet Knights were just 1-6 on third down conversations in the first quarter, however, and would punt three times to go along with the three scores. The first half was largely aided by an opportunistic defense and great field position. Rutgers’ average starting field position in the first quarter was their own 49-yard-line.
There was a point in the first half when Rutgers scored three touchdowns on three drives, so you can’t ask for more than that— though the team needed to move the ball a total of 52 yards for those three scores. At the end of the half, it was a 26-7 Rutgers lead fueled by a dominant defense and an offense doing just enough.
Rutgers Coach Greg Schiano said he would’ve drawn up the offense differently in the first half and let his team know the score wasn’t indicative of how the offense was playing.
“You know, things didn’t go smoothly for us,” Schiano said. “It wasn’t like things were just clicking, and we’ll find out why that is. I think, really, you look at it at halftime, I told the team, the score, there was a pretty big differential in the score but there wasn’t really a differential in yards and those kind of things, the third down conversions. The difference was the takeaways in the first half. ”
In the second quarter things weren’t just not clicking, they were stagnant. Rutgers had a total of three first downs compared to six by Temple and the Scarlet Knights totaled just 45 offensive yards.
Things looked better in the second half to complete the total team victory, but it wasn’t as if offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson unloaded a high-powered offense on the Owls, either.
“We have a lot of work to do,” said Schiano. “It was nice to be able to win the game convincingly in the second half and be able to learn from all the mistakes we had from a good victory. But we’ve really got to get better here between now and next Saturday going up to Syracuse.”
Those comments were directed to questions about the offense, not the team as a whole, and anyone watching the game saw the lack of convincing plays throughout the game. The longest play on offense was a 5-yard hitch from Noah Vedral that Bo Melton turned into a 40-yard receiving score. The only other play over 20 yards was a 21-yard scamper from Jamier Wright-Collins at the end of the game.
Speaking of running the football, there were two people on the Rutgers offense that should be applauded. Langan and Kyle Monangai accounted for four of the Scarlet Knights’ six rushing touchdowns. Langan keeps proving to be a lethal short yardage runner that can power his way into the end zone, and Monangai looked to be a great compliment to Langan and the backfield.
When asked about Monangai, Schiano said the running back “runs with great pad level, and he runs very aggressively and decisively.”
Statistically, Rutgers offense closely resembled Temple’s for most of the game, though they were able to add some plays in the closing quarter. Rutgers averaged 4.6 yards per play to Temple’s 4.1 and were out-passed 148 yards to 145. Nobody had a great day statistically on the ground, either. Vedral led the team with 58 rushing yards.
Rutgers was able to overcome the struggles with yardage, however, and get the ball in the end zone when they had the chance. No offensive penalties and zero sacks allowed helped them maintain the field position they were awarded. Question marks about the offensive line were quashed for this game, as they, along with the defense, were the dominate group on Saturday. The Scarlet Knights were inside the 20 on eight drives and seven of those ended with points, six of which were touchdowns. That was one aspect of the offense Schiano was happy with on Saturday, along with the way they battled.
“You have to find a way to keep poking and prodding and finding out where you’re going to be able to make some yards and then make some points,” Schiano said. “And that’s what we did today and eventually got it rolling a little bit with the help of some more takeaways and some good kicking plays.”