The offense remains a work-in-progress for Rutgers but any step in the right direction is important.
When the Scarlet Knights handed the keys to Nunzio Campanile prior to the bye week, the big question was how the unit was going to run. It was not going to turn into a juggernaut in one week but fans needed to see improvement.
In a 24-17 victory over Indiana, the Scarlet Knights racked up 305 total yards, including 192 on the ground. Most importantly, Rutgers was able to take care of the football.
“The key that we thought to win this game was to make sure we don’t turn the football over and keep their offense on the sideline,” head coach Greg Schiano said during his postgame press conference.
With all three quarterbacks healthy, Rutgers opted to go with Vedral for the duration of the game. The experience and leadership of Vedral was counted on under center. Right now, the Scarlet Knights do not have an option that will put up huge numbers but giving the keys to one player will benefit in the long run.
Will that be Vedral? That is yet to be seen. In typical fashion, Rutgers will continue to play it week to week with the quarterbacks.
“I think right now our quarterback room is growing and we’ll figure it out week to week,” Schiano said.
“The plan was to start Noah. As the game went on, me and Nunz talked about it numerous times, Gavin is definitely improving everyday and I’m excited to see what he’s going to become. When is his time to jump in there? I don’t know. He was the two this week.”
Vedral finished 12-for-24 for 113 yards and one touchdown. Schiano has made comments in the past about Vedral’s aspirations of coaching once his career comes to an end. His understanding of the offense helps as a game manager.
“Noah did exactly what we asked him to do,” Schiano said. “Be the point guard out there and distribute the ball to his playmakers. He was under center, which is different, and he was making the run checks. To me, if you’re making the right run checks, that’s as good as making an eight-yard pass.”
On Saturday, it was a lot of handing the ball to playmakers and targeting Johnny Langan.
In the past, Rutgers has fallen in love with using Langan as a ball carrier in the wildcat. That became predictable for opposing defenses. Against the Hoosiers, Langan had just one carry for two yards but was used as a pass catcher. Langan totaled five catches.
Samuel Brown V has established himself as the No. 1 running back on the depth chart. He logged 28 carries for 101 yards and one touchdown. Cruickshank was second on the team with five carries and 64 yards. Rutgers used the speed of Cruickshank on the outside paired with the bruising style of Brown.
“It’s not just today. I think we've all have seen him progressing but it’s a process,” Schiano said. “If you do it too early, when a guy’s not ready to take that step, it can have a detrimental effect. I think that Sam continued to show us each week that he deserved more touches and today, he had plenty of touches.”
As a freshman, Brown has stepped into the starting role and has a bright future in the backfield.
“He’s a tremendous athlete and you can see his athleticism with some of the cuts he makes,” Schiano said. “He’s a 220-pound man and he can stick a foot in the ground and changes direction. That’s special stuff. He’s got to continue to develop but he’s got a good head start.”
Is the hard part done? Quite the opposite. Teams will continue to gather film on Rutgers with Campanile running the show. One thing that is certain, the Scarlet Knights need to continue to pound the ball and take care of it. If Brown can establish the run and the quarterbacks hang onto the ball, the unit will improve week to week.