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News, insights and analysis on the Rutgers football program

Saturday, October 27, 2007

OUCH! Knights lose 31-3

Rutgers might want to take a page out of ex-Yankee Scott Proctor's book and burn these black uniforms.

The rout is complete; final score: West Virginia 31, Rutgers 3.

Forget about a BCS bowl.

The Knights have a lot of work to do to make sure next week at UConn isn't loss No. 3 in the Big East.

24-3 Mountaineers

The sun is poking through and it's a little more bright here at the stadium, but things don't look so bright for the Knights.

Steve Slaton just scored his second touchdown from a yard out, and the Mountaineers have a commanding, 21-point lead with 3:59 left in the third quarter.

West Virginia looks every bit as good as their No. 6 ranking -- if not better -- while Rutgers, at least right now, doesn't look much better than a mid-level Big East team.

Half time stats

If you wanted to see teams run the ball, you're watching the right game.

The two teams combined for 216 rushing yards in the first half (113 for West Virginia, 103 for Rutgers).

Those numbers are skewed a little bit by a fumbled snap that cost the Mountaineers 23 yards. If you take away that snap, the Mountaineers have 136 rushing yards on 21 attempts.

Pat White has 12 carries for 72 yards and a touchdown (six yards per carry) and Steve Slaton has 8 carries for 65 yards and a touchdown (7.8 YPC).

Ray Rice has 76 yards on 19 carries for the Scarlet Knights (four yards per carry), while Jabu Lovelace has four carries for 24 yards (6 YPC)

White and Mike Teel have both attempted nine passes, but White has completed six for 54 yards while Teel has completed just three for 27 yards. That number, however, could easily be five completions for about 40 yards, but Tiquan Underwood dropped two catchable passes. Teel also had a would-be touchdown pass to Underwood broken up.

The rain has stopped -- at least for the time being -- and the sky is a little bit brighter, though the lights are still on.

The Mountaineers will receive to start the second half. A touchdown on their opening drive would likely put the game out of reach and force the Knights to start passing the ball a lot more, which they don't want to do.

We'll see if the Knights D is up to the challenge, both on this drive and for the rest of the game.

17-3 Mountaineers at the half

Pat McAffee kicked a 42-yard field goal as time expired in the first half and the Mountaineers take a two-touchdown lead into intermission.

The rain has essentially stopped and so has the wind, so we'll see if that has any impact in the second half.

If the Knights are going to have any chance of winning, they're going to have to stop the run.

More later.

14-0 Mountaineers

Surprise, surprise: the Knights are struggling to stop the run.

Pat White rushed in from one yard out, fumbling at the 1/2 yard line then recovering his own fumble in the end zone, to extend the West Virginia lead.

The Mountaineers, for what its worth, scored their 100th rushing touchdown in their last 27 games (3.71 per game).

I'm not sure what exactly the relevance of that stat is, but they announced it in the press box, so I thought I'd let you know about it.

7-0 Mountaineers after one

A 38-yard run by Steve Slaton is the difference so far. Ray Rice has 16 carries for 63 yards, but the Knights were plagued on their last drive by penalties on back-to-back plays and will punt on the first play of the second quarter.

It's raining steadily, which might be one reason why the Knights didn't pass once on their last drive and have done so only six times so far (they completed two, but Tiquan Underwood dropped two passes).

Teel starts

Rutgers won the toss and chose to receive, and Mike Teel is indeed in there as the starting QB. We'll see how that thumb injury impacts his play and whether he can make it through the whole game.

Girault will start; still not sure about Teel

Ron Girualt will start at strong safety for Rutgers. It's the first start for Girault since he injured his right ankle against Maryland.

We're still not sure about Mike Teel. He was announced as the starting QB over the PA system, but it was repeated in the press box that he is a "game-time decision." This is the first time all year a Rutgers player has been truly a "game-time decsision." Usually, those decisions are actually "game day decisions" and the starter is known by the time lineups are announced.

The other change in the starting lineup is Andres Morales making his first start at fullback. He's the third player to start at fullback this year, along with Jack Corcoran and Jean Beljour.

There are still plenty of empty seats about three minutes away from kickoff. It'll be interesting to see how many students shake off their hangovers and make it out to the stadium. Right now the student sections to our right in the temporary seating are less than half full, and there are scattered empty seats in the upper decks.

Greetings from Rainy Rutgers Stadium

Well, it wasn't easy, but I got here alive and in one piece.

Between the flooding on Route 18 and the muddy mess that was the parking lot, I was almost certain my car was going to spin out of control and be the main culprit in causing a 10-car pile-up. Fortunately, my prediction was false.

This game is as big as it gets for both teams. The winner controls its own destiny for winning the Big East and getting an automatic BCS bowl bid. The loser suffers its second conference loss and will need to win out and get a LOT of help if it even wants a chance.

My prediction in today's paper is West Virginia by seven, but if you pushed me for the second most likely outcome, it'd be Mountaineers by more than that. Rutgers -- which is wearing all black uniforms with its red helmets for the first time ever -- played very well last week against South Florida. But the Mountaineers, who are ranked sixth in the AP poll and seventh in the BCS standings, would be the No. 1 team in the country right now had they not turned the ball over six times against South Florida -- including two interceptions by backup quarterback Jarrett Brown after Pat White had to leave the game with a thigh bruise.

The biggest pregame news is that Mike Teel, who has a badly bruised right thumb, is going to be a game-time decision. If he can't go, Jabu Lovelace will make his first career start. I'm wondering if, especially given the rainy conditions, the Knights might be better off with Lovelace over an unhealthy Teel.

The rain could slow down the passing game significantly for both teams, and Lovelace is a quick, mobile guy who the Knights use from time to time on running plays.

Yet, then again, we've never seen Lovelace play a game for more than one play at a time, so it's a complete unknown how he'd do. And Lord knows, West Virginia isn't exactly the ideal team agaisnt which to make your collegiate debut.

We're about 45 minutes away from kickoff, and I'll check back in before game time with some information about the Knights QB situation.

Until then, sit back, relax, and read about the Celtics in your SI NBA preview.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Pandemonium in Piscataway, part deux

Highstown's Zaire Kitchen intercepted Matt Grothe's Hail Mary to seal the win, and the students and some other fans rushed the field to celebreate with the Knights.

That's two wins over top-3 teams on Thursday nights in two years.

More later.

27-20 Knights after three

Mike Teel may not be on his game tonight, but walk-on QB Andrew DePaola is. DePaula's 15-yard touchdown strike to Kevin Brock with 4:09 left in the third quarter gave the Knights a 27-17 lead, and they took a 27-20 lead into the final 15 minutes.

More after the game.

17-13 Bulls at the half

Jeremy Ito's second field goal attempt of the day ended in one of the most bizzare plays of the year -- with an illegal forward pass penalty against USF after the Bulls blocked the kick and recovered it.

His third attempt -- from 40 yards out -- was good, and the Knights are down by four at the half.

If the Knights lose, they'll have to look back at the fumbled punt by Brown, because right now, that's the difference in the game.

They've managed to be right in the game despite a bad first half from Mike Teel, largely because the defense -- a few plays not withstanding -- has been better than the score indicates, and because Ray Rice has been very, very good.

Hang onto your hats. I've got a feeling this one is going to go right down to the wire.

17-10 USF

With 4:21 left in the first half the Bulls have a 17-10 lead. Jeremy Ito is in to attempt a 48-yard field goal.

10-10 with 10:01 left in the half

A two-yard TD pass from Mike Teel to Tiquan Underwood tied it up, and the Knights defense just came up with a big sack -- credited to Joe Lefeged and Jamaal Westerman -- that forced USF to punt. The punt went into the end zone, so the Knights have it at the 20, looking to take back the lead.

It looks like this game might be won by the last team that has the ball.

10-3 Bulls after one

A 47-yard Delbert Alvarado field goal and an 18-yard Matt Grothe touchdown run have given the Bulls a seven-point lead after one, but the Knights are moving the ball quickly and have it at the USF 20 to begin the second quarter.

The Knigths went for a home run a few plays ago, with Mike Teel airing an endzone-bound pass to Tim Brown, but he overthrew it by 10 yards and it was nearly intercepted by Trae Williams.

The Knights have been a little shaky on defense, but the Bulls haven't been able to slow down Ray Rice, and that could prove to be very very good for the Knights.

This is a big posession. With the way this game figures to play out, a field goal here is unaccetable. The Knights have a chance to put the ball in the end zone, and they need to do that.

Game Time

What was expected to be the biggest crowd in Rutgers history is mostly here and most of them are waving around white towels reminiscent of the "homer hankies" that debuted during the 1987 World Series at the Metro Dome. Call them the "Rutgers rags" if you wish, or call them something else if you can think of anything better. Just don't call them the Terrible Towels, because they're white instead of yellow.

But whatever you want to call the towels, you've got to call this the biggest game of the year for Rutgers and maybe the biggest game in the short history of South Florida.

The only change to the starting lineup for either team is Glen Lee at strong safety for Rutgers over Ron Girault, who will miss his third straight game with an ankle injury.

We're minutes away from kickoff, so keep your lap top handy and enjoy the game; I'll check in after the first quarter.

The biggest game of the year

Good news and bad news for Yankee fans:

The bad news is Joe Torre turned down the team's offer to manage next year.

The good news is Carl Pavano will be in attendance at tonight's Rutgers-South Florida game, so you can get a glimpse of a guy you haven't seen in several months if you flip on ESPN and the cameras happen to catch him.

Pavano is just one of many New York athletes (if making eight starts qualifies you as a New York athlete) in attendance. David Wright will be on the sidelines, as will Rutgers product and Giants starting center Shaun O'Harra. A number of other Giants regulars including Michael Strahan and Plaxico Burress will also be in attendance, and there's a rumor floating around the press box that Killy Ripa -- whose husband is apparently a USF alumn -- is also going to be here.

Rutgers issued a record 340 credentials, and I could barely move in the press box when I went to get my pre-game pulled pork sandwich.

As has been widely talked about, this game really is going to make or break the Knights' season.

Win and they're 5-2, 2-1 in the Big East and alive and well heading into next week's game agaisnt West Virginia.

Lose and they're a three-loss team that won't be imporant to anyone outside of New Jersey -- or to some people in New Jersey.

South Florida is No. 2 in the country for a reason. The Bulls are fast and talented at every position -- especially on defense --, they're well-coached and have risen to the occasion every time they've had to this year.

Kickoff is in about 75 minutes, so relax, take in the pre-game hype, and I'll check in right before game time.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

24-14 Knights after three

As far as the third quarter goes, there's nothing to report from an offensive standpoint.

Syracuse might have had something brewing, but the Orange went for it on fourth-and-one and Andrew Robinson threw the ball out of bounds on what would have given them a first down inside the Rutgers 30.

The Knights have the ball on the Syracuse 41 after a big run by Ray Rice, and a score here could go a long way towards putting this one away.

The good news for the Knights is that while they haven't played extremely well, they haven't given up any points for the past two quarters. A third straight scoreless 15 minutes would be a nice way to end things and go into the short week of preparation they'll have for South Florida on a high note.

More after the game.

24-14 Knights at the half

It wasn't the prettiest half you could draw up. In fact, it was the ugliest first quarter you could draw up, and the second quarter wasn't great either.

But at the half the Knights lead 24-14 after Jeremy Ito missed a 45-yard field goal attempt that could have made it 27-14 on the final play of the half.

They're where they want to be, but Greg Schiano has to be hoping for better things in the second half.

21-14 Knights

Mike Teel just hit Kenny Britt for a 42-yard touchdown pass and the Knights have their first lead of the game at 21-14 with 7:55 left in the first half.

14-7 Orange

This isn't good. It isn't good at all. Tim Brown just dropped a pass right in his hands and with the first quarter coming to a close, the Knights are punting from their own 28, trailing 14-7.

Mike Teel's first pass of the game was intercepted, and the Orange scored on their third play from scrimmage. Then Curtis Brinkley -- who came into the game averaging a paltry 2.6 yards per carry and had only one touchdown -- scored to make it 14-0.

Ray Rice scored on a seven yard run to make it 14-7, but the Rutgers defense is making the country's 116th-ranked offense look a lot better than it is. And the Knights have been plagued by penalties, incuding an offisdes call on Howard Barbieri, an offensive tackle who's being used as s tight end.

The Knights better turn this around. If they don't, it will be a low point in the season that no one thought they'd ever reach.

Game Time

James Townsend reutrend the opening kickoff past the 50 and we're under way.

Anthony Davis is making his first collegiate start at right guard for the Knights, and we'll see when the Knights defense gets on the field whether Highstown's Zaire Kitchen or Glen Lee is starting for Ron Girault at strong safety.

There's a small but vocal contingent of Rutgers fans on hand, and plenty of seats available if you happen to be in the Syracuse area

Greetings from the Carrier Dome

First of all, its a LOT colder outside than I expected, and I expected it to be pretty cold.

I gues that's why the Orange play in a dome, eh?

Another thing that surprised me about driving out west: i'm not an expert on radio frequencies -- I assume its because its easy for radio signals to travel over water and relatively flat land -- but I was able to pick up a Cleveland station on the Indians network to listen to last night's Sox-Tribe game in Western New Jersey, then an ESPN raio affiliate from Chicago when I was in Binghamton, N.Y. And the ESPN signal was crystal clear, unlike 1050 in New York, which you can't even get in Piscataway.

But as happy I am about baseball, we are here for a football game, and it's a game the Scarlet Knights really need to win running away to feel good about themselves after losses the past two weeks.

The Orange are coming off of a 55-14 trouncing at the hands of West Virginia last week and in the midst of one of the worst seasons in school history. That, however, could work in favor of the Orange. They're a youn team -- sophomore QB Andrew Robinson is their best offensive player -- with nothing to lose. And they might have enough confidence from their shocking upset win over Louisville to think they can beat anyone in the Big East. Or at least to think they can beat Rutgers, which looks like at best, the fourth best team in the league behind, in no particular order, West Virginia, South Florida and Cincinnati.

The Knights are the last Division I-A team (I've given up on saying "Bowl Subdivision and I'm not going to say it again until someone makes me) to play a road game, so we'll see how they respond to having a little noise when they're on offense.

We're a little more than an hour away from kickoff, and I'll check in right before game time.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Knights lose 28-23

If you're booking tickets to see the Scarlet Knights in a bowl game, start looking for hotels in Birmingham, Charlotte or Toronto.

It's far more likely they'll be heading to either the PapaJohns, Meineke Car Care or International Bowls than the Orange, Sugar, Fiesta or Rose Bowls after dropping their second straight and slipping to 0-1 in the Big East.

Mike Teel threw for 334 yards but was intercepted a season-high three times, including once in the final two minutes that halted a potential game-tying drive.

The Knights didn't play their best when they needed to, and fell victim to a team that is cruising towards the top 15 after starting the season 6-0.

I'm getting outta here for the night, but I'll put up some more quotes, stats and comments tomorow before the Sox game.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

17-7 Knights at the half

With the first half in the books, the Scarlet Knights have to feel good about themselves heading into the locker room.

Ray Rice scored his school-record-breaking 35th touchdown to add to the lead, and if the Knights can hold on for 30 minutes, they'll have a win over a top-20 team and a 1-0 conference record.

With that said, there's a long way to go, so hang onto your seats.

10-7 Knights

Jeremy Ito just kicked a 27-yard field goal with 12;59 left in the first half to give the Knights a 10-7 lead. Ito has made six straight field goals and the Knights have the lead for the second time.

Devin McCourty made it 7-0 by picking off a Ben Mauk pass and taking it in for a 36-yard touchdown, but the Bearcats came back with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Mauk to Dominick Goodman late in the quarter.

The Knights just mounted a 12-play, 76-yard drive that led to Ito's field goal.

The Knights have done an excellent job putting pressure on Mauk and have forced him to make several bad throws, including the one that was intercepted by McCourty.

We should be in for a heckuva last 43 minutes here, so stay tuned and I'll check in again at the half.

Game Time

Ray Rice's mom is sitting in the front row holding up a sign that reads "HeismanTrophy Dinner: Serving Rice."

It'll be interesting to see what kind of strides towards the Heisman Rice takes tonight, but more importantly, what kind of strides he makes towards helping the Knights win.

It's 79 degrees and mostly clear, with no signs of the swarming gnats that were hovering around Joba Chamberlain's head last night at Jacobs Field as we get set to kick off.

The one change to the Knights' lineup is as expected: Glen Lee will start at strong safety in place of the injured Ron Girault, with Hightstown's Zaire Kitchen moving up from third to second on the depth chart.

Jeff Linkenbach will start at right tackle for Cincinnati, replacing Khalil El Amin (no relation that I know of to the starting point guard on the 1999 national championship UConn basketball team who had an identical name except for having a different last letter of his first name).

I'll have more after the first quarter.

Greetings from Rutgers Stadium

For the first time this year, I arrived at the Stadium not knowing who's going to win.

Now, last Saturday I KNEW Rutgers was going to beat Maryland, and we all know how that turned out.

But this game really is a toss-up between the 21st-ranked Scarlet Knights and what Greg Schiano earlier this week called "the hottest team in college football": No. 20 Cincinnati.

This is as close to a must-win as it gets. A win and the Knights are back on the right track, and will have an easy path to a 2-0 conference start with a cupcake next week at Syracuse. A loss and after just five games, the Knights will have equaled last season's loss total and with West Virginia and South Florida still left to play in the Big East, pretty slim hopes of reaching a BCS bowl.

The Bearcats are 5-0 for the first time in 53 years, ranked in the top 20 for the first time in 31 years, and leading the country in turnover margin.

I don't THINK this will be easy for the Knights.

Yet then again, I DID think last week's game would be relatively easy.

I guess as the old saying goes, that's why they play the games.

I'll check in around game time and let you know about any last-minute depth chart changes or new developments.

And by the way, it's not a bad time to be a Red Sox fan, eh?