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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Mixed results

Rutgers did some good things in tonight's 38-0 win over Morgan State. 

You couldn't have asked for much more from the defense, which forced four turnovers -- four more than it had produced in the previous three games -- and held Morgan State to 109 yards of total offense. 

Devan James, the MEAC's leading rusher at 129.6 yards per game, managed only 37 yards on 15 carries. Damaso Munoz had eight tackles, a sack and an interception, Jamaal Westerman blocked a punt, tried to shove George Johnson out of the way on his way to the ball, then ran 20 yards, setting up a Jourdan Brooks touchdown. 

The secondary, which had been burnt time and time and time again by Fresno State, North Carolina, and even run-happy Navy, didn't give up a passing play of longer than 27 yards, and that was on a flea flicker on Morgan's first play from scrimmage. 

Offensively, Mike Teel probably played well enough to give him a little bit of confidence heading into next week's Big East opener at West Virginia, and though he could have played better and probably left some yardage on the table, Jourdan Brooks had three touchdowns in his second start. 

But is that enough for this team to turn a corner? 

At least for now, I don't think so. Teel completed his first eight passes, but only three of 10 after that, the running game managed only 93 against the weakest defense Rutgers is likely to see all year, and the passing game just isn't clicking all together. 

Tiquan Underwood, an All America candidate heading into the season, continues to be invisible. He had only two catches for 28 yards, even though Kenny Britt was serving a one-game suspension for violating team rules. 

And the offensive line, which was without Anthony Davis (also suspended for a rules violation) was unimpressive, especially on the right side. Mike Teel was hurried repeatedly in the first half, leading to a turnover when he fumbled and Morgan recovered. 

In general, it's tough to learn much from games like this unless the Bowl Subdivision team (I'm finally getting used to that term) comes close to losing to the Championship Subdivision team. That didn't happen tonight, but the Knights didn't crush the Bears either, and for the most part, it wasn't because Greg Schiano called the dogs off in the second half. 

The only thing that matters on paper, though, is that Rutgers finally has a win, and that the Knights have a clean slate with the start of Big East play. This team isn't going to the national championship game and won't be going to ANY bowl game without significant improvement, but they're in a five-way tie for first place in the Big East in the loss column (UConn and Pitt, which won conference games this week, are a half-game ahead, while Louisville and Syracuse are a half-game behind). 

That means there's still hope heading into Morgantown, where Rutgers has never won. We'll see next week if the Knights are really making any progress, and if they really have a chance to save their season. 


Anonymous Joe B. said...

It's definitely going to be more challenging heading into Big East play. But who knows what will happen? It's too early to count any teams out. There have been plenty of upsets already, and remember last season when the top spot in the polls resembled a revolving door?

September 28, 2008 9:05 PM 

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