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News, insights and analysis on the Rutgers football program

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Schiano teleconference

Here's what Greg Schiano had to say on today's teleconference.

On how the Knights came out of the game health-wise: The guys are sore. Obviously George and Pete. Mike Gilmartin got banged up a little bit and he was able to come back and play. Greeney got an ankle and he was able to come back and play. I’m sure we’ll be sore tonight.

On the offensive line: I don’t give it a pass. We need to be able to play the five guys, whoever the five are. They were doing some things defensively that like I said last night, sometimes I think we would have checked out of a play and run something and we didn’t do that, we tried to run it right into the teeth of the blitz and see if we could. Sometimes it did (work) and sometimes it didn’t but we need to become more consistent in how the offensive line how we hold that block. When you have a blitz and you have a blitzer in the backfield we need to be able to turn that blitzer away and we didn’t do that several times.

On the running game: I think just what I said: that was mostly the reason for it. We didn’t stay on some of our blocks. I didn’t think our fullbacks, our tight ends did not block the way they’re capable of blocking. Morgan state did some things that are not easy to handle, but its your man, you need to block him.

On first three opponents: I thought they were good teams when we played them but I don’t ever think much about that. It’s in the past. What we need to know is where we failed to get the job done in those games and the reason for that, and try to get it corrected. That’s what we’ve been trying to do. It’s a work in progress every day.

On how running backs ran: thought we had a couple of plays that we just flat-out couldn’t make because we didn’t run them. It’s hard though with running backs. You start questioning a running back’s eyes than he starts questioning them. After the fact when you teach you try to present what we want them to do next time.

On the play of wideout Tim Brown: Well I thought the fact that he got to play, he’s played a little more each game. The fact that he made an extraordinary catch, obviously that continues to boost his confidence. Tims a guy who we’d like to get more and more involved in the offense.

On how ready the team is for West Virginia: We have a long way to go. There’s no doubt about that. But I think that’s how most coaches feel right about now. You had your first three or four or five games. This is where you sart to define your season.

On whether or not West Virginia QB Pat White’s thumb injury makes preparation difficult because White may not play: I think they’re both athletic quarterbacks. Pat White is certainly one of the premier players in the country. But we saw the backup quarterback two years ago and he’s a fine player. We know him well, we recruited him out of high school. They’re a very talented football team and a very talented offense as well.

On Courtney Green’s late hit in the second half: It was a tough one. I know part of the rationale is that it was away from the play, but it’s hard to tell if the whistle was blown and I’m not sure if the whistle was blown. We all teach our kids to play one way: you play through the whistle and whether you’re away from the play or you’re not away from the play, you play through the whistle because if you’re away from the play and you’re watching you might get hurt. I can see where somebody might say that’s away from the play, why’s he doing it? But that’s on us because we tell our guys you have to play through it.

On whether defensive pass interference should have been called on Chris Paul-Etienne’s fourth-quarter interception: I’m not going to get into that. You can watch the tv replay and figure it out. I think its very hard; one of the things I like about how our officials are doing things now is, if you need a tv and a remote control to determine if it was a defensive pass interference, than you know what? We’re asking those guys to do too much with the naked eye because if you have to slow it down to figure out if it was simultaneous contact or if there was contact before the ball got there … so I’m in agreement with the philosophy that we’re playing with in this league that it’s got to be a DPI to be called a DPI.

On Kordell Young’s status: He’s made improvement each week so im hoping that one of these weeks coming up he’s going to be ready to go because he ads another dimention to our running game.

On the status of Pete Tverdov and George Johnson: Those two guys I’m sure are going to be sore tonight. They were sore after the game. But they’re going to be sore. But I think they’re going to be able to go next week but tonight I would question if they were going to be able to go.

On whether or not it’s a new season with the start of Big East play next week: I know this sounds like coach speak but every game is a new season, every game is its own season, and that’s the way we approach it. We play 12 one game seasons. The previous week has nothing to do with the current week and the week after this has very little to do with it. You only play 12 games, every game is its own season.

.. Everything is a product of your experiences. Im not saying that’s the case. But you try to limit that. You try to teach the players not to go there because other than the experiences you learn from, you want to drop all that stuff because otherwise it creates clutter in the mind. As a player, you think this is why it happened last time, and then they apply a different scheme and they employ a different coverage scheme, and if its all running together then its dangerous. As coaches you need to make it very clear what they need to take from the previous games and what they need to learn from those games and everything else you have to flush it.

On the importance of turnovers in a game like next week’s: That is critical. That is the game of football. You need possession to score points. There’s only one way you can score points without a possession and that’s a safety so just the football is the number one thing. That’s the name of the game literally and its also the name of the game figuratively because you have to have the ball and when you turn it over whether it be an interception or a fumble it has more of an effect than just you don’t have the ball anymore. It has a mental effect, it has an effect on crowd involvement. I think that’s where it gets you on the road. You get the home crowd going on a turnover and it just boosts the momentum even more. That’s a key moment in the game.

On Mike Teel’s performance: I think Mike, in the Navy game I thought Mike really had a really good mentality up until the very end when he got frustrated. This game I thought he kept that mentality and really played the way we’d like him to play so hopefully he can feel good about that but again the only thing that’s going to matter is if he comes out with that same approach against west Virginia but there is some human element that carries forward, some good feelings and bad. The procress is what we’d like to carry over and that’s what we’ll try to really emphasize.

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. 

Morgan State at Rutgers

My apologies for being AWOL all week. My services were needed in the office every day, and that didn't leave any time to get up to practice or do any blogging. 

Here at Rutgers Stadium, there's a light rain falling as the Scarlet Knights get set to take on Morgan State in what should be RU's first win. We'll keep the post open for updates, but for starters, here's the game day package in today's paper. 

Update, 3:25: Wide receiver Kenny Britt and left tackle Anthony Davis have both been suspended for the game for violating team policy. Dennis Campbell will start at wide receiver for Britt, Kevin Haslam will move from left guard to left tackle in place of Davis, and Howard Barbieri will make his first career start at left guard. 

Update, 3:43: That was easy. Rutgers plowed through Morgan State's defense on a nine-play, 66-yard touchdown drive to take a 7-0 lead on Jourdan Brooks' one-yard run with 10:22 left in the first quarter. Mike Teel looked sharp, competing all three passing attempts and moving into third place on the Knights' all-time passing list. Brooks, Joe Martinek and Mason Robinson all touched the ball out of the backfield. 

Update, 4:05: Nine plays, 86 yards, six minutes, and another touchdown for Rutgers, this one on a four-yard run by Mason Robinson for the sophomore's first career TD. It's 14-0 Knights with 1:43 left in the first quarter. 

Update, 4:09: Everything is going Rutgers' way. The Knights finally forced a turnover -- becoming the last Bowl Subdivision team to do so -- when Ryan D'Imperio recovered Devan James' fumble at the Morgan State 29, and two plays later, Jourdan Brooks scored another touchdown to put the Knights ahead 21-0 with 12 seconds left in the first quarter. Brooks has four touchdowns in two games as the Knights' starting tailback. Mike Teel is 6-for-6 passing, and hit Kevin Brock for a 25-yard gain on the Knights' most recent scoring drive. 

Update, 4:32: Jamaal Westerman blocked a Morgan State punt and scurried 20 yards, putting Rutgers in perfect shape to score on Jourdan Brooks' third touchdown and take a 28-0 lead with 8:50 left in the first half.

Update, 4:52: Mike Teel's 25-yard touchdown pass to Tim Brown made it 35-0 Rutgers with 2:57 left in the first half. Right tackle Mike Gilmartin went down with an apparent ankle injury, and Marlon Romulus came in to replace him on the line. The Knights inserted Romulus at left guard and moved Howard Barbieri to right tackle. 

Update, 4:59: After failing to produce a turnover through three games -- even when all other 118 FBS teams had produced one -- Rutgers has forced four turnovers today after Damaso Munoz's interception gave the Knights the ball on the Morgan State 44 with 14 seconds left in the first half. The pick was the first of Munoz's career. 

Update, 5:30: Mike Teel is back on the field with the offense to start the third quarter. Mike Gilmartin is back after suffering an injury in the second quarter. 

Update, 6:04: Here's Chris Paul Etienne to start the fourth quarter, with Rutgers ahead 38-0. 

Update, 6:35: Finally, Rutgers has a win: 38-0. Next week, things are going to be a LOT more difficult when the Knights head to Morgantown for their Big East opener. 

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Rutgers at Navy

Greetings from Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, where Rutgers is set to play Navy in search of its first win. The Knights have won three straight and six out of seven in the series, and they badly need a win today. 

Today's paper has a story previewing the game and our gameday page. 

The game is on the CBS College Sports Network, and per usual, on the Rutgers radio network. We'll have tidbits here throughout the game, which will hopefully help folks who don't get CBS college sports (or those who do but want to follow here anyway) follow the action. 

Guests here include Ray Rice and Brandon Renkart on the Rutgers sideline, and Navy alum John McCain, who's here for his class' 50th reunion. McCain is hoping to become part of an answer to the greatest trivia question of all time: which four schools have produced a President of the United States and a Super Bowl winning QB? 

The Midshipmen, of course, have produced Jimmy Carter and Roger Staubach, while Michigan has given us Tom Brady and Gerald Ford, Stanford has produced John Elway, Jim Plunkett and Herbert Hoover, and Miami of Ohio has given us Ben Roethlisberger and Benjamin Harrison

Update, 3:20: The Midshipmen are in formation on the field, and we're 10 minutes from kickoff. Pitt held off Iowa 21-20, so the Big East is 3-1 this week. The Panthers joined Louisville and UConn, both of whom knocked off Big 12 teams, in the win column. We'll see if the Scarlet Knights can make it four. 

Update, 3:29: Jourdan Brooks will start at tailback for Rutgers in place of Kordell Young. It's the first career start for Brooks, a redshirt freshman from Germantown, Md. who's making his first collegiate appearance in his home state. It's the second straight game Knights has been held out with a sore knee. 

Update, 3:49: After Rutgers went three-and-out on its opening drive, Navy drove 11 plays and 50 yards to set up a 36-yard field goal by Matt Harmon, and the Mids lead 3-0 with 8:25 left in the first quarter. 

Update, 4:05: All of a sudden, Rutgers has a running game. Jourdan Brooks had six carries to help set up Joe Martinek's first career touchdown on a five-yard run that put the Knights up 7-3. 

Update, 4:12: Emmet Merchant's 57-yard kickoff return put the Mids on the Rutgers 34 yard line, and six plays later, Matt Harmon kicked a 26-yard field goal to make it 7-6 with 24 seconds left in the first quarter. 

Update, 4:43: Devin McCourty's punt block put Rutgers on the Navy 14, and Jourdan Brooks' first career touchdown -- on a six-yard run -- gave the Knights a 14-6 lead with 5:16 left. The drive: Three plays, 15 yards, 2:01. 

Update, 4:57: Rutgers blew a scoring opportunity when Tiquan Underwood fumbled a Mike Teel pass at the four-yard line and Navy recovered in the end zone for a touchback. The pass was initially ruled incomplete, but video replay showed Underwood had the ball, spun around and lost it, giving the Mids the ball back and sending the Knights to the locker room with a 14-6 lead at the half. The 1958 Navy Cotton Bowl team is being honored on the field. 

Update, 5:24: Kaip-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada found Tyree Barnes in the corner of the end zone a 22-yard touchdown pass that capped a seven-play, 82-yard scoring drive, and the Mids are within a point at 14-13 with 11:37 left in the third quarter. Navy had 77 passing yards on the drive, 33 more than it had for the entire game last year against the Knights. Barnes moved into seventh place on the all-time Navy receiving touchdown list with seven. 

Update, 5:51: Eric Kettani's two-yard touchdown run put the Mids on top 20-14 with 3:55 left in the third quarter. The Mids' 94-yard drive was their longest since 2004. 

Update, 5:59: Navy leads 20-14 at the end of the third quarter. Navy has the ball facing fourth and one from its own 40. Rutgers needs a comeback to avoid its first 0-3 start since 2001. 

Update, 7:38: To say the least, it's been a breakout game for Jourdan Brooks, who scored on a 12-yard touchdown run to put Rutgers ahead 21-20 with 7:38 left in the game. Brooks has 22 carries for 134 yards and two TDs, this all coming from a converted fullback who never had more than three our four carries in a game in high school. Brooks is the first Rutgers freshman with more than 100 rushing yards in a game since Ray Rice in 2005. 

Update, 6:33: OK, Mike Teel. Time to show us what you're made of. Matt Harmon's 26-yard field goal gave Navy a 23-21 lead with 2:06 left and it'll be up to Teel to lead the Knights on a do-or-die drive in the two minute drill. 

Update, 6:38. Ross Popisil intercepted Mike Teel's pass with 1:34 left and Navy beat Rutgers 23-21. The Knights are 0-3 for the first time in nine years and will need a minimum of four Big East wins just to be bowl eligible. 

Friday, September 19, 2008


The Rutgers players I talked to earlier this week had a lot of nice things to say about the guys they'll be lining up against tomorrow in Annapolis, and today's paper has a story about what Greg Schiano called the "healthy respect" his players have for the Midshipmen. 

I don't think I've ever heard players on any team answer questions about their next opponents by saying "oh yeah, we have no respect for them whatsoever," so it isn't as if the concept of respecting your opponents is new. But it's different when your opponents are future Naval officers who will some day be putting their lives on the line for, as several Rutgers players said this week, Americans' "right to play football." 

Kevin Malast, whose brother went to VMI, said knowing what his brother went through there without playing a sport, he's in awe of the Mids for taking on that many responsibilities. 

I'm pretty amazed by it, too. When I was in college, I thought I was busy because I worked for the student newspaper and tried pretty hard in all my classes. Compared to ANY student at any of the service academies, that's a walk in the park. 

But  these guys go to class (and take academics seriously, or they wouldn't be future officers), do a ton of military training, AND practice or play football almost every day of the week. That's basically three incredibly difficult full-time jobs all at once, for guys (it'd really be stupid to call them "kids" when they're training to be Naval officers) who are 18-22 years old. 

And it isn't like they're no good at football, either. Over the last five years, the Mids are 43-20 with five bowl appearances. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Football and insomnia

Sleep? Who needs sleep?

Being a sports editor is a little like being a football coach, only with less film-watching and game-planning and more box score-complining and and high-school-soccer-story-reading. The point is, neither profession places an emphasis on sleep, and so at 3:22 a.m., this post comes to you live from The Trentonian news room, where the TV in the corner is showing highlights of the Eagles-Cowboys game for the 58th time.

Greg Schiano's press conference Monday was unlike any I've been to over the past two seasons. In spite of the Knights' humiliating 44-12 loss last week to North Carolina, I thought Schiano was actually in a better mood than he's been in at some other pressers. It was as if he figured things couldn't get any worse than they were last week, so there's no reason to be up-tight about anything.

At one point, Paul Franklin from the Home News Tribune suggested if Schiano were a fan, he'd have the best seats in the house, and Schiano quipped, "not if we keep playinglike this I won't."

The Knights play at Navy on Saturday with a good chance to pick up their first win of the season.
I'd be surprised if the Midshipmen could pull off the upset, but that has more to do with my opinion of Navy than it does my opinion of Rutgers. The Midshipmen are 1-2, having lost to Ball State (remember them?) and Duke in the last two weeks.

Quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada is expected to start after missing the first two games of the season with a torn hamstring, then leaving the Duke game in the third quarter because of heat exhuastion. He, along with slot back Shun White, make a dangerous tandem in Navy's trademark triple option offense, but the Midshipmen have been woeful this year at defending the pass, which would seem to give Mike Teel and Co. an opportunity to finally get going. Yet then again, if the Knights don't really get things together, maybe the opposite is true: Rutgers will give Navy's secondary a chance to get back on track.

The Knights opened the week as five-point favorites. I think even given the once-in-a-century instability on Wall Street, one of the dumbest things you can do with your money is use it to gamble on sports, but were I forced to place a wager, I'd take Rutgers to cover. But then again, I picked the Knights to win by 10 in each of their first two games, and look what happened. That's why I don't gamble.

Anyway, today's paper has a story about the responsibility the Rutgers captains have to lead the team out of this mess. With that, the fact that ESPN is now showing a re-run of Saturday's Maryland-Cal game tells me I need to get out of here.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Witherspoon enrolls

Marcus Witherspoon, a freshman linebacker from Atlantic City enrolled at Rutgers and attended classes Monday after transfering from Michigan.

Witherspoon, one of the top defensive players from New Jersey, was enrolled in summer courses at Michigan and reportedly needed to pass an online sociology course in order to quality academically.

Witherspoon told The Press of Atlantic City that he got an ‘A’ in the class, but Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez announced at the beginning of the fall semester that he had not qualified academically.

The NCAA then further investigated his case and declared him eligible, paving the way for him to join the Rutgers program.

Per NCAA rules, he is required to redshirt this season, but can practice with the Knights and be on the active roster next season.Witherspoon, who led Holy Spirit High School to a 12-0 season and the state Public III championship last year, chose Michigan over Rutgers, Florida and Tennessee among others, then reaffirmed his commitment to Michigan when coach Lloyd Carr retired and was replaced by Rich Rodriguez.

When he decided to transfer, Schiano said, Rutgers was interested.“We got back involved when there was a coaching change at (Michigan), he took an official visit, and I really thought we had a chance there, but he decided to stick with his decision,” Schiano said. “But then it didn’t work out (at Michigan).

“We received a phone call from his coach saying he had an interest, and we definitely had an interest.”

Witherspoon, rated a four-star recruit by, led the state with 27 sacks and made 125 solo tackles last year at Holy Spirit. “He’s our kind of kid, I really believe,” Schiano said. “He’s a great player and a really fine person and I think he’ll do a great job.”

Friday, September 12, 2008

Pathetic in Piscataway

No one could have predicted it would have been this bad for Rutgers, which suffered a humiliating, 44-12 loss Thursday night to North Carolina.

The gamer.

The replay box.

A side bar on the running backs.

A notebook looking at the 9/11 ceremonies.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

North Carolina at Rutgers

Greetings from Rutgers Stadium, where the Scarlet Knights host the Tar Heels on ESPN Thursday night football. We're going to do things a little differently this week and use this as an open post for game updates, rather than put up separate posts during the game. 

To get started, a few links: 

The advance in today's paper. 

The gameday page. 

Follow this link to get to the radio broadcast online. 

Update, 7:40: We're minutes from kickoff, and have a couple depth chart changes: Most notably, Mason Robinson will start at running back in place of Kordell Young. Also, as expected, defensive end Gary Watts is out with a knee injury, and freshman Eric LeGrand replaced him on the two-deep. LeGrand and Jonathan Freeny will back up starters George Johnson and Jamaal Westerman.  Fans were handed mini American flags before the game along with white towels, and the towels are waving everywhere after the Knights came out of the tunnel. 

Update, 7:58: San San Te's 34-yard field goal -- the first of his career -- gave the Knights their first lead of the season at 3-0 with 10 minutes to play in the first quarter. Mike Teel completed 4-of-5 passes, narrowly avoiding an interception when Trimane Goddard let one slip through his hands. Jourdan Brooks got his first career carry on a third-and-short and rushed nine yards for a key, drive-extending first down. The drive: eight plays, 56 yards, 3:55 resulting in Ice Te's field goal. 

Update, 8:18: Rutgers' second drive stalled after Tiquan Underwood and Kenny Britt were drilled by defensive backs and dropped passes on consecutive plays. Teddy Delleganna's punt went into the end zone and the Heels took over at the 20 after a touchdback. 

Update, 8:27: Rutgers leads 3-0 at the end of the first quarter. Mason Robinson carried the ball six yards on the Knights' first play of their third drive, and the Knights will start the second quarter with a 2nd-and-4 at their own 33. Jamaal Westerman sacked UNC QB T.J. Yates for a nine-yard loss, forcing the Heels to punt on their previous possession. 

Update, 8:34: Jay Wooten's first career field goal attempt was good from 43 yards out, putting the Tar Heels on the board and tying the game at 3 with 13:26 left in the first half. Mike Teel was intercepted by Charles Brown to give the Heels the ball back deep in Rutgers territory. Teel has thrown three interceptions this year and no touchdown passes. 

Update, 8:45: Talk about secondary breakdowns. Hakeem Nicks couldn't have been more wide open in the end zone. Yates hit him with a nine-yard touchdown strike, and the Heels took a 10-3 lead with 9:28 left. Jason McCourty appeared to be giving an earful to teammate Courtney Greene after the play. 

Update, 8:57: Rutgers capped a 12-play scoring drive with a 32-yard Te field goal, making it 10-6 with just over five minutes left in the first half. Te is 2-for-2 today after going 0-for-2 in the opener. 

Update, 9:10: After T.J. Yates and Brandon Tate hooked up for a 69-yard touchdown to put the Heels up 17-6, Mike Teel threw his second interception of the game, his fourth of the year and his 40th of his career, turning the ball back over to the Teels for one final drive in the first half. 

Update, 9:12: North Carolina leads 17-6 at the half. The Knights need to get the passing game back on track and absolutely, positively can't afford any more secondary breakdowns in the second half if they want to come back and win this thing. 

Update, 9:50: If Rutgers is going to come back, the Knights will need a memorable surge to do it. Brandon Tate scored on an end-around to make it 24-6 Heels, and the Knights have the ball on their own 40 with 11:40 left in the third quarter. 

Update, 10:06: Midnight madness is in less than a month, and maybe it was fitting that Rutgers men's basketball coach Fred Hill walked through the press box just before North Carolina scored yet another touchdown to take a 38-6 lead. After all, the young, talented men's basektball team may be easier for Knights fans to watch than this football team, which is being thoroughly embarrassed on national TV. The Heels' drive: seven plays, 68 yards, 3:07, with an 11-yard touchdown pass from T.J. Yates to Hakeem Nicks. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

9/11, scouts

Thursday's game will be played on the seventh anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, and today's paper has a story on Mike Teel's recollection of that day and his worries about his father, Mike Sr., who's a Port Authority police officer. 

Fans at Thursday's game will be handed mini American flags, and there will be pregame ceremonies, including a military flyover before kickoff. 

Assistant AD for athletic communications Jason Baum said there will be 20 scouts at the game -- the most since Baum came to Rutgers in 2006. Among those in attendance will be Giants GM Jerry Reese, Colts president Bill Polian, and Vikings GM Rick Spielman. 

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Getting the offense going

Rutgers had its first full-throttle practice of the week Thursday, vowing to right the wrongs that plagued all three phases -- but particularly the offense -- during Monday's 24-7 loss to Fresno State.  The Knights also worked out Wednesday, but the session was closed to the media, so Thursday was our first chance to catch up with the players since Monday's game. 

It doesn't appear any major personnel changes will be made on either side of the ball, though Greg Schiano indicated Dennis Campbell could get another shot returning punts instead of Mason Robinson. 

But the Knights are going to have to do something in the passing game to compensate for opponents double-teaming Kenny Britt, which Fresno did on Monday and North Carolina will likely do next Thursday. Throwing the ball more to Kevin Brock is certainly an option, and Schiano first addressed the issue in Tuesday's day-after conference call. Schiano said yesterday Rutgers will also try to get the ball more to Tim Brown, Campbell, and Jack Corcoran in order to take some pressure -- and attention -- away from Britt and Tiquan Underwood. Friday's Trentonian will have a story on those options. 

The passing game was the most glaring -- and certainly the most surprising -- weakness, accounting for only 263 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. Who gets the blame for that? The consensus from practice is that there's blame to go around -- some to the offensive line, which didn't give Mike Teel enough time to make a good throw on multiple occasions, some to Teel, who made a few uncharacteristically poor decisions and a few bad throws, and some to the receivers, each of whom dropped one or two catchable passes. 

So where do the Knights need to make the biggest improvement offensively? 

In the details, Schiano said. 

"(On) the details of angles of blocks, steps, we’re details away from making some big big plays," the coach said. "The reads, I can’t put it all on steops on reads, on trusting plays, whih is all football is in the details. You just have to execute the details and not worry about the results as much."

Schiano said on Tuesday's conference call that he had no worries about players hanging their heads, and indeed, the players I talked to all seemed to be in good spirits. They're frustrated, perhaps angry, with their performances from the Fresno game, but they don't seem to think the sky is falling. They just think they have some serious work to do, and some serious corrections to make before the Tar Heels come to town next week. 

"Overall the whole thing needs to get better," Teel said.  "I need to get better, the receivers have to get better.  ... I need to be sharper. Im a fifth year senior, I’ve been playing for three years. I can’t go out and play the way I did." 

As for Britt, the junior from Bayone said Monday's double teams were an annoyance, but an expected annoyance that the Knights prepared for extensively during training camp. 

"We expected it. That’s why we worked really hard over the summer," Britt said. "That’s why the (McCourty) twins and Greeney and those guys worked so hard over the summer. Coach Schiano had us double teamed the whole camp so we’d be used to it. "

Everyone in Piscataway has been saying the Knights were close to making things happen against Fresno. A step here, a block there, a reach there, the Knights say, and there would have been plenty more than seven points on the board. 

We'll get an idea  next Thursday of how many of those wrongs can be righted. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Schiano: 'They're all correctable errors'

Greg Schiano says his team is close. 

The coach,  whose team suffered an embarrassing 24-7 loss to Fresno State on Monday in its season opener, told reporters on a conference call Tuesday that minor, correctable issues prevented the Scarlet Knights from making key plays against the Bulldogs. 

"If you watch the tape, (it was) one block here, maybe a poor choice there, we underthew one, we dropped one," Schiano said. "We protected very well except for one guy. It's not very far off. They're all correctable issues. Some of the mistakes were by guys who had not played a lot."

Two of the players who haven't played a lot are new starters on the right side of the offensive line: guard Caleb Ruch and tackle Mike Gilmartin. Schiano, though, said both players played fairly well. 

"We need to get better there," he said. "We will because it was both those guys' first substantial experience. But for a first go-around against a pretty good defense, I thought it was a good job. Now, we need to make sure that we correct those mistakes moving forward so we can be more productive." 

The Scarlet Knights' passing game -- expected to be among the best in the country -- stalled Monday, producing only 263 yards. Quarterback Mike Teel completed just 51 percent of his passes while throwing two interceptions and no touchdowns. The first interception -- on a ball he threw into triple coverage on a first-quarter flea-flicker -- was a bad decision, Schiano acknowledged. But Schiano said other than that play, Teel's decision-making wasn't the problem. 

"We underthrew one and we had to throw another one early," Schiano said. "We had Ti (Underwood) open on the first drive on the one rout. We had to throw it a little early because a guy was leaking off a block, so it didn't have time to truly develop and Ti would have to make an acrobatic catch. There was one time we had Ti on a post and he was behind his man and (Teel) overthrew it. Other than that, I thought we threw it well."

The Knights' best chance to score came in the first quarter when, with the ball on the four-yard line, tailback Mason Robinson was stopped after a one-yard gain, giving the ball back to the Bulldogs. Robinson appeared to have an opening on the outside to his right, but chose to go inside instead. Schiano said the plan was for Robinson to cut outside, but that he didn't blame the sophomore from Somerville for staying inside. 

"It was a little bit of frustration on that but personally, as a coach I never question the running back’s decision because I don’t have the whole defense chasing after me," Schiano said. "We try to educate them on their decisions but if you’re questioning a running back's eyes, then they lose confidence in their own eyes. We’ll educate them on it and keep educating them on it in practice, but once you get into the game you have to trust your eyes."

Rutgers, which hosts North Carolina Sept. 11, has a closed practice Wednesday, followed by a practice Thursday that is open to the media. 

Fresno State 24, Rutgers 7

Greg Schiano's day-after conference call is at 5, so I'll post something later on tonight. 

If you haven't read The Trentonian yet today, the paper has a game story, side bar and replay box

My apologies for the fact that earlier today, the stories didn't have paragraph breaks. I logged in and fixed them, so the stories should be readable now. 

Monday, September 1, 2008

Stick a fork in Rutgers

I thought Fresno certainly had a chance, but I had no idea it would be like this. 

Ryan Matthews scored his third touchdown of the game with 3:15 left, and the Bulldogs lead 24-7. Just about everyone in Rutgers gear is heading for the exits, while those in Bulldogs gear started singing "Na na  na, hey hey goodbye," as their Rutgers counterparts dejectedly exited the building. 

17-7 Bulldogs

With 6:46 left, the Bulldogs lead by 10 after a one-yard touchdown run by Ryan Matthews. Seyi Aijirotuto made another great play, leaping to make a grab on a pass from Brandstater. It looked like had he taken a different angle, Zaire Kitchen could have come in and broken up the pass, but he came in to far too soon, allowing Aijirotutu to make the grab. 

Rutgers Stadium, hoppin' 10 minutes ago, is just about silent except for the music coming from the marching band. Some fans, including many students, are heading for the exits. 

Knights on the board

Kordell Young scored from a yard out to make it 10-7 with 11:20 left. 

It was Young's first touchdown since Oct. 14, 2006 at Navy. 

Bad call?

Tough to see on the ESPN replay, but Tim Pernetti on the Rutgers radio broadcast is saying the block in the back call against Zaire Kitchen was a bad one, and that the Knights should be on the board. 

10-0 after three

For the first time in two years on the beat, I heard some boos at Rutgers Stadium directed at the Scarlet Knights. Dennis Campbell returned a punt 81 yards to the endzone, but it was called back because of an illegal block in the back. Kordell Young was stopped at the line of scrimmage on the last play of the quarter, and out came the boobirds. 

The crowd is trying to start a wave. I'm not a big wave guy, but I guess somebody has to do something to try to generate some offense. 

10-0 Dogs

One drive, two plays, 81 yards, and seven points later, Fresno has a 10-0 lead. A 77-yard bomb from Brandstater to Seyi Ajirotutu set up a four-yard touchdown run by Ryan Matthews. 

Finally, we have a score

A 31-yard screen pass to Devon Wylie set up a 31-yard field goal by Kevin Goessling, giving Fresno State a 3-0 lead with 10:33 left in the third quarter. The drive took nine plays and 57 yards, and lasted four minutes, 27 seconds. 

Halftime stats

A few stats that stand out: 
  • Rutgers outrained Fresno State by almost a 2/1 margin: 201 total yards to 102. The Knights also had an advantage of almost six minutes in time of possession: 17:54 to 12:06. 
  • The numbers for Young are impressive: 12 carries for 59 yards, good for an average of 4.9 yards per carry. 
  • Mike Teel is 9-for-19 passing for 125 yards and an interception. Tom Brandstater is 5-for-15 for only 53 yards. 
  • Ryan Matthews has 35 yards on seven carries, Will Harding has 19 yards on three carries, and Lonyae Miller has only three yards on three caries. 
  • Rutgers has 11 first downs; Fresno has six. 

Scoreless at the half

A few notes, other than the obvious: that both defenses have played well and both offenses haven't: 
  • The one real bright spot in the Rutgers offense has been Kordell Young, who's been key in a few Rutgers drives and has looked really good in pass-blocking situations. 
  • Joe Lefged and Zaire Kitchen have both been on the field a lot, which will probably be the case for most of the season no matter what happens, but Lefeged is more noticeable when he's out there than anyone else on either team. Everywhere you look, he's making a big play punctuated by a loud, vicious hit. 
  • Greg Schiano told ESPN's Rob Stone on his way to the locker room that the Knights are 'a little out of wack and that "We just have to calm down and play football."
  • It'll be interesting to see if Schiano is reluctant to send Te out in borderline kicking situations in the second half. The way this one is going, three points could go a long way. 

Three and out

What was likely Rutgers' last drive of the half went as follows: three-yard pass to Tiquan Underwood, incomplete pass intended for Tim Brown; incomplete pass intended for Kenny Britt. 

After a Teddy Delleganna punt, Fresno will take over at the 20 with 24 seconds left in the first half. Delleganna, unlike San San Te, has looked pretty good in his first half of college football. 


This time, it wasn't really San San Te's fault. The snap was bad, the hold was bad, and Te had to do a stutter step before attempting a 22-yard field goal. But the kick was wide left, Te is 0-for-2 in his career on field goal attempts, and we're still scoreless in Piscataway. 

Pitcher's duel

With 5:25 left in the first half, the Scarlet Knights are about to take over after a Fresno punt at their own 37. Rutgers was inside the 10 once and failed to score, and also narrowly missed a 42-yard touchdown reception when Mike Teel's pass sailed just out of Kenny Britt's reach. 

Other than that, neither team has done much of anything. We'll see if the Knights can pull something off here. 


Mike Teel launched a pass to Kenny Britt that bounced off Britt's finger tips at the one-yard line of the Knights' first second-quarter drive, and after a Teddy Delleganna punt the Bulldogs took over at their own 15. 


Good job by the Rutgers defense forcing Fresno to go three and out and punt from the back of its endzone. 

Awful job by the Knights running a flee flicker on the first play of their next drive that resulted in an interception in the endzone for a touchback. 

Close, but no cigar

Rutgers marched down to the 3 yard line on its second drive but came up empty when Mason Robinson was stopped short of the endzone on fourth down. 

Knights get a stop

Rutgers' nickel package came through again when Joe Lefged drilled Fresno QB Tom Brandstater on third and long, forcing Fresno to punt on fourth down. The Bulldogs were inches away from a touchback, but the Knights got a lucky bounce when the ball rolled into the end zone. First and 10 Knights at the 20 with 8:06 left in the first quarter. 

Knights 0-for-1

San San Te's first career field goal attempt was a 47-yarder on Rutgers' first drive, and it wasn't pretty. The ball never got more than 10 feet off the ground and bounced well shy of the end zone. 

Kordell Young gained six yards on his first carry of the season, but had losses of three yards on his next two carriers for a net of zero. 

The big play of the drive was a 44-yard reception by Kenny Britt on which Britt caught the ball a yard in front of the line of scrimmage and sprinted down the sideline to put the Knights in scoring range. 

Joe Lefeged is starting at strong safety for Rutgers. 

Game Day

Happy Game Day from Rutgers Stadium, where, as promised by the Bob Mulcahy and Co., the club seats across the stadium from the press box are finished, as is the new ribbon scoreboard, which has rotating electronic advertisements and messages. 

We're a little more than two minutes from kickoff, so the tailgating crowd outside is growing as I type. 
Today's paper has a story about the Scarlet Knights' running backs, along with our usual gameday page.