Last year Rutgers was supposed to have one of the best offenses in the Big East. With a senior QB, and two NFL caliber WRs it was all lined up. After years of futility, they could finally win the conference and go to a BCS Bowl. Then they lost the season opener to Fresno State, and those hopes were dashed. Then it got worse as they went to 1-5 before finally rattling off 7 wins.
So they learned from that experience, right? This year they would be ready. After spending more than $100 million renovating the stadium, adding over 10,000 additional seats, they would be ready. Facing the defending Big East champions, they have to be ready.
The fans showed up. The lots were already filling up at noon for a 4 o'clock game. The stadium filled in early. By game time, it was packed. The crowd was loud and ready.
Then Cincinnati drove down the field without resistance and put up 7. Rutgers struggled, but gradually made their way down the field. It required going for it twice on 4th down, but eventually we tied it up. Then Cincy scored again, and again, and again. By the time the final cannon sounded, it was a 47-15 loss. So what the hell went wrong?
First of all, the Rutgers defense was non-existent. They sacked Tony Pike once, and I don't think they pressured him much more than that. Cincinnati's receivers had plenty of space. We missed tackles regularly. We let them run and throw at will. They were forced to punt once, ONCE, throughout the entire game. Defense was supposed to be one of our strengths this year, but it didn't look like it on Monday.
Special teams didn't have a chance to do too much. Kick returns were OK. Kickoffs were not. Our kickoffs didn't seem to go any deeper than the 10 yard line, We didn't force a touchback. Not good.
Offense was a complete disaster. We have 5 returning starters on the O-line. They are supposed to be the best in the league. It looked like they thought they could get by on hype alone. They provided no protection for Natale, and just as little for Savage, resulting in a 4th quarter safety. They also handicapped our running backs by failing to open any holes.
Our wide receivers have been working through dropped pass issues since the spring. They're going to have to continue working on it, because balls can't bounce off people's hands or numbers for incompletions and interceptions. I know, it's tough to replace Tiquan Underwood and Kenny Britt, but Tim Brown put up decent numbers, and Mohammed Sanu may have already established himself as our number 1 option.
But the majority of this loss falls on coaching. Instead of naming a starting QB, Schiano wanted to play media guessing games. When he did finally choose a starter, he chose the wrong one. The buzz out of practice every day was basically "Natale intercepted x times. Savage did x, y, and z impressively." If Natale was getting picked off regulary in practice, what did you think was going to happen in a game?! I'm sorry that he's a 5th year senior and his shot consisted of one half, but it should have been readily apparent that Savage is the QB of the future and even if he has some growing pains now, he's the best option. He showed that with poise under pressure in the second half.
Then we have Jabu Lovelace. When Schiano said he would rotate all 3 QBs, everyone who has watched a Rutgers game over the past 3 years knew that Lovelace would be used in a Wildcat. That includes the opposing defense. They know he can't throw if his life depended on it- his 2 attempts were nowhere near completions. Then they stuffed him on the runs. Which is the same thing that's happened every time Jabu Lovelace has entered a game for the past two and a half years. Every fan expected that, yet Schiano stubbornly continues to run it. He nearly killed the first scoring drive with it 3 times. It destoyrs all momentum, and puts the offense in to 2nd or 3rd and long situations. Again, Lovelace is a senior and I'm sorry, but he should not see significant playing time.
As a whole, this team was not prepared in any of the aspects of the game. The offense was ineffective. You can't turn the ball over three times in one half and expect to win. The defense didn't have a clue. Schiano said they were a step behind. It was worse than that. They were pourous. They applied no pressure to the QB, running backs, or receivers. They allowed Cincinnati to move the ball at will. Schiano was outprepared, and badly outcoached by Brian Kelly.
Once again, Rutgers is in a hole to start the season. Schinao finally relented today and named Savage the starting QB for the Howard game. With a very weak nonconference schedule coming up, hopefully we can work through these issues, get on track and salvage this season.