Monday, November 30, 2009

Scarlet Chop Top 25 (Week 13)

Over the past few weeks I've compiled my own personal Top 25 polls based on the criteria that I outlined a few posts ago. Probably would have made a lot more sense to post it back then, but then again, better late then never. Here's this week's installment of my latest Top 25 along with some of my comments:

1. Florida (12-0)
2. Alabama (12-0)..Does it really matter though. We'll know who # 1 is around 7PM on Saturday.
3. Texas (12-0)
4. TCU (12-0)
5. Cincy (11-0)..Will jump TCU if win at Pitt. Let's hope the voters agree along with a Huskers upset.
6. Boise St (12-0)
7. Ohio St (10-2)...Best two loss team in country and playing its best football at the end of the season.
8. Oregon (10-2)
9. Georgia Tech (10-2)
10. Penn State (10-2)
11. Iowa (10-2)..Not the same team without Ricky Stanzi and thus behind PSU
12. Pitt (9-2)
13. V Tech (9-3)
14. Miami (9-3)
15. BYU (10-2)
16. Oregon St (8-3)
17. LSU (9-3)
18. Houston (10-2)
19. Cal (8-3)
20. Oklahoma St (9-3)
21. Wisconsin (9-3)...Only move up b/c of loses in front of them
22. West Virginia (8-3)
23. USC (8-3)
24. Nebraska (9-3)
25. Stanford (8-4)

Also Receiving Votes (In No Particular Order): Ole Miss, Texas Tech, Rutgers, Kentucky

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sanu and the Emergence of the Savage, Brown Chemistry

Rutgers did a lot of things right to bring its season back on track, scoring touchdowns on its first four possessions along the way to a 34-14 victory over Louisville at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. On the Scarlet Knights first possession, Tom Savage connected with Tim Brown on a key 20 yard pass play to set the tone as well as a one yard Joe Martinek TD plunge. One of the major contributing factors of success of both Tom Savage and Tim Brown this season is the development of a chemistry element between the two. Over the past few games, you can clearly see Savage throwing the ball into spaces based on where he anticipates the wide out to move, cut and handle coverage packages on the field. While Brown seems to becoming more opportunistic by identifying holes and gaps in tight space knowing that his QB has the ability and confidence to deliver the ball into him successfully.

A slightly different wrinkle from the offense that we saw in the first half was the use of Tom Savage in the option package which he ran on two occasions, once for a touchdown, during an impressive 87 yard 16 play drive early in the second quarter to put RU up 14-0.

Mohamed Sanu, stole the show though with a nearly complete game performance (he did fumble a punt) going 148 yards and two TD’s on 18 carries. Sanu showed the ability to bull and stiff arm his way through would be tacklers running out of the emerging wildcat set for much of the day. Sanu is a truly gifted athlete with the size, speed, cutting ability and vision required to run the Wildcat. Given that though, just about everyone in attendance yesterday knew he was going to be the ball carrier each time he lined up behind center. He just didn’t seem to be able to sell the fake reverses to D’Antwan Williams very well although he did just miss Tim Brown on one downfield throw in single coverage. With time, he will learn to run the Wildcat with the same kind of success that I’m sure Schiano had once envisioned for Jabu Lovelace running out of his own run-gun set which will truly encompass the vast spectrum of his talents.

Other News and Notes:
• Once again the Rutgers offense failed to put a complete game together. After scoring on four consecutive drives to start the game, Rutgers next six drives end in six punts and a total 20 yards before the game is put away in the fourth quarter on Sanu’s 33 yard run out of the wildcat
• Zaire Kitchen’s devastating shoulder to the helmet hit on Louiville’s Doug Beaumont in the 3rd quarter was the result of the inherent violent nature of the game rather then an unsportsmanlike helmet to helmet hit as called by the referees.
• Overall the O-line had a strong performance vs Louisville. However, Kevin Haslam was helped off the field following a 4th quarter Joe Martinek run and appeared to be heavily favoring his left leg. It was not clear what the cause of the injury was but he was replaced for the remainder of the game by Des Stapleton.
• Up Next: Well, our wishes for a WVU loss vs Pitt did not come true last night and it seems that the recharged Noel Devine along with thousands of ‘eers faithful will invade Piscataway next Saturday with a lot to play for. RU hasn’t played a regular season game of this magnitude since a certain December Saturday in 2006. Just like the Mountaineers exacted their revenge of sorts for the 2007 Backyard Brawl (And subsequent BCS title game birth), it’s time to get ours. With the exception of the visiting WVU section, each and every seat in Rutgers Stadium had better be filled with a scarlet wearing Rutgers Fan.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

RU Failing to Seize Momentum

It seems that the growing theme over the past few weeks is the Scarlet Knights offensive ineptitude for converting game changing plays by the defense and special teams into momentum swinging points on the board. While this was masked somewhat in the 31-0 route vs USF it was clearly evident in Saturday’s 31-13 loss at Syracuse. Whether we call this a the product of stating a freshman quarterback in Savage, the atrocious play by the offensive line (particularly the right side), inability to make offensive adjustments or simply poor preparation by the coaching staff, putting the team in the frame of mind to convert these opportunities into actual points needs to be Schiano’s primary concern beginning with Friday’s match up at Louisville. Here’s a summary of the latest offensive miscues following key plays in Saturday’s loss:

Coming off of a Syracuse TD in the 1st quarter, Devin McCourty returns a Syracuse kickoff 54 yards setting the offense up deep inside Syracuse territory. On a key third down play, Savage, who got pressure from all directions the entire day, telegraphs a pass to Tim Wright with Syracuse’s linebackers read the entire time and picks off the pass killing the possession on three plays.

Following the Joe Lefeged’s safety in 2nd quarter Savage gets sacked by Syracuse’s Doug Houge (this week’s national defensive player of the week) after hanging onto the ball too long. While it’s easy to understand Savage not wanting to turn the ball over with an errant pass, he needs to recognize that when no receivers are open, he needs to either move outside of the pocket and create something or simply throw the ball away to avoid the sack. This led to another three and out as Savage gets pressure the entire possession which totaled a mere three downs.

After another McCourty partially blocked punt in the 4th quarter, Rutgers has the ball on its own 42 down 24-13 in the fourth quarter but with more then 8 minutes on the clock. Joe Martinek gets buried for a loss on second down run to the right side and the possession ends after three meaningless plays.

That’s a total of three big plays between McCourty and Lefedged that totaled zero points on Saturday. What this team needs to understand is that its being able to convert these key opportunities is what separates a team like Rutgers from teams that can consistently maintain a top 25 standing year in and year out.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Is Rutgers Deserving of a Top 25 Ranking?

I think so but the performance of other teams will decide if it will last unfortunately. Each week I do my own personal Top 25 which I factor in current results, overall record, strength of schedule, head to head results, previous week's AP poll and my Top 25 from the previous week. I use the AP because for one, its a human poll and two it takes the emotion out of me being the one deciding who should be in the Top 25 based on my personal feelings, likes and dislikes of other teams (I am a fan after all). Honestly this week there were 4-5 teams deserving of # 25 but I did put put Rutgers at # 25 because I couldn't find a reason why I should put a three loss BCS team ahead of them. UNC could easily have been there coming off of their impressive home win vs Miami. Even at 7-3, they were only one vote short of cracking the Top 25. Also right there is Nebraska who is hosting K-State this weekend and is coming off of a win at Kansas and is also at 7-3. Cal is also right there at 7-3 following their win at Arizona.

My feeling though is that even if we win convincingly at Syracuse this weekend, there are no guarantees when the new AP poll comes out on Sunday. If UNC wins at BC this weekend, they could very well pass us because voters would view their win over a 7-3 Eagle team as more impressive then a potential RU win over the 3-7 Orange. Another concern I have is Cal coming off of their win at Arizona is now facing Stanford in the annual "Big Game." If Cal wins, there is no reason why voters wouldn't put them past us in the polls. The emerging theme here is that Big East teams are at a disadvantage in that they consistently need to have one less loss then other BCS conference schools in order to be viewed on an equal basis in the minds of the voters. The bottom line is this: Rutgers right now is deserving to be in the Top 25 and, as long as they continue to win they deserve to stay there. However, whether they actually do stay there doesn't depend so much on what they do but it depends largely upon what the other teams around them do this weekend. I find it hard to imagine an 8-2 BCS conference team not ranked in the Top 25 at this stage of the season but it certainly seem like a very real possibility.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Syracuse Football Adding By Subtraction

Doug Marrone has been cleaning house since he took over the Syracuse football program in December. Gone from the GRob era of Syracuse Football are 21 scholarship players (25% of the 85 maximum NCAA allotment) who either weren’t buying what Marrone was selling or simply couldn’t cut it in the new Syracuse era of accountability.

Included on the casualty list is star receiver Mike William’s who decided to hang it up following a post game visit and subsequent car accident outside of the Turning Stone Casino near Syracuse on November 1st. While I am sure that many of these departures as well as the 2-2 start (including a 37-34 win over the now 7-4 Northwestern) caused hope for the future, the injury bug over the past several games has not been kind to Marrone and the Orange. Gone for the year are nine players on both sides of the ball including All Big East DT Arthur Jones who suffered his season ending knee injury during the November 7th Pittsburgh game in which Syracuse was able to travel with just 55 healthy players.

Staring into what has now become a 3-7 record with Rutgers and UConn left on the schedule, most coaches would have resigned the season and begun preparing the team and its younger players for the future. That kind of “sacrifice now for the future” attitude just isn’t part of Marrone’s make up though.

“We're still going out there to win games, not to give people experience for next year,” Marrone said. “It's not next year until the last game is over. The way people are getting experience now on this team is through injury."

The kind of attitude Marrone is trying to instill in this team comes from what he learned as a player under Dick MacPherson during the early 1980’s.

“I've always played to win," Marrone said. "I think this team will always play to win. Coach Mac ... I don't want to speak for Coach Mac, but we always played to win. I think that's what you do here at Syracuse - you play to win."

It wasn’t too long ago that a 34 year old first time coach came into Piscataway with the same kind of rhetoric talking about winning the Big East and going to bowl games. We all thought that guy was crazy when he got up at his introductory press conference and started talking about his vision of the State of Rutgers. We all know it can happen and why can’t it happen again. After all, a good, competitive Syracuse would be a good thing for the Big East.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Getting Rutgers Offense Back Into Gear

If Rutgers plans to show us more then just a “W” against the Black Knights on Friday, it must cure its schizophrenic offense by getting back to being a run first throw second team. That’s the same formula that worked so well during the 2006 season when Teel was a first year and unproven sophomore starter. I’m not saying that any one of four RB’s is Ray Rice but being able to collectively pound the ball inside with a sustained running game while showing a threat to break off the long run is the first step in solving this apparent identity crisis and opens up Savage to make his down field passes to Sanu, Brown and the chorus line of potential third WR options. O-line Injuries: Although the running game against Pitt produced only 38 yards on 20 carries, 29 of which came from Sanu via the wildcat, the o-line seemingly had it’s best of the year against BCS competition in terms of QB protection. Could this unit finally be coming together without the services of season opening starter Caleb Ruch and Desmond Wynn?

Will the rocket take off finally? Everyone else has pretty much beaten the drum on this one but it’s worth mentioning once again. The cover is off the Schiano’s new offensive sports car and the kid’s red shirt has been burned. Give the kid a chance against FBS competition and make him part of your running game for more then just fourth quarter mop up work.

Wildcat Offense: Whether this is just a gimmick conceived by Schiano and the OC’s or if there is a vision of having the wildcat become a strategic piece of the offense, I do not know. If it is the later, integrate it into the offense and use it consistently (the polar opposite of how it was intermittently used during the Pitt loss). Use it when you need a wrinkle play inside of the red zone but remember, run first, pass second. It’s time to end the gimmicks and regain a semblance of an identity for this offensive unit.

Penalty Mistakes: Although the penalty line from the box score of the Pitt game shows 6 penalties for 55 yards, it seemed very clear that we committed many of these penalties in key third down situations both on offense and defense that ended drives for us or extended drives for Pitt. This undisciplined play has got to stop if this team is going to go anywhere looking ahead to Connecticut, South Florida and West Virginia. The truth is we do not score a lot of points and every possession is precious.

Devin McCourty: Not enough has been said about Devin’s play on defense and special teams this year. The development of his game is one of the few positive stories that have developed this year. His line on Friday was 11 tackles, 1.0 for loss and a blocked punt. Look for # 21 all over the field at Michie Stadium on Friday.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Managing Rutgers Expectations

No matter how you spin it, Fridays 24-17 loss to the Panthers seals the fate of the Scarlet Knights to a December bowl appearance assuming they are able to achieve the seven wins required to become bowl eligible (Since only one FCS win can count towards bowl eligibility). The difference between championship teams (see Florida’s 23-20 win vs Arkansas) and the “also ran’s” is that the coaching staff and players on championship teams find a way to win games like Friday night so that they don’t have to spend their offseason thinking about things that could have been. While there are still some “nice” things we can achieve this year in spite of the 0-2 Big East start, how long we as are fans can tolerate 7-5 seasons followed by the St. Petersburg Bowl remains the be seen, especially for a team that entered the season with BCS dreams but is effectively eliminated from the running by middle of October.

Expectations are a very dangerous thing, but its managing them, meeting them and exceeding them that separates top flight programs from everyone else. Right now, this team is trying to do too many things at once, constantly tinkering with personnel as it struggles to find it’s offensive identity both on and off the field. While changes surely need to be made, it seems that we are falling into the trap of mistaking these changes for actual progress and not making the kind of changes that give us the “best chance to win”. The decisions made along the sideline this year have at times left many fans wondering if 2006 was just an anomaly and whether or not it is realistic to think that we can ever get back there (or further) again. The bottom line is this….Just because we’re doing something doesn’t mean we’ve done anything. As the great John Wooden once said “don’t ever mistake activity for achievement.”

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Scouting Pittsburgh's Offense

Finally, redemption is about to arrive in the form of a Big East matchup vs the Pittsburgh Panthers (5-1, 2-0). Hard to believe 46 days will have passed since the humiliating defeat against the Bearcats once the Scarlet Knights suit up on Friday night. Dave Wannstedt enters the game riding a four game losing streak vs Rutgers but guides a squad that is vastly different from the defensive focused teams that have faced the knights over the four years of his tenure.

The 2009 edition of QB Bill Stull looks nothing like the player who managed just 9 TD’s and 10 INT’s including an embarrassing 3-0 loss to Oregon St. in the Sun Bowl to close the 2008 season. Through the first six games of 2009, Stull has thrown for 1,256 yards and 13 TD’s against just 3 INT’s and has elevated his game over the past three weeks in which the Panthers have faced consecutive BCS opponents. With superior pass protection provided by the Pitt O-line, Stull currently holds the nations 4th highest passer rating trailing only Jimmy Clausen, Kellen Moore and Tim Tebow.

Leading the receiving corps is freakish sophomore Jonathan Baldwin. The 6’5” Baldwin not only towers over opposing CB’s and possesses NFL caliber physical tools, but he is also blessed with 4.4 speed that he uses to separate from coverage and gain 532 yards on just 27 receptions including 3 TD’s. The Panthers also hope to exploit several advantages at the TE position where Dorian Dickerson leads the team with 7 TD’s. "We have a great matchup with our tight ends," Stull says. "With Dorin (Dickerson) running down the middle of the field against their linebackers, we like that matchup. They play a lot of man-to-man defense. If we protect well, with their man coverages, we can have some great matchup advantages."

Freshman RB Dion Lewis enrolled at Pitt in January and quickly answered the question of who would replace LeSean McCoy. Lewis was virtually assured the starting roll following a stellar spring and hasn’t looked back since bursting out of the gate with consecutive 100 yard games on the way to 738 yards and 7 TD’s through the first half of 2009. Lewis is a classic thickly built, low center of gravity runner who bounces between would be tacklers and quickly accelerates to full speed. Joining Lewis in the running game is fellow freshman Ray Graham (step brother of Khaseem Greene) who has 176 yards on 32 carries and is more of a downhill, workhorse straight line back who provides a strong complement to the cutting, slashing style of Dion Lewis.

Notes: Other then Big East standings implications, Friday night’s game could also help sway the balance of powers in local Big Eat recruiting pecking order. Pittsburgh boasts 11 current players from New York and New Jersey but more importantly has made some significant inroads recently by receiving non binding verbal commitments from 5 players from the NY/NJ area in its 2010 class.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

More on Sam Bergen

Sam Bergen hasn’t had it easy over the past 12 months but following Saturday’s blow out win vs TSU he finally got what was coming to him, an offer from the school he’s wanted to go to for a long time. With his offer in hand, the linebacker out of East Stroudsburg South HS (East Stroudsburg, PA) promptly pledged his non binding oral commitment to the Scarlet Knights making him the tenth projected member of the 2010 class.

Heading into his junior year the 6’0” 225 lb Bergen received plenty of interest from the likes of Uconn, Boston College, Pittsburgh, Illinois, Rutgers, Notre Dame, Michigan and Stanford (where his brother is a sophomore LB). However, just two games into the season Sam suffered a left ACL tear, an injury that spells recruiting death for so many high school athletes. As was expected, most schools gave up on him completely but some took a wait and see approach perhaps seeing something special in Bergen who as a sophomore recorded 89 tackles and 5 sacks while earning all area honors.

Following surgery, Bergen endured ten months of rehab, strength and conditioning but never once gave up hope that he would one day return to his prior form on the gridiron. During the summer months, Bergen followed rehab by running the camp gauntlet and attended every junior day he could. More then 12 months after his injury, the redemption bell for Sam Bergen finally rang true on Saturday with his scholarship payoff from the Scarlet Knights. You always like to see guy like Sam who overcome such improbable odds and work themselves back to the top of their game. Just like Brian Sheridan, Ryan Neill and Eric Foster before him, Sam Bergen is exactly the kind of player Schiano needs to represent the present and future of the Scarlet Knights.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

News and Notes from Texas Southern

Not much for the Scarlet Knights to gain from Saturday other then getting Savage back on track and getting tuned up for Friday’s match up against Pitt. The defense once again played the starring role (pitching a 42-0 shut out), allowing just 126 yards of offense and specifically minus 25 yards on the ground.

Beyond training camp very little has been said about the emergence of Tim Brown as the “go to” receiver in this group. If you didn’t think he was our guy before, you will now. In a second quarter reception over the middle, deuce put his hands out to snare a Savage pass and was immediately flipped in the air by multiple defenders. He still somehow managed to hold onto the ball as he crashed to the ground. Quietly, Timmy Brown is putting together an all Big East caliber year with 452 yards receiving including two 100 yard games.

Just how much of the underperforming running game can be attributed to uneven performances of Martinek and Brooks or poor line play is still uncertain. What I did notice on Saturday though was an o-line that just didn’t seem to have the forward surge to allows runners a few steps beyond the line of scrimmage before contact. Another point is that rather then holes it seems Martinek, Brooks and Williams have slots or cracks to run through which is much more difficult for straight line runners like Martinek and Brooks.

Tom Savage performed efficiently (14-21, 150 yds., 1TD) and once again did not commit any mistakes (turnovers). They got him throwing both from the pocket and short passes rolling right and he also threatened several times with the long ball once connecting with deuce on a 34 yard TD. I am completely satisfied with this performance, less for Tom’s 28 yard scramble in which he put his head down and barrelled directly into an oncoming linebacker for two additional yards at the end of the run. Tom you throw an absolutely great ball but you need to stop by Fred Hill Sr’s office sometime to get some tips on sliding. Please also stop watching Florida games.

Can we all agree that with Rocket’s performance against the two FCS opponents that he’s played against (31 carried for 221 yds., 1 TD) that he’s earned a call up to BCS play. His cutting, explosive running style is completely different then (and complementary to) Martinek and Brooks. Whereas Schiano likes to allocate blocks of time to these two, I think he can stick Rocket in the middle of a series as a change of pace back who can also break one off any time he touches the ball. He adds a completely different dimension to the running game. Why not make opposing teams prepare for three backs who have all eclipsed 100 yards in games this year?

A few other take aways from Saturday: Has anyone else seen the development of Devin McCourty this year into an outstanding gunner on punt coverage? He’s consistently been the first player downfield either tying up or delivering a punishing open field blow to the opposing return man. Speaking of open field tackling, on Saturday Khaseem Greene made up for some sloppy tacking by the defense on a play coming from across the field and about 10-15 yards behind the Texas Southern runner and just buried him along the sideline during a third quarter run.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Rutgers Looking Into Mirror of Sorts vs Maryland

In spite of having to replace 12 starters entering training camp, the Maryland Terrapins had aspirations of competing for the ACC Championship entering the season. However, the Terps have disappointed fans, following a very similar path to Rutgers thus far as seen in their opening season 52-13 blow out on the road at Cal, a game in which Maryland’s defense gave up 542 yards of total offense (Sound familiar). The following week, the Terps barely pulled out a win against FCS Top 5 James Madison winning 38-35 in OT but couldn’t repeat last week in its 32-31 home loss to Middle Tennessee State. Much like Coach Schiano, Coach Ralph Friedgen finds himself scratching his head entering this week’s match up against its first BCS opponent since the opening week. And like Schiano, Friedgen has been plagued by uninspiring play at the QB position and is looking for life signs from a defense that was victimized for 137 yards and 2 TD’s on just 10 carries from Javid Best in the opener.

The similarities end there however as Maryland’s running game, led by Junior Da’Rel Scott has been one of the few bright spots for the Terrapins this year along with better then expected play from an o-line that replaced three starters entering the year. As a sophomore, Scott out of Plymouth-Whitemarsh HS in Conshohocken, PA, earned 1st team All ACC honors rushing 1,133 yards and averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Scoring TD’s in each of his first three games, the highly versatile Scott has maintained form rushing for 275 yards on 43 carries for 6.4 yards per carry and has made his presence felt in the receiving game along with star sophomore receiver Torrey Smith (14 catches for an incendiary 274 yards thus far) where he has caught 5 passes for 42 yards through the first three contests.

While Scott will surely offer the biggest rushing challenge to date for the Scarlet Knights defense, a unit that is ranked 106 nationally in total defense through the first three weeks, a shut down of the Terps running game is not out of the question following the solid performance vs FIU and would certainly be another step in the right direction for a defense who entered training camp as one of the top returning units in the Big East.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Nonchalant (Adjective, French Origin, Pronunciation non-shuh-lant) - Coolly unconcerned, indifferent, unexcited; casual. This is the nicest word that can be used to describe the Rutgers offense yesterday. Better choices would be uncaring, worthless, terrible, disgusting, awful, or pathetic. The Knights narrowly avoided a fourth quarter meltdown, defeating one of the worst FBS teams, in the form of Florida International, 23-15.

The Scarlet Knights entered the day as 14 point favorites vs. its opponent from the Sun Belt Conference and would have lost the game were it not for a revitalized Rutgers defense that returned two interceptions for touchdowns, which, sadly enough, is twice as many as the offense put on the board. The defense, until yesterday, hasn't been doing its part either. After the game, senior defense end George Johnson stated, "We still got a big chip on our shoulders, though. We're going to carry it all season, to play the way we have to."

Whether or not the criticisms that the defense had received after the first two weeks was the jump start the the unit needed, or they were just woefully unprepared for the first two weeks is of no importance. The bigger issue is whether or not yesterday's performance (5 sacks, 2 interceptions, 42 yds rushing allowed, 2TDs scored) can be replicated for the remainder of the season. If Rutgers has any hope of salvaging the season, it will have to be the defense that carries the team.

The fact that a Rutgers defense is the strongest part of the team is nothing new, but the fact that this year's offense is so woefully anemic is a pain point for most fans. Another sub-par rushing performance (160 yards on 41 attempts) is not the least bit surprising after the first two games. Through three games, the Knights have amassed just 455 yards on the ground on 118 attempts, for a paltry 3.85 yds/carry. This from an offensive line that returned all five starters. Does anyone expect a line that can't muster 200 yards on the ground vs. Florida International (and barely did so vs. Howard, needing a late burst from true freshman De'Antwan Williams in garbage time) to suddenly turn it around vs. Pitt in a few weeks? Coach Schiano, who is still tinkering with the offensive line in week three, admitted after the game that, "we're trying to find the best five." Where are we looking? Didn't we have the best five after last year's seven game winning streak to close the season? How about this spring? Were we still looking at training camp in August? Is this a result of Kyle Flood's promotion? It's time for the coaching staff to go back to square one and teach basic blocking.

Rutgers has been fortunate enough to open the season with a very weak schedule (save for Cincinnati) or this season could be a lot worse. The next two games are at Maryland, which lost to Sun Bowl conference member Middle Tennessee State yesterday, next Saturday and vs. FCS Texas Southern at home on October 10th. Time is running out on the this team to turn it around. The defense appeared to have remedied its issues yesterday, but it's still only one game. They won't be able to keep it up if the line doesn't come together and regain the ability to sustain drives, burn clock and keep the defense off the field.

Irrelevant. That's another word that can be used to describe the Rutgers offense right now. Let's hope the offense can right the ship and this word won't be used to describe the Rutgers 2009 football season.

A Turning Point?

While it didn’t produce anything near the kind of offensive numbers we had all hoped, for 54 minutes on Saturday the Rutgers defense played lights out. It was the kind of play that echoed back to the days of Ramel Meekins, Quintero Frierson and Devraun Thompson. The days when quarterbacks were hunted like an extraterrestrial life form picking off members of an elite military team in Central America one by one. Totaling five sacks and limiting the running game to a mere 10 yards on 20 carries to proverbial Predator had seemingly arrived to Piscataway for 54 minutes on Saturday afternoon.

Heading into Saturday’s matchup the Rutgers defense seemed anything but, ranked last in the Big East and a virtual no show for the first two games against Cincinnati and Howard. During the week defensive end George Johnson vented his frustration of hearing how this veteran laden defense was "underachieving" and "not good enough." On Saturday, the Rutgers defense carried out their frustration limiting the Golden Panthers to 42 yards on 23 carries and 218 yards through the air, much of which took place in the final six minutes of the fourth quarter.

"That’s what our plan was," the defensive end said following the Rutgers 23-15 win that was more lopsided then the score indicated. "We still got a big chip on our shoulders, though. We’re going to carry it all season, to play the way we have to."

"I thought we got better," coach Greg Schiano said. "We put pressure on the quarterback. I don’t know how many sacks we had, but it seemed like we hit him a lot. We needed to have an outing like that. In the end, we gave up 15 points, but we are getting better. And that is the key. We made some big improvements since Cincinnati. We just need to keep going in that direction."

Perhaps the convincing performance by the Rutgers defense on Saturday is a turning point of sorts for the 2009 season. Similar to October 18th 2008 as a last second field goal dinged off the cross bar to a hushed crowd and Rutgers escaped 12-10 against the Huskies beginning what would end up being a seven game winning streak to close the season. Like Tom Luicci tried to get Coach Schiano to admit to so many times last year. This defense is finally playing “winning football”.

Friday, September 18, 2009


Scarlet Knight fans can breathe easy again this week as the Florida International Golden Panthers come to town for what should be a snooze fest. The biggest question heading into the game has to be "Will the highly touted Rutgers offensive line, anchored by junior/early first round draft pick Anthony Davis dominate the Panthers defensive front seven or will they get man-handled by the Golden Panthers defensive line worse than Liberace walking the streets of Greenwich Village in New York?" Unfortunately, the Knights did their best impression of the latter in parts of the first two games.

Rutgers will and cover (they are 14 point favorites) the spread but need to do a lot more than that. FIU made the jump to FBS in 2005 lost their opener at Alabama 40-14. Second year head coach Mario Cristobal (and former Schiano assistant) will make this team respectable in the coming years, but he's not there yet.

The Knights need to make a statement with their running game. They were shut down by Cincy and racked up 245 vs. Howard but needed a late burst from De'Antwan Williams to do so. It would be nice to see one back get into a rhythm early and have 150 yards by halftime. The running game needs to be perceived as a serious threat before the schedule picks up when conference play resumes.

The teacher vs. student story line will be interesting as will the Tim Brown - Anthony Gaitor story line. Gaitor will line up at corner back across the line of scrimmage from Brown. The two were high school teammates at Miami Northwestern High School.

This is also a big stage for the Rutgers defense (currently ranked last in the Big East), especially the lineman, who have been inconsistent at best when it comes to putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Sometimes defenses have swarming pass rushes and lack in coverage of the wide receivers. Other times, the coverage is great but pass rush is weak. First year co-defensive coordinators Ed Pinkham and Bob Fraser have implemented a strategy thus far where 11 players take the field and just stand around. It seems that defenders have been told not to make contact with opponents until they have gained at least 8 yards.

Let's hope the Knights are firing on all cylinders tomorrow and bring some confidence on the road to Maryland next week.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Week 3 of the college football season is underway tonight with the Georgia Tech - Miami game. All eight Big East teams are in action this Saturday. There are only three losses to non-conference opponents through the first two weeks, two of which belong to Syracuse. The other was UConn's heartbreaking loss to North Carolina in the final seconds last Saturday. Without further ado, let's take a look at this week's matchups:

South Florida (No Line) over Charleston Southern (Saturday, 7PM)

USF fans have probably been bored to tears with games so far vs. Wofford (a 40-7 win) and Western Kentucky (a 35-13 win). If that isn't bad enough, they'll want to slit their wrists after another mindless sleeper this weekend vs. Charleston Southern. The Bulls have one more game to work out any kinks before travelling to Tallahassee to take on Florida State next weekend, followed by the beginning of conference play next week at Syracuse.

Navy (+9) over Pitt (Saturday, 6PM)

This is supposed to be Pitt's year to win the Big East, but, as stated in this space previously, bad things tend to happen when Dave Wannestedt is roaming the sidelines. Pitt hasn't been tested this year with wins over Youngstown State and Buffalo, but will be when second year head coach Ken Niumatalolo brings his Midshipmen to Pittsburgh on Saturday. Navy is coming off of a win Louisiana Tech, but more importantly, a 31-27 loss to Ohio State in Columbus two weeks ago. The Mids almost erased a 15 point 4th quarter deficit scoring two touchdowns in four minutes before having the game tying two point conversion attempt intercepted and returned. The most amazing story of this game is that 6 of Navy's 18 first downs in this game came via passes. That's 33 per cent! If Navy's passing game is at least decent enough to keep opponents guessing, they'll be very successful this year. Pitt will have its hands full trying to win this game, let alone cover.
Syracuse (+3) over Northwestern

Syracuse wraps up its Big 10 portion of the schedule this week with Northwestern at home. I'm picking Syracuse to not only cover, but also win the game outright. Follow the logic. They lost to Minnesota in OT, then lost at Penn State but did not get humiliated. This is the weakest of the three teams, it's a home game, and Syracuse has had two weeks to gel. Coach Marrone will get his first of what Orange fans hope to be many Gatorade showers on Saturday night.

UConn (+10.5) over Baylor

The Bears received votes in the AP Poll and senior linebacker Joe Pawelek was named Big 12 defensive player of the week on the heels of Baylor's 24-21 victory at Wake Forest. Although it was a road win against a BCS conference team, it is in no way, shape or form worth of 10.5 points this week vs. UConn. Let's not forget the Huskies' battle with another ACC foe last week. The 12-10 loss to then # 19 North Carolina is far more impressive than what Baylor did, in spite of that fact that the Huskies came up short.

Kentucky (-10.5) over Louisville

Sorry Cardinals fans, but time have changed. Football in the state of Kentucky now belongs to the Wildcats, at least for now. The silver lining is that this Saturday's loss will only accelerate the long overdue firing of Steve Kragthorpe, at one point the healing process can truly begin.

Auburn (-4) over West Virginia

The Big East desperately needs a win here as this is one of two huge statements games this weekend vs. other BCS schools, but it probably won't happen. The Mountaineers defense has allowed a combine 40 points vs. Liberty and East Carolina and will likely be without junior defensive end Scooter Berry who injured his shoulder vs. East Carolina. Auburn is at home and has scored 86 combined points in its first two games.

Cincinnati (-2.5) over Oregon State

This would be the other statement game that Big East desperately needs to win. The Bearcats can climb the rankings and position themselves for a potential national title run with a win over a Pac 10 opponent. Oregon State beat Portland State in Week 1 and struggled to beat UNLV last week. Tony Pike and company put on a clinic vs. what was supposed to be a solid Rutgers defense in week 1.

Florida International vs. Rutgers

Coming tomorrow ... Stay Tuned

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


The teacher versus the pupil. ....It doesn't quite have the ring of an Eric Mangini vs Bill Belichick matchup, but Saturday's bout against the Golden Panthers is Schiano's first against his current coaching tree of one. Here's a few thoughts headed into Saturday's game.

Sanu: What are the odds that he's going to make it three out of three on the year? I wonder what unsuspecting d-back will experience the latest round of Hines Ward style devastation from the newly minted 20 year old.

FIU Wideout T.Y. Hilton: This guy is explosive....Archie P of the Rutgers Fan Blog on might even venture to say that this guy is a human WMD and that we need to call in the IAEA. 12 TD's in 2008 scored in almost every way possible: seven receiving, two rushing, one on a punt return, one on a kick off and one passing. Only problem is he's a sophomore so it's pretty safe to assume that there's some true freshman on FIU's bench who hasn't played a single down of college football but should be starting over him and who also is a guaranteed first round NFL pick.

Davis & Co.: Using 11 linemen in Saturday's game against Howard shows a loss of confidence of sorts in the front fives ability to protect Savage and open holes for the running game. They have been a virtual no show in the first two game and we are all here waiting for the unit that started the second half of 2008 to finally start showing up. We can't put all of the blame on the slow development of the running game on Martinek, Brooks and Co.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


It happened on Saturday with about 6 minutes and 30 seconds left in the first half. Howard was making its furthest drive of the game to Rutgers 40 yard line. Down 32-0 and facing a key conversion situation the Bison stepped to the line of scrimmage in mass confusion. It was right then that as the play clock wound down to two seconds that Schiano mysteriously called a time out. Most of us including myself didn’t have a clue what was going on. My friend, who’s also a high school football referee, saw the whole thing from a different perspective then most of us fans. He saw what Schiano saw. That Howard, having used all of its timeouts had 12 men on the field as the play clock was about to expire. Schiano could have done nothing and benefitted from it. But rather then watching the Bison be charged with a delay of game penalty or having too many players on the field, he decided to call a time out. It was a different side of coaching that we don’t see much because it is so often hard to find. It was sportsmanship. While we can talk all day long about how it was also Schiano’s call that allowed Howard to score on the next play, it was one coach showing mercy on another coach and a team in a game that had long been decided.


Yet another sign of the Big East's renewed commitment to significantly improve the conference's bowl picture....According to the New York Times, the Big East and the Big 12 are close to an agreement with the New York Yankees to play a bowl game at Yankee Stadium beginning in 2010. The "Yankee Bowl" would place the Big East's 3rd or 4th place finisher against the 7th place team from the Big 12 and would take place during the week between Christmas and New Years. The most interesting point that I took away from the story is that the Big East has not committed to which team (either the 3rd or 4th) they will slot for the match up against the Big 12. This may have some implications on another ongoing negotiation between the Big East and the Music City Bowl in Nashville that would seemingly leave the Big East open to place its 3rd place team in a match up against the SEC.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Twenty seven minutes and thirty seconds. That's how long it took Rutgers to fall behind by three possessions in the opener vs. Cincinnati and subsequently have the wheels fall off of what was once a promising season. Rex Ryan spends more time planning his post game meal. Yesterday, the Knights obliterated the Howard Bison, who were a mere 1-10 in FCS play last year, 45-7. There was time when the Rutgers faithful would have been ecstatic with a 1-1 record heading into week 3. There was also a time when Americans paid top dollar to attend a Brittany Spears concert and decided that George W. Bush was the best man to lead this nation (not once, but twice!).

Things have changed at Rutgers and Coach Schiano deserves all the credit. He turned first recruits, and eventually fans into believers. Bowl games and Rutgers used to go together like Hatfields and McCoys, however four straight bowl games and three straight bowl victories have left the fans wanting more. Opening day 2009 was special. This was the day that the program was really going to go to the next level. The stadium addition was complete, the weather was perfect, the RU defense was arguably the best in the conference and the offensive line arguably in the top ten nationally. The stadium was filled with 53,737 Rutgers fans. The atmosphere was absolutely electric. Shortly after kickoff, Tony Pike did what Tony Pike does and the bubble was burst. Fans filed out of the stadium muttering "Same old Rutgers," which became an unofficial school motto during the Doug Graber and Terry Shea years.

Rutgers fans have shared the heartache and agony of Chicago Cubs fans for years. The Scarlet Knights, like Chicago's North Siders have been awful for a long time - but then something happened. Knights fans got their first taste of post-season football with an Insight Bowl berth in 2005. From there, there was the miracle run in 2006, followed by two more bowl berths in 2007 and 2008. Rutgers fans no longer share a common bond with Cubs fans, but suffer a far worse fate. Rutgers fans now know a pain far worse, they suffer from the same ailment that has consumed San Francisco Giants fans for over 50 years. The Giants have not won a World Series since the franchise moved to the west coast, but used to hold the record for consecutive second place finishes (ironically enough the record now belongs to the Boston Red Sox, who certainly have no right to complain about anything anymore) and also blew the largest lead in a World Series clinching game during Game 6 of 2002 World Series vs. the Angels. This is what Rutgers fans now experience. They, like Giants fans, have tasted success and have come so close - painfully close - to finally bringing it to the next level, only to have their hearts ripped out time and time again.

Success breeds expectations, and when expectations are not met, die hard fans fall as hard as the team does. I'm not saying that it's better the other way. I'd much rather have my dreams crushed than not have any dreams at all, but it stings a lot more. Most Rutgers fans were still sick to their stomachs after the Labor Day massacre and its effects could still be seen on Saturday vs. Howard. The parking lots were half full and the fans were not really into the game. The attendance was 43,722, which would have been stellar in previous years and exceeds capacity prior to the expansion. The Knights dominated an inferior opponent and now take on Florida International (barely FBS), Maryland (which needed overtime to beat FCS James Madison yesterday) and Texas Southern (FCS) before conference play starts back up again vs. Pittsburgh on October 16th. It will be another nationally televised game on a Friday night, and the whole country will be watching. Will Rutgers be prepared this time and earn a season saving victory? Will they finally get back on track and set themselves up for a possible run at the Conference Championship and a BCS berth, or will fans start filing out of the stadium at halftime muttering, "Same old Rutgers?"

Success breeds great expectations. Great teams are built by meeting them.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


It's hard to believe following Monday's shellacking that we're here: a mere two days away from a date with the FCS Bison of Howard University. Here are a few things we can look for: Howard: Fresh off of a 1-10 season and the loss of "nearly 20 players following and in-house compliance issue" (Phil Steele's words), the Bison are clearly in a rebuilding mode and are picked (by Phil Steele) to finish last in the MEAC in '09. Saturday's match up also represents their season opener.

Savage: The next two games offer a tremendous opportunity for # 7 to build on his solid performance against the Bearcats. He doesn't need to jump in there and play at an all Big East level. He just needs to get a little bit better each game, build confidence in himself, build some confidence in his line, manage the offense, minimize mistakes and let the immense talent that he is surrounded by just make some plays. Once he's got his confidence, then we can all start talking about how to use his immense talents to help this team.

Defense: I read that the Cincinnati beat writers were saying in the press box on Monday that Tony Pike should now be a dark horse candidate for the Heisman. Why shouldn't he be? Would it be too much to ask for this defense to put up the same kind of performance they did last year against Morgan State in their 38-0 win? I don't care about numbers. I just want to see a convincing, fundamentally sound performance that somehow persuades all of us that some other defense showed up on Monday and that the 2009 Rutgers defense started playing its season on Saturday.

Coaching: This week we need to take a step back, take a deep breathe and reset this team. These kids need to look like they are prepared to play every game no matter who the opponent is. The first step was announcing a starter, the next step is getting everyone in the right frame of mind to play. We can't be a step behind, we can't miss tackles and we need to execute. All of the things we didn't do against Cincinnati need to be corrected starting Saturday.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


It was about half way through the second quarter when it started. At first, it was low and inaudible but as the first half drew to a close with Dom Natale throwing three interceptions and Jabu Lovelace rushing for negative yardage out of run-gun sets the chorus of fans grew louder...."We Want Tom....We Want Tom." When # 7 jogged out onto the gridiron to start the second half our collective prayers were answered and a new era in Rutgers Football had begun. Savage, playing the entire second half and bringing the only semblance of offense to an otherwise completely ineffective unit, finished 15 for 23 for 135 yards and a TD. In doing so, Savage did what the other two QB's cold not by showing an ability to effectively manage the offense, move the ball through the air in the passing game and minimizing mental mistakes. He gave the team what Coach Schiano calls "The best chance to win" during an otherwise abysmal performance. As the the primary benefactor of Savage's positive play, WR and fellow true freshman Mohamed Sanu finished the first game of his young college career with 10 catches for 101 yards. Savage threw to Sanu multiple times on his first drive and seemed to increasingly rely on the uber talented Sanu during the final two stanzas. While Sanu is a virtual lock to start once again on Saturday against Howard, Savage's future seems far from certain despite his performance. "I definitely need to keep working to get better," said Savage. "I know I need to improve getting the ball out quicker. I look forward to going back to work and getting a little better every day." Similar to the approach he took against Cincinnati in the opener, Schiano has yet to announce a starter at QB for Saturday's 3:30PM start.


A Rutgers team hasn't played a game this poorly since the Terry Shea era. At least in those days only 30 or 35 thousand people witnessed the ineptitude known as Rutgers football on fall Saturdays. Yesterday 53,737 fans in attendance and many more on ESPN were treated to a flashback of sorts to a bygone era of Rutgers football including many of the same bumbling plays, missed assignments, blown coverages and poor decisions that have not been seen since the Clinton administration. What I saw was a team that was clearly outmatched and unprepared playing against a very well prepared opponent:

Natale: I thought the first few QB checks to the sideline were somehow ploys to confuse the Cincinnati defense. However, after 10 or 12 times of seeing Natale back off the snap and shrug his shoulders to the sideline with less then 10 seconds on the play clock, I realized that he really didn't know what play he was supposed to be running. The scary thing is that the 5th year senior didn't have the presence of mind to call a time out to reset the offense or at least to get his head back into the right place.

Tony Pike: I don't know what I was more shocked about. How easily Tony Pike picked apart the defense or the complete lack of any defensive adjustments made at halftime. What we did see is what any good QB does against a blitzing defense with short, underneath passing into space. What we didn't see was what any good coaching staff should to do at half time when facing an intelligent QB like Pike.

Brian Kelly: Can we all agree at least for now, that he is the best coach in the Big East. He does the most with his given talent and that of his players then anyone else in the league and maybe in the country.

The Bottom Line: I can't possibly believe that what we saw last night is the reality of the Rutgers 2009 defense with all its talent and depth. What I can believe is that the QB that gives Rutgers the "best chance to win" against Howard played the entire second half last night. End the drama tomorrow Coach and get this team prepared for Saturday.

Monday, September 7, 2009


It all came to me while watching the Syracuse vs. Minnesota game on Saturday. No, it wasn't the Greg Paulus interception during OT to open the door for an eventual Golden Gophers win. It was the first half, where the prodigal son did all of the little things right in his return home to the Carrier Dome.
He showed the kind of leadership you'd expect to see from your 5th year senior QB. He let his skill players make plays, he played smart, he played within himself and most importantly he didn't turn the ball over (less the botched shotgun snap on the first play from scrimmage).
These are the kinds of things that we should expect from Natale headed into today's home opener. It is also exactly what Schiano means when he talks about "game management" which he so often has during camp. In many ways, Natale represents the last piece of the Scarlet Knights offensive puzzle. With one of top 10 offensive lines in the country (according to Phil Steele), a talented trio of running backs and a mix of experienced, big play and emerging wide receivers, all we need is for Natale to establish enough of a balance in the passing and running games to allow all of the talent around him to make plays and not make any mistakes along the way. If he can play this role, consistently, beginning today with the first series from scrimmage then Natale, and Natale alone at QB gives the Scarlet Knights its best chance to win against the Bearcats.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


The moment is finally upon us. The Big East game of the week is undeniably Cincinnati at Rutgers. Kickoff is set for 4PM tomorrow (ESPN) in Piscataway at the newly expanded Rutgers Stadium (capacity 52,454). The Bearcats won last year's contest 13-10, holding Rutgers to only 62 rushing yards.

This year's games features two completely different teams, however, as Cincinnati is only returning one starter on defense (safety Aaron Webster) and Rutgers has lost some offensive firepower to the NFL. Mike Teel and Kenny Britt, perhaps the best QB-WR combination in the 140 year history of Rutgers Football, will be suiting up for Seahawks and Titans, respectively. Vegas has Rutgers as 5 point favorites which makes this game incredibly hard to pick. There are a few key questions that each team must answer to come away victorious:

1. Can the highly touted Rutgers defense contain Tony Pike (2,407 passing yards and 19 TDs in 2008) and Mardy Gilyard (1,276 receiving yards and 11 TDs in 2008)?

Part of the reason that last year's game was so close was that Pike did not play. The Knights will certainly have their hands full trying to stop the pass but should be able to contain the Bearcats running game which was 95th in the nation last year. Rutgers has depth at defensive line than it ever has under Schiano and also is solid at linebacker and in the defensive backfield.

2. Can the new Rutgers quarterback lead the team to victory in his first college start?

Although the Rutgers starting QB has not yet been revealed, it's the worst kept secret in history. Dom Natale will get the start while both Tom Savage and Jabu Lovelace will see some playing time. The inexperience of the Rutgers QB carousel may not be as much of a problem as it seems. Natale will have two reliable targets in Tim Brown and true freshman Mohammed Sanu (who is already drawing Kenny Britt comparisons). Cincinnati's inexperienced defense is also trying out a new alignment. First year defensive coordinator Bob Diaco is installing a 3-4 this year, which may not be the best of ideas against the run oriented Scarlet Knights. They return sophomores Joe Martinek and Jourdan Brooks who both showed signs of greatness last year, not to mention true freshman De'Antwan Williams who has been brilliant in camp so far. Rutgers also returns all 5 starters on the offensive line, anchored by Preseason All-American tackle Anthony Davis.

3. Will the enclosed endzone at the newly renovated Rutgers Stadium have an effect on Cincinnati?

Coach Schiano has already stated the the crowd noise has nowhere to escape now that south endzone has been enclosed. Will this rattle the Bearcats?

4. Can Rutgers come from behind if Cincinnati jumps out to an early lead?

How will Natale react if the Knights get down 14-0 in the first quarter? Will he be able to keep his poise in his first college start? Even worse, how will the 18 year old Tom Savage handle the situation if he is asked to?

All of these questions and more will be answered tomorrow in what could be the game of the year for both teams. Rutgers should win the game but won't cover. Final score: Rutgers 24 - Cincinnati 20.


The last time Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone set foot in the Carrier Dome, Microsoft just released its first version of Windows, Huey Lewis and the News were at the top of the Billboard charts and Marty McFly just took his first ride in Doc Brown's DeLorean. The year was 1985 and Marrone was an offensive limeman on a Syracuse team that lost to West Virginia 13-10.

Yesterday Marrone looked to take his team back in time, to a place where bowl berths were virtually assured and Big East championships always a possibility. Not even the most die hard of Orange fans expect Marrone to lead the team to a bowl game this year, but they would like to see some tangible evidence that the team is at least headed in the right direction. Under former head coach (and current Michigan defensive coordinator) Greg Robinson, the team suffered four straight losing seasons, never amassing more than four wins or finishing higher than seventh in the Big East.

The last time Greg Paulus set foot in the Carrier Dome he led his high school team (Christian Brothers Academy, located in a Syracuse suburb) to a 41-35 victory over a New Rochelle team that featured Ray Rice and Glenn Lee (both of whom went on to star at Rutgers) to win the state championship. Paulus was the Gatorade Player of the Year in 2004 but decided to give up football to play basketball at Duke. He was Mike Krzyzewski's starting point guard for three years before losing the starting job in his senior season. He took advantage of a little known NCAA rule that allows a fifth year of eligibility for two sport players at two different schools. He enrolled at Syracuse and earned the starting job.

Marrone wasted little time in naming Paulus his starter after just one week of practice this summer (Paulus did not paricipate in spring practice). He made a strong statement with this decision. Paulus is not the future of the program, as this is his one and only year of eligibility. Marrone should have started sophomore Ryan Nassib if he was interested in having something to build on for next year. He also could have started senior Cam Dantley if he was interested in building off of last year's Notre Dame game in which Dantley managed two fourth quarter 68 yard touchdown drives in Syracuse's come from behind victory in South Bend. Instead, Marrone decided to go with a publicity stunt. He feels that the "Local Boy Makes Good" headlines are more important that building a program of which the university and city can both be proud.

Truth be told, although Paulus did not put up great numbers (19-31-167-1-1), he did not do a bad job of managing the offense. He kept his team in the game and gave them a chance to win - for the first 59 minutes. After Minnesota's field goad knotted the score at 20 with 57 seconds left to play in regulation, Paulus had one last shot to lead the Orange down field and win this game. The first play from scrimmage was a 7 yard completion to Mike Williams (in bounds) that was whistled dead with 45 seconds left on the clock. The next snap did not come until the clock was at 25 seconds. Paulus could not get his team to the line fast enough and inexplicably burned 20 seconds. His biggest sin came in overtime when he threw an interception on a 3rd and 5 play. Minnesota did a good job of covering the receivers and Paulus was being chased around the backfield. He had plenty of time to get rid of the ball. Charlie Weiss could have run a 40 yard dash in the same amount of time. Most quarterbacks would have thrown the ball 10 rows into the stands and settled for a field goal. A quarterback that is playing in his first college football game is expected to make that mistake.

The problem is that Paulus is not an 18 year old kid. He's a fifth year senior who will not be coming back next year. Syracuse cannot afford to watch Paulus make mistakes this year and then start over with a new quarterback next year. Orange fans have rallied behind Marrone and are genuinely happy with yesterday's performance. Unfortunately, it did nothing to help build for the future. It's been a long time since a meaningful football game was played in Syracuse and people are counting on Marrone to turn this program around. Too bad he is focused on marketing gimmicks rather than doing the job that he was hired to do.

Friday, September 4, 2009


T minus three days to gameday. Here's the latest headed into the long weekend....

- Injuries: As expected, both Blair Bines and George Johnson will be at full strength on Monday. However, Bines appears to be locked in a fierce battle for the starting DT job with redshirt freshman Scot Vallone. According to Schiano Kordell Young will only be available for emergency situation. In other words, only if Martinek, Brooks and Rocket all simultaneous go out.
- QB Situation: Still nothing official from Schinao, but it seems like a foregone conclusion that Natale will get the starting nod followed by a bit of the Jabu run-gun sprinkled in. I'm guessing that Schiano wont' wait long to pull Natale for Savage if the offense sputters out of the gate.
- Attendance: A quick check at the RU ticket office on Thursday on the ticket situation for Monday: Much like Pernetti reported earlier in the week, limited numbers of tickets are still available, mostly in the corners of the upper deck and in the expanded end zone.
- Stadium Update: Did a quick drive by on Thursday and was nearly blinded by gigantic Brothers paper shredder advertisements beaming from the scoreboard. Talked to one of the workers who told me that the jumbotron was fully tested successfully on Wednesday. The River Road side of the expansion seems to be the primary area of focus right now to make sure it's ready for Monday.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Everyone is anxiously awaiting what is prematurely being dubbed the "Big East Championship" game on Monday afternoon between Cincinnati and Rutgers. It doesn't make much sense to speak of conference championships before a single snap has taken place. Additionally, there is plenty of football to be played long before the titans take the field in Piscataway. Let's look at the rest of the Big East match ups this weekend:

Minnesota (-3.5) over Syracuse (Saturday, Noon, ESPN2)

The odds makers made this one an easy pick. The outcome of this game was never in doubt and the spread is small enough to make this one a no brainer. Minnesota comes into the Carrier Dome losers of 5 straight (including a 55-0 thrashing by Iowa and a 42-21 loss to Kansas in the Insight Bowl) they did start off 7-1 last year and have 18 starters returning this year. By contrast, Syracuse had 18 scholarship players leave the program. Orange fans are rightfully excited by the arrival of first year head coach Doug Marrone but should not expect miracles.

West Virginia (No Line) over Liberty (Saturday, Noon, SNY)

This one should be a laugher as the Mountaineers open up vs. an FCS opponent from the Big South Conference. West Virginia certainly is a different team than it was two years ago after having lost 4 offensive stars to the NFL (Steve Slaton - 2008 Texans, Owen Schmitt -2008 Seahawks, Darius Reynaud - 2008 Vikings and Pat White - 2009 Dolphins) but still have some offensive firepower. The departure of UConn's Donald Brown to the NFL means that Noel Devine returns as the leading rusher in the Big East at 6.3 yds/carry. Quarterback Jarrett Brown is 2-0 as a starter and has never lost a game in which he entered with the lead. It will also be interesting to see this team begin the transition from "Rich Rodriguez' team" to "Bill Stewart's team."

Pittsburgh (No Line) over Youngstown State (Saturday, 1PM)

While Pitt will easily roll over its FCS opponent from the Missouri Valley Conference, the real question here is what will happen with the rest of their season? The Panthers were once again praised for their recruiting class in 2009, and were picked 1st in the Big East media poll. Is Bill Stull the quarterback that can lead the Panthers to a BCS berth? It will be difficult to replace LeSean McCoy (1,448 yds., 21 touchdowns) and LaRod Stephens-Howling (312 yds., 5 touchdowns) at tailback, especially with true freshman Dion Lewis (don't worry - if he gets hurt, he'll be replaced by true freshman Ray Graham). The Pitt two-deep is currently littered with freshman (15 to be exact). There is also the Dave Wannestedt factor. He has no problem recruiting, but has difficulty bringing the best out of his players and also gets out coached each and every Saturday. Is this really a championship team?

USF (No Line) over Wofford (Saturday, 7PM)

This is the Bulls' first of two FCS opponents this year (the other being Western Kentucky). USF should win this game handily over its opponent from the Southern Conference. The Bulls have the talent this year to make a run for their first ever Big East Title and BCS berth. Quarterback Matt Grothe enters this year only 287 yards behind Pat White on the Big East Total Offense list (which he could rack up vs. Wofford) and only 1,287 yards behind former Louisville quarterback Chris Redman who holds the Big East record. That record is well withing reach for this season. On the other side of the ball, defensive end George Selvie is just as exciting. The two-time All-American decided to fore go the NFL draft this spring and will return to anchor the Bulls defense. He routinely runs over anybody not named Anthony Davis on his way to opposing quarterbacks.

UConn (-5) over Ohio (Sunday, 7PM)

The biggest question in this game is not whether or not UConn will cover the spread (they will), it's whether or not Ohio can sell out 24,000 seat Peden Stadium with tickets going for $5 each. The economy is currently in the toilet and UConn-Ohio is not exactly Florida-Georgia, but $5 to see a Division IA College Football game is a great deal no matter the circumstances. Let's see if the people of Athens agree. UConn should fall back to the bottom half of the Big East this year after losing six players to the NFL Draft, including Donald Brown, the nation's leading rusher in 2008.

Louisville (No Line) over Indiana State (Saturday, 7:30 PM)

Indiana State is already 0-1 this season after losing their season opener to Quincy last Thursday. Yes, Quincy, an NAIA school. Not even Louisville, with all its troubles, can lose to Indiana State. The remnants of Bobby Petrino's time in Louisville are almost gone. Most of his players have either graduated, transferred or otherwise lost eligibility. This is truly Steve Kragthorpe's team now, and that's not a good thing if you're a Louisville fan. A sub .500 finish is certainly possible for the Cardinals this year. Even worse, they may finish behind Syracuse.

Of course, all of this is just the undercard. These games will hold us over until the main event on Monday afternoon. Until then - enjoy your weekend.


It’s was September 1, 2007…That was the last time Demetrius Jones stepped onto the gridiron to play in an any kind of a meaningful game. That was the day that Notre Dame coach Charlie Weiss tabbed the sophomore Jones to fill the shoes of the all everything QB Brady Quinn to start the 2007 season opener versus Georgia Tech. Following the loss to the Yellow Jackets where he was benched in favor of super freshman Jimmy Clausen and a loss at Happy Valley the following week, Jones was an inexcusable no show on the team bus to Ann Arbor on September 14th. It was clear that following his losing the starting job to Clausen, and the quickly unraveling Fighting Irish season, he was weighing his options.

He was first rumored to be attending Northern Illinois, a short drive from his hometown of Chicago, but in late September the former Parade All American walked into Brian Kelly’s office at the University of Cincinnati and told him that he wanted to be a bearcat. That day turned out to be the first day of the rest of his life. From the moment Jones stepped onto the UC campus he was tabbed as the future QB of the bearcat offense. Sitting out the mandatory one year per NCAA rules, Jones walked into 2008 camp as the expected starting QB. Little did he know what would take place next, the QB carousel that was Cincinnati football 2008, where from three different starters emerged the unlikely hero 6-6 Tony Pike. T

hrough the entire 2008 season, Jones did not play a single down at QB as he watched Pike from the sidelines. Down but surely not out, the 6-3 210 lb Jones thought long and hard about his next move. It was this past Spring that Kelly, fresh off of losing 10 starters on defense, approached Jones about making a switch to the other side of the ball. Demetrius, reluctantly at first agreed to try LB. Slowly but surely, Jones began buying into what Kelly was selling. “There’s no question that he’s got to (buy in),” Kelly said, “and he struggled with it, even during the summer at times. He’d go home and people would tell him, what are you doing? You’re a quarterback. But I think he’s pretty settled into the idea that that’s his position. I knew when he came back from after summer workouts that he was all in.” After committing to Kelly to becoming a full time LB entering training camp in August, Jones surprised many with his rapid ascent up the depth chart culminating with him being named a starter last week for the Rutgers opener. “You always hope for the best and adjust instead of the other way around. We saw signs of it in the spring that if we could just continue to get him to progress he was going to be a great player for us.” says Kelly.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Like a reluctant mother sending her child off to college for the first time, Coach Schiano finally released his two deep on Monday afternoon for the Cincinnati opener:

- In a sign of just how far the RS junior come during camp, Howard Barbieri is listed as co-starter at LG along with Caleb Ruch who had a less then stellar training camp as the incumbent starter.
- DC listed as #2 at TE....Since he couldn't have shown much other in the few days he worked out at TE, it is a confirmation of just how weak we are behind Graves.
- Anyone surprised by Sanu being named starter at WR? How about true freshman Steve Beauharnais being listed # 2 at strong side LB behind Damaso Munoz?
- Natale = Lovelace = Savage, but is Schiano now leaning Natale in his latest comments
- Martinek and Brooks or Brooks and Martinek? Potato, Potaato. It doesn't matter much who starts in this tandem. When used together, they give Schiano the ability to deal with the entire spectrum of possibilities on running downs.
- Lowery and Abreu listed as co-starters at weak-side LB. One of the great positional battles that was well chronicled during camp. One more week or so to pound it out Gladiator style. Schiano says he wants to chose one.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Rutgers University has been in existence since 1766 and has a had a football team since 1869. It became "The State University of New Jersey" in 1945, but when it comes to athletics, Rutgers was never thought of as "New Jersey's team." Rutgers Athletics, for the majority of the 20th century, was like the uncle who comes over for Christmas dinner, has one too many eggnogs, and ends up passed out under the tree without his clothes. You didn't totally disown him, but you weren't proud to call him uncle either.

The previous century saw spirited debate amongst New Jersey college football fans with regards to who was truly New Jersey's team - Notre Dame or Penn State? When it came to college basketball, there was no debate. Syracuse was New Jersey's team, save for 1989, when a feisty little Italian man from South Orange took his three seed to the national championship game with back to back upsets of UNLV in the West Regional Final and Duke in the the Final Four, before losing a one point heartbreaker to Michigan in the championship.

A lot has changed since then, however. Kids born in the Garden State today don't have to root for Notre Dame, or Penn State. This is the first generation of New Jerseyans that will never have to walk in to Rutgers Stadium with a paper bag on its collective head. Kids across the state are wearing Rutgers gear. Rutgers posters are hung up in the high school football locker rooms across the state. The Edison High School football has has even adopted Eric Foster's locker room chant from 2006. For the first time in the history of Rutgers football, people are actually predicting the Knights to take home the Big East crown and earn its first BCS berth. Expectations are higher than they were in 2007 (thanks in part to a favorable schedule), or ever for that matter. The New Jersey faithful are proud to call Rutgers "our team." How did this happen?

Let's look at the milestones this program has realized in recent years that have brought us to this point:

April 15, 1998 - Bob Mulcahy hired as Director of Athletics. While this act alone did not turn the tide in favor of the Knights, make no mistake - Rutgers would still be in the cellar of the Big East if it were not for Mulcahy. He replaced long time Athletics Director Fred Grunninger, who was in over his head. While its true that Grunniger is a great man whom deserves nothing but respect, the fact of the matter is, a chia pet would have been a better AD. The former golf coach had great intentions, but did not have what it takes. The personnel that Mulcahy brought in, as well as much needed upgrades to some of the poorest facilities in the nation were the springboard to the success we are seeing now.

December 1, 2000 - Hiring of Greg Schiano. This would be the personnel referred to in the previous paragraph. The recruiting success that Schiano has achieved is unprecedented in Rutgers history. He is to Rutgers football what bread is to butter. St. Gregory of Piscataway certainly has his own cult following, but it wasn't always that way.

2001 Football Season - The Knights won their first game under Schiano at Buffalo. They finished 2-9 (the only other win over Navy) and were trashed by Big East defectors Virginia Tech and Miami by a combined score of 111-0. That was capped off by an 80-7 loss vs. West Virginia. "Same old Rutgers" was the cry heard 'round state. The grass hadn't even begun to grow under Schiano's feet and the the rumblings had begun.

2002 Football Season - Schiano's second campaign was worse than his first. The team finished 1-11 with its lone win vs. Army. This year didn't win over any fans.

2003 Football Season - The 5-7 campaign (with wins over Buffalo, Army, Navy, Temple and Syracuse) included the first two Big East wins under Schiano. It also marked the first time Schiano beat a team that was not called "Buffalo", "Army", "Navy", or "Temple." The tide was turning. People started to believe but it wasn't enough to erase more than 130 years of losing.

2004 Football Season - A win against Michigan State in the season opener could have been the thing that really got this program back on track, but the Knights followed it up with a loss the next week against FCS opponent (nee I-AA) New Hampshire. The faithful were ready to run Schiano out of town on a rail. The Knights started off 4-2 (with wins against Kent State, Vandernilt and Temple) but ended up dropping the last five to finish 4-7. One note here is that after the Homecoming game against Temple, an intoxicated driver, going the wrong way on route 18, hit a car that was occupied by defensive backs Manny Collins, Eddie Grime & Dondre Asberry. Who knows what could have been if those three had been around for second half of the season. Collins was the only one that retunred to football, and Asberry still cannot walk.

2005 Football Season - Rutgers finished 7-5 and made the second bowl appearance in school history (the first since 1978). This was the year that truly turned things around, but there was one specific moment that can be defined the turning point in Rutgers football history -

November 26, 2005 - Rutgers 44 - Cincinnati 9. The Bearcats beat the Knights 26-24 in 1992 crushing their bowl hopes that year. Coming into this game, Rutgers amassed victories over Buffalo, Vilanova, Pitt, Syracuse, Connecticut and Navy. They needed a win over Cincinatito virtually guarantee a bowl berth. The Knights rushed for 337 yards (led by freshman Ray Rice) and senior quarterback Ryan Hart threw for another 237. A loss in this game meant a 6-6 season and possibly no bowl appearance. This game solidified the 2005 season and in turn provided a foundation for the program. Since then, these two teams have had some pretty meaningful games. The Bearcats stunned the Knights in 2006 and dashed their hopes of a national title. The next two meetings were also won by Cincinnati by a combined 8 points.

The Bearcats and Scarlet Knights go head to head on Labor Day in what could decide the Big East Championship. Both teams are trying to take their program to the next level, and anything can happen in this game. The only thing we know for sure is that this day wouldn't be possible if it weren't November 26, 2005.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


These guys are really beat up...plenty of bumps and bruises. Steve Shimko is “foggy” following Wednesday’s scrimmage. Not sure if this is a medical term or a state of mind, literally. Stephante Kent is on the road to recovery but Marcus Witherspoon can’t seem to catch a break since enrolling late last summer. He once again injured himself this week, this time a leg muscle, and was referred to as being “snakebit”. George Johnson and Blair Bines appear to be slowly nursing themselves back to health following respective shoulder and leg injuries in the past week. I guarantee that we will see both of them will themselves back onto the field for the Cincinnati opener to the awe of Coach Schiano.

- No one seems to know the exact status of Ryan D’Imperio following his leg injury last week and limited work during Saturday’s scrimmage. Is he back to full health yet?

- TBA…Schiano seems set on holding off any key positional announcements until he absolutely has to. Not sure if this is a strategic move or he’s just not sure. I can understand that he want’s to let Antonio Lowery and Manny Abreu pound it out for a few more days since both have had great camps, but at wide receiver? It seemed like Sanu has this one wrapped up with a bow already behind Tim Brown.

- The running men…Joe Martinek and Jourdan Brooks with a little bit of Rocket sprinkled in put up some ungodly numbers in Wednesdays scrimmage (combined 22 rushes for 243 yards), albeit against a freshman and sophomore laden scout team. Whether you wan to call them a 1-2 punch or running back by committee, these guys are going to give opposing defenses fits this year with the different looks that each offers.

- On the offense…The chatter has been so focused lately on the quarterback battle (which is now down to two plus Jabu) that we’ve all somehow forgotten about how well the rest of the offense has played in camp. True, defense dominated for the better part of the first two scrimmages, but this is exactly what we expected them to do. I would personally have been surprised (and concerned) if the offense put up any kind of big numbers against the 1’s on defense during scrimmages. I’m not saying that the 38-0 hurtin’ that was put to the scout team is what our offense is capable of week in and week out in the Big East. But maybe the reality of this offense is somewhere in between this and the beatings they received in the first two scrimmages as long as they can protect the ball. Stephante Kent

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


It seems that just about everyone around here is talking about the move of DC Jefferson to TE. It’s a clear sign from Schiano that the tight end depth situation behind Shamar Graves is much more of a concern now then providing depth and competition at QB where Natale and Savage are the clear No. 1 and No. 2 options. While those of us that have speculated for months about a move of Jefferson to TE can now pat themselves on the back, what truly amazes me is the unselfishness shown by DC making the move in an effort to help the team where it was needed most. DC is a kid who turned down SEC glory to come to Rutgers to be the then quarterback of the future in 2008. Following a less then stellar spring game performance and the arrival of Tom Savage, he very easily could have up and left the program but he stuck it out. He entered camp as a likely third or fourth option on the depth chart but he showed his promise by registering the only scoring drive (70 yards) in the first scrimmage and did enough at Saturday’s second scrimmage to remain in the QB conversation. While he seems to have done enough right to make his case as the starting quarterback, it was ultimately his choice to make the switch to TE following a discussion with Coach Schiano prior to Monday’s practice. "I'm good with it," he said. "I decided I can do it, that I was capable of doing it and it's best for the team. I have no problem with it." Baring injury or the emergence of Savage as the offensive leader, Jefferson will once again get a shot at the starting QB slot in the spring. And if it turns out that the future QB situation does not clear up during this season, don’t be surprised at all if Jefferson emerges as the team leader in part due to his unselfish act and his desire to do whatever he can to make this team the best it can be…Keep Chopin' DC!

Sunday, August 23, 2009


No Big East teams in the Preseason Top 25…Not a single one. Pittsburgh came the closest at 28, followed by Rutgers at 30, West Virginia at 32 and Cincinnati at 33. South Florida rounded out the “also receiving votes” contingent at 45. While this will surely ignite a fire around the nation regarding the inclusion of the Big East in the BCS bowl schedule and Orrin Hatch will once again climb atop his soap box, claiming the injustices of the BSC and the non inclusion of Utah and the rest of the Mountain West (which has three teams in the top 25), all of this seams like a complete over reaction. Yes, the Big East begins the 2009 season lacking star status losing players like Pat White, Lesean McCoy, Donald Brown and Kenny Britt to the NFL. Cincinnati’s lackluster performance against Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl also didn’t help the Big East’s position in the BCS conference pecking order. But what everyone seems to overlook though is the tremendous parity that has emerged in the conference as a result of these changes. At the annual Big East football media day, four teams received first place votes to finish atop the Big East. Curiously, Rutgers picked to finish fifth and who several media outlets pick to win the conference, did not receive a single first place vote as determined by Big East media. No coach, whether you’re Urban Meyer, Pete Carroll or Doug Marrone likes dealing with high expectations. High expectations are a very, very dangerous for the kind of teams the Big East has entering the season: young, talented, hungry. There is too much talent in this year’s edition of Big East football. A new cast of stars awaits in the wings to become the next poster boys for the Big East on the national stage. We may not see it right away, but we will see it at some point this season. Time will tell. Having no teams ranked in the preseason Top 25 may end up being the best thing that happened to this conference after all.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Following NCAA regulations requiring teams to alternate its two-a-day practices, the Scarlet Knights concluded Friday’s practice following the morning workout leaving the team the afternoon to prepare for Saturday’s scrimmage….Here’s what went down.

• Gunners…Schiano commented following practice that Joe Lefeged, Devin McCourty, Brandon Bing and Brandon Jones are competing for gunner spots on punt coverage. The smart money is on Lefeged filling one of those spots. I hope to see many, many Lefeged gunner highlights on youtube this fall. However, I’m sure that G Rob (now defensive coordinator for Rich Rod) hopes he never sees Lefeged again.

• More on D’Imperio…Captain D’Imperio returned to full contact today following a limited workout on Thursday. Apparently Brian Bennett of ESPN was so concerned over the injury that he was preparing to change his prediction of Rutgers finishing atop the Big East depending on the magnitude of his injury…Don’t worry Brian your safe now.

• An interesting position change. Fabian Ruiz, the only other TE besides Shamar Graves with team experience is now working out at defensive end. Howard Barbieri (all 6’5” 300 lbs of him) and Marlon Romulus are now auditioning as blocking TE’s.

• Elsewhere…Tom Luicci reported that Dom Natale had his first “Mike Teel Moment” when he willed his way to a touchdown on a fourth down and goal during Thursday’s practice. While we may all differ on the historical interpretation of a “Teel” moment, Natale has clearly separated himself from the pack and is now establishing himself as the leader of this offense and the team. Look for more on Natale’s leadership during Saturday’s scrimmage.


Some very encouraging news from the practice fields today.

• Ryan D’Imperio (leg), Blair Bines (ankle), Jonathan Freeny (ankle) and Tim Brown (ankle) all appear to be OK and practiced today to varying degrees
• Other good news…Scott Vallone and Justin Francis both appeared to pass the doing more then adequate jobs filling in for Bines and Freeny
• Some bad news…..Kordell Young just can’t seem to shake this knee thing. Has a few good days followed by a few bad ones. Hope to see that he can be more then just a roll player during the season. Only rest will tell.
• Rutgers is close to inking a deal to play a 2010 home gain against Army in the new Meadlands. The potential matchup would be the first college game at the new complex and could net Rutgers $2.7 million in the process.


Since it’s a fairly slow day for Rutgers football news, it’s a good time to take a quick peak into Cincinnati’s training camp. No doubt there is big play potential for the potent Tony Pike lead offense. The senior QB’s appears to have picked up in camp where he left off in 2008 where he threw for 2,407 yards and 19 TD’s. At today’s Media Day, the always affable Coach Brian Kelly had this to say about the performance of his offensive unit in camp. “One of the things that has come out of camp is that we can get big-chunk plays with the offense we have….more than the last couple of years.” Although there are ten gaping holes that need to be filled in the Bearcat defense going into camp, defensive backs coach Kerry Coombs seems very encouraged by what he’s seen so far. “It’s much deeper…Just like today when you’ve got a corner running off on a deep long ball, rather than have him go to the line of scrimmage and play another snap at maybe 90 percent, we can bring a guy off the sideline at 100 percent. We have enough guys to do that.” So far no real surprises at Kelly Camp as this offense appears primed and ready to pick up where it left off in 2008 (with the exception of the Orange Bowl of course). Only time will tell with this defense though as it tries to replace three first team all Big east Performers from a year ago.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


With the new revelation that Greg Schiano may play as many as three QB’s during the season opener against Cincinnati, one has to wonder exactly what is going on. Although not statistically, Dom Natale has clearly separated himself from the pack with his grasp of the offense and DC Jefferson has surprised some in piloting the offense to its only sustained drive and score during Tuesday’s scrimmage….But lining up Lovelace at wideout? Is this the work of a madman or genius at work by giving a Bearcat defense (one that replaces ten of its eleven starters) more looks then a Victoria’s Secret fashion show.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


It's mid-August and that can only mean two things. 1) Everyone with an internet connection has started predicting possible bowl matchups for the 2009 NCAA Football Season and 2) We are less than one month away from Tony Siragusa's nonsensical sideline rants.
We all know by now that Sports Illustrated has picked Rutgers to win the Big East and has predicted that they will earn a Sugar Bowl berth vs. Ole Miss. The only thing I am willing to predict is that it is too early to predict anything. It does make me wonder though. I think back to that night on December 2, 2006, in Morgantown. No Rutgers team before or since has ever come that close to a BCS berth. How does this year's team compare to that one, and more importantly, can this team be the first ever Rutgers team to play football on New Year's Day? Let's take a look, position by position.



2006 - Statistics don't lie. Mike Teel is the best quarterback in the history of the program. He showed signs of greatness at times - we all want to remember him as the quarteback that tied a Big East record tossing 7 touchdown passes vs. Louisville last year. But there were plenty of times that he looked more like Garo Yepremian than Johnny Unitas - think of his first start, at Syracuse in 2005 (3 interceptions in a winning effort) or the drubbing he took at Louisville later that year. The 2006 Mike Teel was not the same Mike Teel that broke all of the school records. He managed the game, and played well enough not to lose.

2009 - The only thing that we know about the 2009 quarterback battle so far is that Steve Shimko will probably not see any significant action. Wherever the Natale, Lovelace, Jefferson, Savage merry-go-round lands, one thing is certain - none of them have any experience.

Slight Advantage - 2006 Team


2006 - Ray Rice. Enough said.

2009 - Joe Martinek is creating some separation between himself and Jourdan Brooks. Both are tremendous runners. The injury-plagued Kordell Young could also be in the mix, if he ever gets healthy. True freshman De'Antwan Williams will also be given a look, but it's too big of hill for an 18 year old to climb. The safe money is on Martinek, with Brooks occasionally spelling him.

Advantage - 2006 Team, of course, but these guys can run.


2006 - If any one person, other than Greg Schiano, can be credited with turning this program around, it's Brian Leonard. Whether he carried the ball, or paved the way for Rice, he was the lynch pin of the offense. Not only did he produce, but he was a leader on and off the field. He was the ultimate teamate.

2009 - It's unfair for anyone to expect Jack Corcoran to be the next Brian Leonard. Those shoes are too big to fill. Corcoran has proven to be a capable receiver out of the backfield and certainly has done well picking up blitzers that get through the line.

Advantage - 2006 Team

Wide Receiver

2006 - By the end of the year Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood were the top two receivers. Both of those guys will be playing on Sundays this fall.

2009 - Tim Brown is the top receiver this year with true freshman Mohammed Sanu right behind him. Sanu has shown signs of greatness in the first five days of camp. If you think he's a good reciever, you should see him return punts. This kid is talented and will help the team immediately.

Advanatge - 2006 Team, it's too early to tell what Sanu will bring and Brown has been too inconsistent throughout his career.

Tight End

2006 - Clark Harris followed in the footsteps of Marco Battaglia and LJ Smith, writing his own chapter in the legacy of Rutgers tight ends.

2009 - Shamar Graves has had some great moments, but has also been very sloppy at times. I have not been impressed with the incoming freshamn class, led by Malcolm Bush, through the first five practices.

Advantage - 2006 Team

Offensive Line

2006 - Sosa, Zuttah, Fladell, Stephenson, Stapleton. That looks more like a Who's Who list of NFL rosters, and even includes one Super Bowl ring.

2009 - Davis (now that he made weight), Haslam, Forst, Ruch, Blasczyk. This could be one of the Top 5 offensive lines in the country. This unit was solely responsible for the 1-5 start last year, as well as the fantastic finish. When they finally geled, the team rode their backs to seven straight victories. And all 5 are coming back this year.

Advantage - 2009 Team, though the '06 team is riddled with NFL players, they did not have the continuity or solidarity of this year's line.


Defensive Line

2006 - Eric Foster was not only the leader of his unit, he also took on the unofficial title of team cheerleader. The rest of the team fed off of him. Foster, Ramel Meekins, Jaamal Westerman and William "Papa" Beckford were a four man wrecking crew.

2009 - George Johnson, Alex Silvestro and Jonhathan Freeny have cemeted their place on the line. This group is deep as well. Eric LeGrand, a healthy Charlie Noonan, Blair Bines and true freshman Andre Civil should also compete for playing time. Frehman Scott Vallone and junior Sorie Bayoh are further down the the depth chart, although Bayoh will probably see some time on special teams.

Advantage - 2009 Team, it's much deeper than the 2006 team.


2006 - The linebacking corps was anchored by Devraun Thompson, whose 4th and Goal stop at North Carolina set the tone for the rest of the season. His supporting cast included Quintero Frierson, Kevin Malast and Brandon Renkart, among others.

2009 - Ryan D'Imperio and Damaso Munoz have locked up starting jobs. Manny Abreu and Antonio Lowry have not yet lived up to their potential.

Advantage - 2006 Team. Although the 2009 team is more talented, they are too inconsistent.

Defensive Backs

2006 - Girault, Greene, and Collins were solid all year. Derek Roberson, Glen Lee and Jason McCourty also saw action.

2009 - Zaire Kitchen and Joe LeFeged are the safeties. Devin McCourty is firmly entrenched at one corner. Brandon Bing, Khaseem Greene and highly-touted newcomer Darrel Givens will compete for the other.

Advanatge - 2009 Team, as long as LeFeged still keeps hitting hard and Givens lives up to his billing.

You don't have to be Albert Einstein to see that the 2006 team fared better in most categories than the 2009 team, but there is still one more category that has not yet been discussed - the favorable Big East Schedule. The 2009 team has defending champs Cincinnati at home, along with Pitt, South Florida and West Virginia. Conference road trips include Louisville, Connecticut and Syracuse. If the quarterback, whoever that may be, is capable enough not to lose, the Knights may just celebrate the New Year in style.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


The latest news from around Rutgers Nation from day two of training camp:

  • It seems that Schiano can't say enough about the senior leadership on this team. For the second day in a row, the head coach gushed about the attitude and experience of his 14 seniors as it seems that he feels this will clearly shape the outcome of the 2009 campaign.
  • Jourdan Brooks is ready. The 6-1 230 lb running back has reported to camp in superior physical condition. Coach Schiano stated that this will allow him to "practice harder, which in turn allows him to be a better player." Brooks finished second on the team in 2008 with 531 rushing yards on 100 carries including 100 yard performances against Morgan State and Louisville.
  • Two days into camp and no mention of Joe Martinek yet.
  • No changes at the QB position: Natale and Lovelace are still sharing first team reps while DC Jefferson continues to work with the second team. Steve Shimko and Tom Savage are splitting time on the third team offense.
  • Anthony Davis' exile to the second team offense continues since reporting to camp over weight. In AD's freshman camp in 2007, he also reported overweight but quickly working himself into playing shape. Don't expect his stint on the second team to last long.