Sunday, September 20, 2009

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”.


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