Upon Further Review: RU vs. UConn Analysis

The euphoria of Rutgers' 27-24 come-from-behind win against Connectucit is starting to die down as the Scarlet Knights begin preparing for Army. But before we begin the coverage of Army week, ScarletReport.com re-visits the more subtle points of Rutgers' win.

Watching the game live is one thing, and presents a real-time look at what is happening on the field.

However, pop on the game tape and you may see something different, or further validation of what your eye thought it saw while watching live.

After each Rutgers game, ScarletReport.com will take a look at a slowed-down, rewound version of what took place on the field.

Friday's 27-24 win against Connecticut in the Big East opener brought a lot of surprises, in a good way, and near the top was the pass protection by the offensive line. The play calling was also sublime, but there were some defensive issues and uncharacteristically poor special teams play.

What To Like

  • The play calling, and not because the Wildcat was limited. It was creative, showed new things and incorporated a little something of everything. Offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca called what amounted to a swing pass to tight end D.C. Jefferson, ran an end-around with Jeremy Deering, had quarterback Chas Dodd roll out, took chances down the field and took advantage of matchups. When Deering caught the 45-yard pass late in the fourth quarter, he was lined up in the slot with a linebacker covering him.

    Jeremy Deering
  • Dodd's arm strength. He may be a shade under 6-foot (and he is), but his arm strength is off the charts. Two passes illustrate that the best. The first is the 46-yard touchdown to Deering, where the window didn't appear tight, but it was because of UConn's defensive positioning. And Dodd threw it on a line.

    Also, the fourth-quarter pass to Jefferson was between two linebackers and on Jefferson's left shoulder. If he doesn't catch it, no one does.

  • The offensive line's pass blocking. It was the best it has been all season. Two of the sacks were because of poor blitz pickup by a running back and another because Dodd left a perfectly formed pocket.

  • Jordan Thomas' running instincts. He is not only fast and can slash, but he can set up defenders. In the first quarter he was running on the outside left, gave a quick wiggle like he was going to cut up field and then bounced it to the outside. It left cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson wondering where Thomas went.

  • Different looks from the Wildcat. They all didn't work, but there were some alterations, including Mohamed Sanu attempting a few passes, and have running back Joe Martinek and fullback Colin McEvoy split and in front of Sanu.

  • The speed and strength of linebacker Manny Abreu. One play he took on a fullback block before making a tackle and another play he broke free from right tackle Kevin Friend for a big stop. Abreu played fast and downhill, and forced a fumble.

  • Dodd's composure. Despite a few dropped passes and the offense producing only three points in the second and third quarters, and remained focused on the game plan and didn't let penalties frustrate him.

  • Defensive end Alex Silvestro's activity. When a defensive end has eight tackles, it is an incredible performance. He was beating UConn's offensive line regularly, but it was more than that. With 3:50 left in the game, Huskies running back Jordan Todman tried to run right.

    Silvestro was lined up on the other side and went unblocked, with the philosophy he couldn't track the play down from behind. Instead, Silvestro tackled Todman to set the tone for the last few series.

  • Brandon Bing's overall game. He tackled well, and delivered the last hit that knocked Todman out of the game. He also picked up a smart pass interference penalty at the end of the first half. He was beat on an inside move for a touchdown, but interfered and UConn had to settle for a field goal.

  • Coach Greg Schiano's timeout in the closing minutes of the first half. UConn came out to run Wildcat, with quarterback Cody Endres split wide, so Schiano called timeout to talk to his defense about how to stop it. UConn abandoned the Wildcat on the next play and did not get into the end zone.

    What To Work On

  • The special teams coverage. Nick Williams isn't a burner, but still went 100 yards on a kickoff return. Also, punter Teddy Dellaganna had the biggest hit on special teams all night, and that is bad on many levels.

    Teddy Dellaganna
  • Rutgers effectiveness in blitzing. It caused Endres to throw a few early balls, but Rutgers couldn't get to him regularly.

    On one play, Antonio Lowery would have had a free shot, but instead was duped by the play-action and by the time he recovered, Endres threw it down the field. Also, middle linebacker Steve Beauharnais had a doozy of a time trying to get pressure despite his number of blitzes.

  • The blitz pickup by running back Kordell Young. Two of UConn's sacks came when Young didn't recognize where the blitzer was coming from. So, Young wasn't blocking anyone and a Rutgers offensive lineman was left with two defenders to block.

  • Getting burned on Todman's 66-yard touchdown run. Schiano blamed the play call, and it is easy to see why. Strong safety Joe Lefeged and weakside linebacker Antonio Lowery both went to the left side of UConn's offensive side, as if they were expecting a pass to that side of the field.

    Instead, Todman burst through the middle, and there was no second level of defenders. If Lefeged was in the middle, it is a 7-yard again.

  • Run-blocking by non-offensive line members and decisions of the running backs. Schiano talks about how the running game woes are not all on the offensive line, and it is easy to see what he is talking about.

    Sanu could have had a big run to the left side in the fourth quarter, but Jefferson couldn't hold his block on defensive end Kendall Reyes. Rather than a big gainer off left tackle, Sanu is forced to the outside and gets nothing.

    There was a second-and-3 inside of UConn's 10-yard line in the third quarter where McEvoy didn't block anyone, and the only Husky unaccounted for at the line of scrimmage slid through and dropped Martinek for a 3-yard loss.

    Finally, on a third-and-2 midway through the fourth quarter and deep in UConn territory, Martinek ran left for no gain. Had he followed pulling right guard Desmond Wynn, he probably would have picked up the first down.

  • The poor snaps. It cannot be so hard that five games into a season snaps in the shotgun and Wildcat are perpetually high, throwing off the timing of plays and giving either Dodd or Sanu something else to think about pre-snap instead of concentrating on reads and the play.
    RT David Rowe
    Not To Worry

  • Rutgers cornerback David Rowe was beaten few times, but given the number of times Connecticut challenged him, he still held his own. Rowe was mostly on Kashif Moore, who had five catches for 64 yards. On his 22-yard touchdown reception, Rowe was step-for-step with him but just got lost on his width and gave Moore too much room on the sideline, which allowed quarterback Cody Endres to go over his head.

    However, Rowe finished with three pass break-ups, and his coverage was still good for most of the game.

    Keeping Perspective

    Chas Dodd
  • Don't expect every game to be like this for Dodd. It is unfair, and more creative defenses will find a way to blitz Dodd and try to confuse, which is not as easy considering his understanding of the game and his ability to get the ball off quickly.

    Still, UConn rarely varied from its reputation of being a third-down blitzing team. And two of the sacks occurred when Rutgers failed to pick up the blitz, yet the Huskies stayed away from it and let Dodd sit back and go against a soft two-deep zone.

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