The much-maligned offensive line played well, and there were plenty of plays being made by underclassmen.
ScarletReport.com reviewed the game to take a close look at what happens when the tape is slowed down. Here is what was found:
- The play of the offensive line. The unit was very good in pass protection, and opened running lanes as Jeremy Deering ran nine times for 69 yards, and the play of center Howard Barbieri and right guard Caleb Ruch was very good.
Both showed their athleticism in pulling situations, with Barbieri's best coming in the third quarter on Deering's 15-yard run to the 1-yard line. Barbieri made the key block, rolling over a USF defender down the field.
Also, Ruch was able to get out and pull on many occasions and deliver key blocks to open running lanes, as he did on Deering's 8-yard run with 8:26 left in the first quarter.
- The imagination of the play calling. The tempo of the offense was good, with quick snaps early in the game and pressure being taken off the offensive line by quick throws.
There was also counter runs out of the Wildcat, with Jordan Thomas changing his direction to keep USF's defense honest and counter the pursuit to the bal.
Even on the much-debated third-and-2 deep pass to Sanu midway through the fourth quarter, that was not the initial option. Dodd pump-faked to Harrison on the left side, but USF's secondary didn't bite so Dodd had to look elsewhere.
- Mason Robinson's wiggle. At full speed it may have looked like Mason Robinson fielded the punt, had six USF defenders run past him and then had a clear path to the end zone. Not the case. Robinson made a pair of subtle moves to break the return, including faking out defensive tackle Luke Sager to bust into the clear.
- Dodd's play. He got rid of the ball quickly, accurately and allowed his receivers to make plays. He was 19 of 22. Harrison dropped a ball, he threw one away in the corner when Jeremy Deering was covered and the deep pass to Sanu were his incompletions.
- The work rate of defensive end Alex Silvestro. He was operating with a high RPM, and was often getting pressure on the quarterback or chasing a play from the backside. Give him extra credit for having to jump in the middle and spend time as an undersized defensive tackle.
- The play call and execution on Justin Francis' fourth-quarter interception. Rutgers dropped defensive linemen Jonathan Freeny and Francis into coverage in the middle of the field and brought pressure from linebackers Antonio Lowery and Beauharnais on the edge.
What To Work On
- The tackling. It was better, but not where it needs to be. It started on the first play when middle linebacker Steve Beauharnais was juked by quarterback B.J. Daniels, and safety Joe Lefeged whiffed on a one-on-on tackle against running back Mo Plancher's 15-yard run to the Rutgers 8-yard with 9:04 left in the first half
- Special teams coverage. Punt coverage has been an issue all season, and when USF's Terrence Mitchell returned one 47 yards in the first quarter it was because Rutgers' gunners – Lefeged and Brandon Jones – lost containment and allowed Mitchell to the outside.
- Indecision in the secondary. On USF's first touchdown, safety Khaseem Greene left his man, who turned out to be the one Daniels found after a scramble to the left sideline. Later in the game Greene jumped to the middle of the field and left Lefeged one-on-one with a receiver deep, but Daniels was off target on the throw.
- The lack of explosion and speed the running backs are hitting the holes. There were places to run, but the running back is taking too long to get to the opening. On a first-and-10 run in the first quarter, a hole was open on the left side for a big gain, but Thomas was slow getting there. Throughout the game there were instances where Martinek, who is playing on an injured ankle, didn't show the burst or acceleration he had last season and couldn't get to the play.
- Dodd's inexperience. It is something that can only be handled over time, but the third-quarter safety is put on him a lot because he never let the play develop. Aside from the play call, Dodd threw the ball just as USF's defensive linemen were being released by the offensive line. Dodd never allowed for the defensive linemen to get up field, and Young never got on the other side of the USF players to give the play a chance.
- The offensive line backups. Guard Antwan Lowery was beaten soundly on a play-action call that resulted in a 40-yard pass to Harrison
- Discipline. Three offside calls on one drive helped USF to a field goal, and tight ends D.C. Jefferson and Evan Lampert each had costly red-zone false starts that turned possible touchdown drives into field goals. Jefferson's blocking also left a lot to be desired.
- The ability of the running backs to get to the edge. It didn't exist against a speedy USF defense.
- The missed blitz pickup on the fourth-and-3 late in the fourth quarter. Coach Greg Schiano was likely protecting running back Kordell Young when he was asked about it the day after the game, but Young got caught behind the center and left guard and never saw the blitzer coming through the right side of the line.
- Vision from the running backs. This is not to pick on an individual, but just to illustrate the point. On the first down shovel pass after Rutgers took over the 48-yard line late in the fourth quarter, Martinek ran into a defender, who was being blocked by offensive tackle Devon Watkis. It was a 2-yard loss. Had Martinek turned the other way, he would have had a big gain and possible put Rutgers in contention for a game-winning field goal.
LB Antonio Lowery Not To Worry
The defense's tackling will be fine. Rutgers is a good defensive team, and after a not-so-stellar performance against Pittsburgh it was markedly better against USF. It needs to improve more, but it should.
- This is a young team. Some folks don't want to hear about that in year 10, but teams go through these cycles and there is plenty of growth being shown. The offensive line had its best game of the season, Jeremy Deering and Mark Harrison are developing nicely and Dodd is doing a very good job executing what is being called. The points aren't coming as much as they need to, but the offense moved the ball well against USF.