Rutgers Offensive Line Looks for Improvement

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Eight sacks dwelled in the mind of the Rutgers offensive line during parts of the bye week, but became a motivator as well. Expecting a heavy pass rush against Houston Saturday, Rutgers discussed the need to better protect its passing plays for success.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – The Rutgers bye week did not come at a happy time for junior guard Kaleb Johnson. Furious with his personal performance in a 24-10 loss to Louisville, moving on from an eight-sack disaster offensively becomes even harder when going more than two weeks before the next game.

Houston comes to town tomorrow for Homecoming, and that will be a welcome chance to rewrite mistakes.

"[Redemption] is definitely something we're talking about," Johnson said. "We have 22 sacks right now on the season, and that's just something that's embarrassing to us. It's something we've been focused on in the meeting room. We're trying to get better on the field."

Johnson, who plays left guard after seasons at left tackle and right tackle, sees an improved focus on the line after being woken up by the tough Louisville pass rush.

"[We have to] get back to our fundamentals, focusing on the things that we need to get into on the basics," Johnson said. "It's becoming a unit. … It's very embarrassing for us, and we just need to continue to work on it and try to get better."

Junior captain and quarterback Gary Nova took blame for the majority of offensive mistakes against Louisville, which was one of the most physically punishing games of his career.

A combination of missed assignments, poor technique and poor pocket awareness contributed to the pressure, and Rutgers expects Houston to go after it for that reason.

"We're working really hard at it," Nova said. "Obviously in practice things are going good, but the real test is in the game. …Earlier in the year [Houston] didn't really blitz that much and watching their BYU game, they blitzed more there than they did all season. We're kind of expecting the same thing and we just have to prepare for it."

Rutgers will be without fifth-year senior guard Antwan Lowery, who will miss the game because of a death in the family, making Chris Muller's role at starting right guard more important.

Muller won the right guard spot against Fresno State shortly after Andre Civil went down the injury. Lowery replaced him against both SMU and Louisville, however, and the starting role remains a learning process.

"You can't dwell on the past, that's what I'm learning," Muller said. "You have to learn from it. We made a lot of mental errors. We've been practicing our fundamentals and using the bye week the best we can. We're prepared to go out and show how much we've matured and progressed."

Muller sat out portions of the loss to Louisville, but said he feels the weight of an eight-sack day against his quarterback.

"It hurts you personally, because I didn't play as well as I could," Muller said. "When you have a player as good as Gary, you never want him to get hit because he leads our team to battle. He's such a great player, that we don't want to see him on the ground ever."

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