Sunday Notebook: D Gives Reason to Believe

Rutgers held Penn State to 13 points but it was not enough to pull off the upset at home. The defensive performance however -- after struggles against Washington State and Howard -- showed a new level of life. Rutgers coach Kyle Flood addressed the improvements and what it means going into Navy in his Sunday post-game call. Flood will stick with quarterback Gary Nova for the Navy game week.

Who would have thought going into Saturday night that it would be the defense that gave Rutgers a competitive edge? The same defense that gave up 25 points to FCS Howard was dominant against Penn State and rattled Christian Hackenberg.

Of course that means a lot less when those 13 points given up are enough for PSU to leave the victor. But first-year defensive coordinator Joe Rossi deserves a lot of credit for what he accomplished in six days.

Rutgers went from one of the worst performing defenses in the country through to games to a blueprint of what put the Scarlet Knights on the map in the first place.

“I knew, emotionally, we’d be ready to play this game,” Flood said. “I thought Joe had a great plan with the rest of the defensive coaches, but ultimately it comes down to stopping the run. If you can hold a team to 64 yards rushing on 33 carries, you’ve got a chance to play good defense.”

The challenge changes significantly with Navy’s triple option attack. But the Rutgers defensive line showed what it can do and the linebackers improved as tacklers.

Rossi has experience against the triple option, but this is the first time Rutgers faces on since Army in 2012.

“I don’t know that we needed a confidence builder,” Flood said on the defense. “I never sensed a lack of confidence. This week is a completely different situation. If this week compares to anything, it would compare to the first week except instead of talking about defending the pass game, you’re talking about defending the run. You’re not going to stop Navy from running the football. It’s what they do.”

Nova Will Start -- Rutgers and Flood stand behind Nova after his five-interception struggle against Penn State. He remains the starter for Navy game week.

“I don’t think it was one of his better performances,” Flood said. “I don’t think we gave him enough help up front. We didn’t run the ball effectively. I didn’t think we protected him effectively and that’s not to take anything away from their front seven, especially their front four. … That notwithstanding I don’t think we gave him enough help and I don’t think Gary did a good enough job making the decisions that he needed to to protect the football.”

Nova’s third interception, the deep ball into double coverage to Leonte Carroo, was not one of the ones that bothered Flood, he said. There was a check-down opportunity to fullback Michael Burton, but Nova took the deep shot.

Flood does not want to tame his aggression, he said.

“I don’t want to take the aggressiveness out of the players,” Flood said. “That’s not one of the interceptions that I had the biggest issue with.”

Fan Presence -- Flood was yet again complimentary of the strong game day experience at Rutgers all throughout Saturday.

“Everything that surrounded the game, to me, was the class of college football --- a great testament to our fan base, our students, the band, the cheerleaders, the dance team,” Flood said. “I don’t think, in terms of everything that surrounded the game, we could have made a better first impression and I’m looking forward to doing it again in a couple of weeks.”


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