In a game the Tulane head coach said Rutgers should have won, the Scarlet Knights showed a relentless defense and impressive home atmosphere. Tulane faces the same challenges Saturday when it visits Piscataway for the first time since embarrassing the Scarlet Knights in 2010 on Homecoming.
“You look at their film, coach [Kyle] Flood has done a great job,” Johnson said. “They’re big. They’re physical. He’s doing a good job with what they’re doing. They’re running the ball a lot. They played Penn State to the wire. They’re 3-1. They’re just going to be a tough, harsh environment. They’re very good on defense also.”
Johnson and Flood faced off in 2012 at the Super Dome in what was the first game for both as head coaches. Rutgers came off victorious, and made significant progress over the last two years, Johnson said.
“He’s done a magnificent job recruiting,” he said on Flood. “You can tell the guys he’s bringing in – fantastic. The defense looks awesome.
“They held Penn State to 13. They should have won the game. They dominated Howard. They just, they run around. They’re fast. They’re athletic. They’re big. He’s getting some big kids. The offensive line, they do a much better job running the football. You can tell he’s implementing his own system.”
The Tulane defense, which gives up 35.8 points per game, played solidly against a sophomore Gary Nova in his only game against the Green wave.
Nova completed 55 percent of his passes with one touchdown and one interception and 158 yards in the Super Dome. He sits at six touchdowns and six interceptions through the first third of the season to go along with three rushing touchdowns.
“He’s accurate,” Johnson said. “He had that Penn State game won. I know they didn’t want to do much with him but he had the game won. He’s hitting those big receivers. He throws it everywhere. One thing about quarterbacks, you like him to throw it to one guy so you can kind of do something about that. He’s throwing the ball all over. He manages the game. He’s good in game operation. He does a great job.”
Turnovers prevented Rutgers from a 4-0 start. It is a similar story for Tulane in its three losses to open year one in the American.
“Sometimes we get behind and our quarterback begins to press – who is a young guy,” Johnson said. “Defensively, we didn’t play bad. We did some things in the running game that I felt good but we kept letting them in on a short field. Defense has got to continue to improve doing what they’re doing. I’d like to see a bit of pass rush, but offensively we keep shooting ourselves in the foot.”
“All of those guys look the same,” he said. “James is a very dynamic guy, but those backs are very, very good players.”