Early Season Notes and Reflections
Getting Good Pub
You don't know how long I have waited for Rutgers to get good publicity. For years, Rutgers was a parody of the old blues line:
"If it wasn't for bad pub, I wouldn't have no pub at all"
Saturday was a refreshing change. Before the ball was even kicked off the announcers were waxing poetic about the positive changes at Rutgers. "Rutgers is turning things around", "this is a team that is three deep at most every position", "a lot of the New Jersey talent that used to go to Penn State is now staying home to play at Rutgers."
I loved it. I gloried in it.
There was only one problem.
A taint of bad pub showed up at the end.
It had to do with play calling. In the second half when MSU starting making its run against the Knights lead the announcers kept talking about the same thing over and over. It was the play calling. Over and over again you heard things like: "Rutgers has to do something other than run on every first down" and "Michigan State is waiting for the run on first down and they are stopping it, that leaves Rutgers with second and long. Rutgers is just giving away a down" and " it is not just that they are running every time on first down, they are running the same play on first down."
My favorite, after Ryan Hart threw a play action pass, was:
"That was Rutgers first pass on first down since 1869."
They were knocking the staff's play calling.
Boston College Revisited
You know what? They were right. The second half play calling was terrible. This was the BC game all over again. Rutgers could have beaten the Eagles last year except for a second half strategy to sit on a lead rather than try to extend it. It didn't work against BC and it was almost disastrous against MSU.
If truth be told, Rutgers could have blown Michigan State right off the field. Ryan Hart was 20 of 34 for 240 yards. Time after time in the second half Hart was working with a "second and eight" or a "second and nine". He responded. He picked apart the Spartan's Achilles heel - their secondary. The one time he threw play action on first down it went for a big gain. With better play calling RU could have won this game going away.
That didn't happen.
The staff insisted on saddling Hart with "second and eight" and "second and nine" for the entire second half.
The announcers couldn't understand it.
Neither can I.
So Let's Pass, Pass, Pass against New Hampshire
No, let's run, run, run against New Hampshire. UNH is a good Div 1AA team but one thing that they can't have (due to scholarship limitations) is depth. Throw Brian Leonard and Justice Hairston at them until their linemen are so tired that they can't see straight. In a game of attrition RU can't lose against UNH.
On the other hand if it turns into a contest of skill people ... well sometimes the ball just bounces the wrong way. Besides, the offensive line has already proven they can pass protect. What they need is practice opening those holes in the line. What better way to practice than ...
Grind them to death and save all those fancy pass patterns for later opponents.
Well, not entirely
Rutgers will probably be in a lot of close games before this season is over. This is one game where there is a good chance that the Knights could get out in front early.
Make the most of it.
One of Rutgers greatest fears is an injury to Ryan Hart. If Hart goes down a season's worth of expectations could go down with him. So, if we get out ahead of UNH early I suggest we pull Hart and give someone else some experience. That strategy protects Hart and gives crucial game time experience to a back up just in case the unthinkable happens.
Don't get me wrong. I am not taking UNH lightly. But on this schedule UNH and Kent State look like the teams that we might be able to open up a lead on.
If we do - put in Cali or put in Shawell or put in Teel.
Put some game time experience in the bank just in case we need to make a withdrawal down the road.
Forget about down the road
During Joe Paterno's glory years the one thing that you could count on was this:
Penn State just didn't lose games it was favored to win.
Oh, yeah, maybe once in a great while but by and large it just didn't happen. PSU didn't play down to the level of its opponents. I don't know what Paterno said or did to his team but they never went into a contest thinking it was a cake walk. If Penn State came into a game, they came ready to play. Period. End of story.
It goes without saying that Rutgers has to do that against UNH. The Knights better come ready to play because a good Div 1AA team can beat you if you don't. And UNH is a very good Div 1AA team.
The Knights just can't let it happen. They can't come into that game overconfident.
Overconfidence! Rutgers football? Overconfidence!
Hey, we're into new territory here.
Get used to it.
Mike and the Big Dog's LLC