After the first two games of the season you had to wonder if Rutgers could play Division 1A football much less compete in the Big East.
After the Army game you wondered if Rutgers had improved or if Army was the worst team in NCAA history.
The answer came today after Rutgers played a distinctly competitive game against a good Pitt Panther team.
The answer is that Rutgers can play, especially on defense. The Knights held the Panthers scoreless in the first quarter and of the Panthers 10 first half points only 3 were delivered by their offense. The rest came on one play after Pitt forced a fumble by Ted Trump deep on RU's territory. Gerald Hayes picked up the loose ball and ran it in for the Panther's only first half TD.
Especially impressive in the game was the Knight's ability to stop Pitt in short yardage situations. Repeatedly, the Rutgers defensive line held the Panthers to little or no gain in crucial short yardage situations. Pittsburgh apparently came in thinking that their running game could over power the Knights in the trenches. They couldn't. Rutgers held the Panthers to only 3 conversions in 17 third down attempts and if you saw the telecast you had to like what you saw. Pitt running backs running out of power formations not only couldn't make plays in short yardage, they were often losing yardage after beautiful "big league" hits delivered by the Scarlet.
On offense the Knights struggled against one of the Big East top defenses. Ted Trump was repeatedly pressured and receivers were often blanketed by the Panther secondary. On the ground RU could not get the ball outside on pitches and had no luck going "up the gut."
Still, there were positives on offense as well. Against a truly outstanding pass rush, the offensive line gave up only two sacks in the game. Occasionally, Trump actually had time to sit in the pocket.
Overall you had to be happy with the performance and the level of improvement from game one till now. Overall, you had to lick your chops waiting for Berkeley Hutchinson and Bill Beckford add their skills to this maturing "D".
Pitt's offense finally got into the end zone when Rod Rutherford found Lamar Slade on a 31-yard touchdown pass that made it 17-0 in the third quarter, but otherwise was ineffective despite repeatedly enjoying excellent field position.
Pitt's only other touchdown came on Marcus Furman's 6-yard run late in the game with backups in the game following Rutgers' third lost fumble _ one of the Scarlet Knights' five turnovers.
ESPN.com - News Wire
Mike Fasano: MikeFasano@comcast.net