10 things I learned last week

It's nice to get out of the gate with a victory. Rutgers dominated Buffalo Aug. 30 in a 38-3 victory, outgaining the Bulls 563-235, including 235-70 on the ground. However, a game is made up of more than a final score, and I'd like to share some random observations from the contest . . . or "10 things I learned last week."

1. Running back Ray Rice is good. Call me Captain Obvious, but Rice looked the role of Heisman Trophy contender as he slashed through Buffalo's defense for 184 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries, including 124 yards and two TDs at the half. He also caught two passes for 21 yards, though he dropped another. Rice needs just 17 yards to pass Terrell Willis as Rutgers' all-time leading rusher.

2. Quarterback Mike Teel looks comfortable under center. He completed 16 of 23 passes for two touchdowns and -- probably most important -- zero interceptions. He also had another TD called back by a holding penalty. Teel read Buffalo's defense well and hit his checkdowns, and he seemed to pick up where he left off in his development late last season. I only wish the redshirt junior would sell the play action a little more. A big reason Teel and Rice looked so poised was observation No. 3.

3. RU's offensive line looks seasoned. Rice had plenty of room to make cuts and move the ball upfield thanks to a veteran offensive line that got off the ball quickly and beat UB to the punch. He particularly had success running behind left tackle Pedro Sosa. You could include sophomore fullback Jack Corcoran in the mix of blocker, as he did a fine job leading Rice into holes. The line also kept Buffalo from getting any pressure on Teel, giving him plenty of time to make plays.

4. Receiver Tiquan Underwood is back. The true junior had a career day against UB, hauling in 10 catches for 248 yards and two touchdowns. A third touchdown grab was called back by a holding penalty. Underwood had just 290 yards receiving on 23 catches all last year before breaking his leg in the regular season finale against West Virginia. It looks like RU has a big one-two punch with Underwood and true sophomore receiver Kenny Britt, and Underwood appears to be healthy. Wait until true sophomore Tim Brown is back in the mix.

5. Kicker Jeremy Ito needs to find his rhythm. Maybe Ito misses Anthony Cali, his holder the previous three years whom the Scarlet Knights lost to graduation. Ito, a four-year starter, looked out of sync on a 40-yard field goal attempt that he pushed right, and a 56-yard attempt wasn't even close. He also barely made it past the 10-yard line on kickoffs, a considerably shorter distance than last year even after you factor in the new rule starting kicks five yards back.

6. The first half against Buffalo was nearly flawless. Teel was 12-for-16 with a pair of touchdowns and 264 yards passing. Underwood hauled in nine catches for 228 yards and a pair of scores. Rice ran for 114 yards and two TDs on 18 carries. The defense allowed just 75 yards and pitched a shutout as Rutgers got out to a 28-0 halftime lead and amassed 378 total yards.

7. Rutgers is minus 1 in turnover ratio. Ray Rice actually fumbled! It was the result of a solid play on Buffalo's part that killed a drive that could have made the game 28-0 early in the second quarter. Still, it was a rare occurrence from the sure-handed tailback who coughed up the rock only twice in 335 carries last year. RU's defense prided itself on creating opportunities last year, but the Scarlet Knights forced zero UB turnovers. They'll come as the defense gains more experience.

8. The linebacking corps acquitted itself well. Co-captain Brandon Renkart was all over the place (maybe out of necessity to cover MLB inexperience), although the fifth-year senior was behind receivers in coverage a few times. True junior Kevin Malast led Rutgers with 10 tackles and combined with redshirt sophomore Damaso Munoz for a sack. The linebackers also share some credit for keeping UB's passing game from getting in gear.

9. Defensive end Jamaal Westerman needs some discipline. Westerman was responsible for 20 yards in penalties, and his roughing the passer penalty against UB was completely unnecessary. Navy is a team that doesn't often commit mental mistakes, so the redshirt junior needs to avoid those kinds of errors.

10. This game was over when . . . Rice crossed the goal line 1:21 into the first quarter, on just the third play from scrimmage. It set the tone early and let Buffalo know that Rutgers was not going to fool around. As Warner Wolf would say, "turn your television sets off there!"


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