8 Things I Learned

Rutgers (3-1, 0-0 Big East) sure took one on the chin Saturday against Maryland (3-2, 0-1 ACC), halting an 11-game home Rutgers winning streak, handing the Scarlet Knights their first loss of the year and ending any whispers of national championship. As we all continue to lick our wounds, let me share random observations from the Rutgers-Maryland game . . . or 8 Things I Learned Last Week.

1 Ray Rice's Heisman campaign might be derailed. Rutgers' star running back got off to a hot start but was held in check for most of the last three quarters against Maryland, ending the game with 97 yards on 21 carries, one touchdown and one fumble. One a positive note, Rice tied JJ Jennings for the top spot on Rutgers' all-time rushing touchdown list with 34.

2. RU did not take advance of a golden opportunity. Several top 10 teams went by the wayside this weekend, giving Rutgers an open invitation to waltz into the top 7 or 8. But the Scarlet Knights failed to capitalize. While other top-ranked squads lost, consider their circumstances versus RU's. All the other losers dropped their games to conference opponents, mostly on the road. Rutgers lost at home to an unranked non-conference foe. That should never happen. However, let's give credit where credit is due in the next item.

3. The better team won last Saturday. Maryland simply outplayed Rutgers in all facets of the game except for special teams. The Terrapins converted key third downs, the pretty much ran the ball at will (Keon Lattimore and Lance Ball combined for 214 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, and the Terps allowed just six Rutgers first downs in the second half (two if you eliminate RU's fourth-quarter scoring drive). Also keep in mind that UM could have put even more points on the board if kicker Obi Egekeze (1-for-4) was accurate. Maryland has progressively improved each week, and that offensive line should be able to push anyone around.

4. The plague of the backup quarterbacks. Jordan Steffy didn't look like he belonged under center, as he was sacked twice and completed just three of seven passes for 60 yards. Steffy got hurt, paving the way for backup Chris Turner to complete more than 71 percent of his passes. The key stats for him were no sacks and zero interceptions. Why does it seem backups always seem to torch RU?

5. RU's defense is breaking. Good defenses make plays, something Rutgers' stop unit didn't do against Maryland, especially in the second half. The Terps were 6-for-11 on third down.

6. Maybe the Big East isn't so hot after all. We've been beating the drum for the Big East as one of the elite conferences in the nation. However, recent results seem to tell a different story. Syracuse is a whipping boy in non-conference play, with big losses to Iowa, Illinois and Washington and a defeat at Miami University in Ohio. Yet the Orange rolled Louisville at Louisville to open Big East play. Pittsburgh is similarly awful out of conference, though the Panthers are no great shakes in Big East play either RU's loss at home to Maryland raised flags for pollsters who adjusted their opinion of the Big East. USF and Cincinnati are the only teams with any juice in the Big East right now.

7. Rutgers can still make a BCS bowl. Which game would you rather lose: the contest with Maryland or one of RU's seven Big East Conference games? Despite this loss, Rutgers still has a clean slate in conference play. The conference schedule sets up nicely for the Knights, with home games against Cincinnati, USF, Pittsburgh and West Virginia.

8. The game was over when . . . Maryland, with a 27-24 lead, sacked Teel at the Rutgers 21-yard line with 2:21 left in the fourth quarter. The Scarlet Knights got to touch the ball again, but that was the death knell.


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