10 Things I Learned

Rutgers (3-2, 0-1 Big East) lost its first Big East game of the year and dropped out of the top 25 for the first time since early last season as Cincinnati (6-0, 1-0) came from a 10-point halftime deficit to sink the Scarlet Knights 28-23 at Rutgers Stadium.

It was undoubtedly an exciting game, though RU fans had a tough time swallowing this one. As RU looks to get back on track this week, here are some observations from the game against Cincinnati . . . or 10 Things I Learned Last Week.

1. It's gut check time for the Scarlet Knights.
Rutgers has lost two games in a row for the first time since dropping Big East tilts to South Florida (45-31) and Louisville (56-5) in 2005. The Scarlet Knights go on the road to Syracuse this week in what has to be seen as a must-win game for RU. The Orange were throttled by West Virginia (5-1, 1-1), 55-14, last Saturday. But keep in mind that Syracuse (1-5, 1-1) took it to Louisville (3-3, 0-1) for a 38-35 road victory last month.

2. Brian Kelly can coach.
I was on record last spring stating that I wasn't sure Brian Kelly was the right hire at UC. Who's the smart guy now? Kelly has shown over his career that he can bring teams to the next level, and he made the right adjustments offensively and defensively to lead UC to a comeback victory. The no-huddle approach caught Rutgers on its heels and turned momentum in UC's favor.

3. This is not the end of the season.
Contrary to what many among the Rutgers faithful thought after Saturday's heartbreaking loss, the Cincinnati game did not make or break the season. Sure, it puts Rutgers behind the 8 ball early in Big East play, but only one team has gone undefeated in the conference over the last four seasons (West Virginia in 2005). A BCS bowl bid is not out of the question.

4. RU's offense is still tough to stop.
For as much as Cincinnati has a scary defense, the Bearcats failed to really stop Rutgers from moving the ball. The Scarlet Knights put up 432 yards, including 334 yards passing. However, RU's four turnovers turned out to be the difference in the game, and redshirt junior RU quarterback Mike Teel threw zero touchdowns to three interceptions.

5. Rutgers needs to learn how to finish.
For the second straight week, the Scarlet Knights blew a second-half lead. Rutgers was outscored by 15 points in the second half against Cincinnati and has been beat on the scoreboard 41-13 in the second half of the past two games. The Scarlet Knights stalled on several drives inside Cincinnati territory, including one that was stopped at the UC 13-yard line late in the game; it could have given RU the go-ahead score. Three other drives deep into UC territory resulted in Jeremy Ito field goals rather than TDs.

6. Jeremy Ito can punt the ball.
The true senior boomed the ball when he abandoned the rugby-style kicks for a traditional punter's stance, averaging 42.8 yards against Cincinnati. His best kick was a 46-yarder out of his end zone that changed field position in the first quarter and started to swing momentum in Rutgers' favor. He was also 3-for-3 on field goal attempts.

7. Tim Brown is back.
The speedy wideout was the most consistent Rutgers player on the field against Cincinnati, grabbing seven catches for 127 yards. He showed passion as well as the ability to beat Cincinnati in coverage. Brown, a true sophomore, is now officially RU's third threat in the passing game along with Tiquan Underwood and Kenny Britt. He also seems to be finding his bearings in the kickoff game.

8. Cincinnati makes the right play at the right time.
Despite being backed up against the wall several times, Cincinnati came up with key plays to turn the tide in its favor. The Bearcats turned two turnovers into 14 points and ended the contest with an interception late in the game. UC quarterback Ben Mauk also converted a key fourth down early in the third quarter that led to a score two plays later.

9. Ray Rice is struggling to find running room.
The true junior set a new school record for career rushing touchdowns. However, he was limited to 94 yards on 34 carries, an average of just 2.8 yards per carry. He has failed to reach the 100-yard mark in three straight weeks (two in which when he played the entire game) after piling up 359 yards in his first two games.

10. The game was over when . . .
Cincinnati's Ryan Manalac stepped in front of a Mike Teel pass at the UC 13-yard line with just over a minute to play in the game. Rutgers drove from its own 20-yard line and was gashing UC's defense until Manalac put an end to the threat.

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