10 Things I Learned Last Week

Twenty-eight days is a long time to go between wins, but Rutgers (4-2, 1-1 Big East) finally got off the snide with a 38-14 victory at Syracuse (1-6, 1-1) on Oct. 13. The Scarlet Knights had some answers after an early deficit, but they also revealed more questions. Following are random observations on the Rutgers-Syracuse tilt . . . or 10 Things I Learned Last Week.

1. Rutgers showed some intestinal fortitude.
The Scarlet Knights got down early 14-0 and looked flat coming out of the gate. This young team that had not won since Sept. 15 appeared that it was on the verge of collapse. However, Rutgers rallied and scored the next 38 points. Granted, RU's chances of pulling the same stunt against the top of the Big East are remote, but the Knights woke up to run the table against Syracuse instead of folding up the tent. (And I found my copy of "Mixed Metaphors are Your Friends")

2. Opposing coaches will gameplan to run on Rutgers.
Syracuse entered the week with the second worst rushing offense in the nation and gained 112 yards on the Scarlet Knights. That's not a high total, but it's nearly 20 yards more than the Orange's previous best effort (94 yards against West Virginia Oct. 6). Since stepping up to BCS competition this year, RU has allowed 167 yards per game on the ground in three games. Syracuse running back Curtis Brinkley, whose previous high output for the year was 54 yards against Illinois on Sept. 15, gained 98 yards and had some huge holes to run through against the Scarlet Knights.

3. Tiquan Underwood is a team player.
Go back and watch a tape of the Rutgers-Syracuse game. What you'll see on a lot of downfield plays is Underwood blocking, whether it is on a running play or after a catch by another receiver. Underwood's block on a 42-yard Kenny Britt catch helped Britt reach the end zone in the second quarter, and even his holding call on a Jabu Lovelace run was a hustle play. Underwood, a true junior receiver, caught only two passes for 14 yards against the Orange, but he had a tremendous effect on the game.

4. G-Rob can't back up his talk with results.
Syracuse head coach Greg Robinson, who has a 6-30 record in two-plus seasons at a traditional college football powerhouse, disparaged Rutgers heading into the game this week, calling the Scarlet Knights a "one-year wonder" and telling the television broadcast team that he was going to beat Rutgers consistently in recruiting New Jersey. RU's response: 38-14, with 196 yards rushing from former Syracuse recruit Ray Rice.

5. The Scarlet Knights continue to leave points on the board.
For three straight games, Rutgers had a chance to put the game away on the first drive of the third quarter and came up empty. RU also had another drive end with a 25-yard Jeremy Ito field goal after having first and goal at the Syracuse 4-yard line late in the second quarter.

6. It's Anthony Davis time.
The heralded true freshman offensive guard got the start in place of Kevin Haslam against Syracuse, perhaps signaling his readiness to take over the starting reins for the rest of the season. Rutgers still had trouble running to Davis' side of the line in the first half, but Rutgers' offensive line wore down Syracuse's defensive front for 101 rushing yards in the fourth quarter – including four runs of more than 10 yards.

7. Ray Rice got healthy against the Orange.
The true junior running back halted a streak of three straight games with less than 100 yards rushing when he toted the rock 36 times for 196 yards (5.4 yards per rush average) and three touchdowns. He now has 818 yards on 165 attempts (5.0 ypr) and 13 touchdowns, tied for most in Division I-A. Those numbers are tempered by the fact that Syracuse entered the game ranked 116th in college football in rushing defense and improved to 115th after allowing 228 yards on the ground.

8. The third quarter broadcast was tough on the eyes.
The best part of the television broadcast was the fact that Dave Sims and John Congemi called it. They give you good insight into the game and are generally unbiased. However, the television broadcast featured the entire third quarter with the angle from the high end zone. That angle is fine when you are watching the game live, as you can see the entire field (I personally like end zone seats). But it just hurts the eyes and cuts off half the field on television.

9. Joe Lefeged made a name for himself against Syracuse.
The reserve safety, a true freshman, moved up to second on the depth chart when senior captain Ron Girault went down with a leg injury during the Maryland game. Lefeged came up big last week, registering two sacks, a forced fumble and six total tackles (second most for RU in the game). A couple of his tackles were big hits on special teams.

10. The game was over when . . .
Rice punched in a 2-yard run to cap a five-play, 69-yard drive with 14:16 remaining in the fourth quarter. That ran the score to 31-14 in Rutgers favor and put the dagger into Syracuse's heart.

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