10 Things I Learned...UConn

Rutgers (5-4, 2-3 Big East) followed a rough game at home against West Virginia (7-1, 2-1) with a worse outing at Connecticut (8-1, 4-0) last week. The Scarlet Knights fell 38-19, completely removing its slim hope for a BCS game. They say setbacks are learning experiences. So, I give you 10 Things I Learned Last Week.

1. Connecticut is good. Since the beginning of October, just about everyone in college football has been waiting for the bubble to burst on UConn's season. The Huskies are now off to their best start in school history after manhandling Rutgers and are up to No. 16 in the Associated Press and Coaches' polls and No. 13 in the BCS rankings. UConn's only loss was on a last-second field goal at Virginia, which is now ranked No. 23/21/19. They're not pretty, but wins are wins.

2. Rutgers' offense is its own worst enemy. The Scarlet Knights have made seven trips inside the red zone over the last two weeks and have come away with just one touchdown. RU had to settle for four field goals and one missed attempt against UConn to go along with one TD out of six times inside the red zone last week. Trading field goals for touchdowns will lose a team a lot of games.

3. Ray Rice is Rutgers football. The standout running back nearly cleared the 100 yard mark in the first half, carrying the ball 12 times for 97 yards against Connecticut. He only had nine carries for 19 yards in the second half, and Rutgers faded in the third and fourth quarters. Rice needs carries to get in a rhythm, and Rutgers suffers when he has fewer touches. His team has faltered four times this year, but Rice averages 139.7 yards per game and has 1,257 yards and 14 touchdowns rushing.

4. UConn running back Donald Brown plays his best against Rutgers. The sophomore our of Red Bank Catholic was relegated to a role as backup to Andre Dixon earlier this year, but UConn head coach Randy Edsall put him in the Rutgers game as a spark when Dixon was ineffective. Brown ran for 154 yards -- including a 70-yarder -- and one touchdown on 24 carries. Last year he carried the ball 28 times for 199 yards and two touchdowns at Rutgers Stadium. You can bet we'll see him again next season.

5. Special teams are anything but. Last season an excellent special teams unit helped propel the Scarlet Knights to the brink of a Big East championship. This year place-kicker Jeremy Ito is hitting just 74 percent of his field goal attempts, and the Scarlet Knights are one of the worst teams in the nation in punting (117th out of 119 teams in Division I-A). Connecticut blocked a Rutgers punt for a safety and ran a kick back for a touchdown that put RU in a 16-point hole in the second quarter. Additionally, kick and punt returners look shell shocked.

6. Rutgers needs to focus on the "chop". RU has faced adversity in four games this year and has emerged victorious in just one of those contests. The Scarlet Knights have failed to come back against Maryland, Cincinnati, West Virginia and Connecticut. They faded in the third and fourth quarters of all those games, and they have been outscored 98-88 in the second half (65-43 in Big East play).

7. RU will play early or late in the bowl season. Rutgers should still make a bowl game. The Scarlet Knights are likely to finish the season 7-5, but 6-6 and 8-4 are still possible. It looks like a berth in the PapaJohns.com Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., on Dec. 22, or a bid to the International Bowl in Toronto on Jan. 5 are the two most likely scenarios. The Meineke Car Care Bowl on Dec. 29 in Charlotte is also a possibility. Do yourself a favor and stay away from the International Bowl Web site. It features the Notre Dame fight song on the home page even though the Fighting Irish are not involved with the bowl.

8. Sets with Jabu Lovelace disrupt the offensive flow. Lovelace is a fantastic athlete, and it will be interesting to see how Rutgers continues to utilize his talent. However, he comes into games during long drives, and Rutgers promptly stalls. He rushed for 61 yards on 11 carries versus UConn, but he was 0-for-1 passing. Rutgers trailed UConn 25-16 and was set up on the Huskies' 30-yard line after a Dennis Campbell punt return early in the third quarter. Lovelace ran the ball four times and missed a pass attempt as the drive stalled at the UConn 9. You need to get athletes the ball, but Rutgers needs to find better ways to let him touch it. Relating to point 3, forcing the ball for Lovelace is also taking chances away from Rice.

9. A pressure defense only works when you get pressure. Rutgers' defense is predicated on speed and pressure. However, the pass rush was absent against Connecticut, as were blitz packages. RU registered zero sacks against one of the weakest pass protections in the Big East. It seemed the Scarlet Knights were content to let UConn take the game to them. When RU brought the heat, Connecticut countered with smart plays, like a draw play where Brown scampered 33 yards for a TD.

10. The game was over when . . . Ito missed a 34-yard field goal attempt early in the fourth quarter. The Scarlet Knights were still within 12 points of the Huskies and were driving deep into UConn territory. Ito pushed the kick wide right, and UConn converted a field goal on its next drive. RU never recovered.


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