10 things I learned...Louisville

Rutgers (7-5, 3-4 Big East) blew a double digit second half lead and lost its regular season finale at Louisville (6-6, 3-4) on Nov. 29. The game was meaningless in the bowl picture, as RU accepted a bid to play Ball State in the International Bowl prior to the season finale. But it gave us a chance to find out where Rutgers stands. So, I present 10 Things I Learned Last Week.

1. Ray Rice is the best pure running back Rutgers has ever seen.
No one can question what Brian Leonard meant to Rutgers football, and he should be remembered as the cornerstone of this program. However, Rice once again showed why he is the leading rusher in school history when he compiled 120 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries. He has 1,732 rushing yards (144.3 yards per game) and has reached the end zone 20 times on the ground this season. For his career, Rice has 4,646 rushing yards and 45 rushing touchdowns, and he averages 5.3 yards per carry. The true junior is the first Rutgers running back to rush for 1,000 yards in three straight seasons.

2. Curious play calling continues.
RU's coaching staff is still making calls that are detrimental to the outcome of the game. You can point to any number of offensive calls in the second half that didn't seem to make sense and that led to Rutgers' downfall against Louisville. But to me the biggest head-scratcher came at the end of the first half. With RU leading 28-10, the Scarlet Knights sacked Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm at the UL 37 yard line with just over 30 seconds remaining. The Cardinals were in no rush to get back to the line and looked like they were consigned to running out the clock. But RU called a timeout with 29 seconds remaining. Two plays later, Patrick Carter took a pass from Brohm 52 yards to cut the lead to 28-17. That play gave UL life and eventually led to the Cardinals' comeback.

3. Rutgers lacks a killer instinct.
Louisville was defeated and deflated in the first half, and Rutgers could have nailed the door shut on multiple occasions. Blowing an 18-point lead in the second half is bad enough. But it was indicative a bigger problem that Rutgers has: settling for three points instead of six. It contributed to a home loss to Cincinnati on Oct. 6; it led to a blowout loss at Connecticut on Nov. 3; it nearly cost RU the game against Pittsburgh on Nov. 17; and it helped to pull the Scarlet Knights down against Louisville. Instead of the punching the ball in from short yardage that would have made the game 41-24 early in the fourth quarter, RU settled for a chip shot Jeremy Ito field goal that extended the lead to only 14. UL made Rutgers pay later.

4. Rutgers QB Mike Teel is one of the best pocket passers around.
The injury to Teel's throwing thumb did not seem to affect him against Louisville, as he rolled up 265 yards on 21-for-32 passing with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. His two scoring passes to wide receiver Kenny Britt were perfectly thrown. Teel cooled down in the second half, however, and RU's offense sputtered.

5. RU pulls out the stops on Thursday night.
Rutgers saves its most imaginative play calls for Thursdays, and the offensive wrinkles helped the Scarlet Knights stake a big lead early. Rutgers used offensive tackle Jeremy Zuttah on a play that gained big yardage and set up a touchdown. Backup quarterback Chris Paul-Etienne contributed another key play, and backup running back Mason Robinson added to the excitement with an end around. When RU plays wide open, it can put up points on anyone. Unfortunately, the play calling dried up in the second half.

6. Rutgers' run defense is on life support.
The Scarlet Knights have made opposing runners look like world beaters and nearly had two Louisville runners amass at least 100 yards. Brock Bolen ran all over RU for 117 yards and two touchdowns, and Bilal Powell had 91 yards and a touchdown. The pair averaged eight yards per carry. RU has allowed 155.9 yards per game on the ground, 62nd best in the nation.

7. Brian Brohm is going out on a high note.
Louisville's senior quarterback is as good as they come, and he was 5-of -7 for 108 yards in the fourth quarter last week to go out as a winner. He didn't have much success passing against Rutgers the last two seasons (average 200 yards passing and 51 percent completion rate), but he finished his career with more than 10,000 yards passing and 71 touchdowns to 24 interceptions. Brohm was 24-9 as a starter the last three years and led Louisville to an Orange Bowl victory last season.

8. Rutgers is right where it belongs in the bowl scenario.
The International Bowl is not glamorous, and not many people will tune in to see a middling Big East team take on a Mid-American also-ran in a post-New Year's Day game. However, Rutgers failed to beat its only non-conference BCS opponent. Additionally, the Scarlet Knights were 2-3 against teams that are going bowling this year. The International Bowl is about right for this year's squad.

9. It's always 72 degrees at Rogers Centre.
For those lamenting the loss of a "warm weather" bowl game, consider the following: the average high temperature in Birmingham, Ala., in December is about 45 degrees. Charlotte is even colder. The dome at Rogers Centre in Toronto will be closed, meaning a comfortable game temperature indoors. It remains to be seen whether they'll force Rutgers and Ball State to play three downs on a 110-yard field.

10. The game was over when . . .
Louisville kicker Art Carmody banged home a 33-yard field goal attempt with 20 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Rutgers failed in its last-ditch attempt.

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