10 Things We Learned: RU vs WVU

Rutgers missed a golden opportunity to get its season back on track when the Rutgers (1-4, 0-1 Big East) dropped a 24-17 decision to West Virginia (3-2, 1-0) in Morgantown last Saturday. Just like two years ago, the Scarlet Knights were in control of their own destiny late in the game but let it slip through their hands. This season, we could earn a Ph.D. with 10 Things We Learned Last Week.

1. Still a lot questions to be answered. There are more questions than answers at this point in the season, and missed opportunities seem to be the order of the day. The coaches seem dumbfounded at this point, and the team can now safely be filed in the "over-rated" category. With no real postseason prospects, expect the next seven weeks to act as RU's pre-spring practice.

2. The running game is inconsistent. True, Rutgers was playing from behind most of the game against West Virginia, but running back Jourdan Brooks averaged only 3.4 yards per carry on 17 rushes. Mason Robinson, the only other tailback to touch the ball, registered only 3 net yards. The offensive line is not getting the push off the ball, which puts backs in a bad situation. However, Brooks is still managing to gain yardage after contact.

3. The defense is improving. After busted coverage on West Virginia's first touchdown (a 25-yard pass from Pat White to Tyler Urban), RU's defense did not allow a play of more than 18 yards the rest of the game. That's a vast improvement over previous weeks when the big play killed RU. That being stated, RU still allowed 175 yards total rushing and did not force a turnover all game against WVU. Rutgers is 113 out of 119 teams in turnover margin.

4. Halftime adjustments are still a problem. Once again, Rutgers failed to make proper halftime adjustments and didn't get the second-half game in gear until late in the fourth quarter. RU answered a late second-quarter WVU TD with a five-play, 68-yard touchdown drive during which the Scarlet Knights operated no-huddle and quarterback Mike Teel looked in complete control, including scoring on a 5-yard quarterback draw. Coming out of the half, RU head coach Greg Schiano made a note of how Teel looked poised and comfortable in that set. Then Rutgers opens the third quarter with a methodical three-and-out.

5. Tiquan Underwood is the forgotten man in Rutgers' offense. A year after registering 1,100 yards and seven touchdowns on 65 receptions, Underwood has just 14 catches for 160 yards and no touchdowns. He got a couple of looks against WVU and hauled in one 5-yard pass. Since reaching the 100-yard receiving mark in five of his first seven games last year, Underwood has just one 100-yard game and has registered exactly one touchdown.

6. Kenny Britt's NFL tryout has begun. With postseason prospects dwindling, the true junior needs to start turning heads for pro scouts. Despite being the focus of attention from WVU's defense, Britt caught 12 passes for 151 yards last week. He also tossed a 28-yard pass to Robinson on a trick play that ended up begin RU's longest gain of the game. Britt has the size, speed and talent to make it on the next level. The question is whether he will leave following this season or stick around for his senior season.

7. This team need to find a way to finish games. RU scored on all three trips inside the red zone against West Virginia (two touchdowns and a field goal), but the Scarlet Knights failed on several opportunities to steal the game from the Mountaineers. The field goal was the result of RU failing to capitalize on momentum. Britt's pass to Robinson set the Knights up at West Virginia's 23-yard line. Then consecutive rushes from Brooks set up a first down and goal to go on the WVU 10-yard line. Two Brooks runs up the gut and a Teel incompletion resulted in the drive stalling at the WVU 6. Instead of 10-7 and a lot of momentum, RU let WVU grab control. Worse than that was the game's final drive, when Rutgers got the ball on the West Virginia 45-yard line trailing by seven points with 1:54 on the clock. Four incompletions later, and it was lights out. This game was a microcosm of this season.

8. Offensive play calling seems limited. When your quarterback enters the game with seven interceptions and just two touchdowns, you can't exactly expect a wide open offense. However, RU trailed most of the game and still tried to go with the balanced offense that relied on a power running game (note: Ray Rice is no longer the tailback at Rutgers). Maybe RU just doesn't have the personnel to execute aggressive plays this season.

9. Instant replay is not working - at least for Rutgers. In two of the past three games, Rutgers has been on the losing end of four instant replay reviews. At least one of the reviews against Navy was definitely the right call. The two against West Virginia were suspect at best. On the opening kickoff, WVU fumbled the ball to Rutgers at its own 25-yard line. An official review was called, and the play was reversed despite no undisputed angle warranting the call. Then, on the first drive of the third quarter, Rutgers challenged a punt play on the grounds that West Virginia had 12 players on the field. Despite irrefutable evidence that WVU indeed had too many players and should have been cited for a 15-yard penalty, the play stood. When you recall the Steve Slaton fumble that wasn't in 2006, you have to wonder if instant replay is worth the hassle.

10. The game was over when . . . On fourth down and 5 yards to go on the West Virginia 40-yard line with about 1:40 left on the clock, Teel threw into double coverage and linebacker Scooter Berry knocked the ball down. Teel never looked off his primary target, and WVU had little trouble defending the ball. This was four plays after RU's defense stopped West Virginia and set the ball up at the Mountaineer 45-yard line.

Post mortem. This loss has to sting more than any other this season. RU had plenty of opportunities to finally beat West Virginia in Morgantown, but the Scarlet Knights could not close the deal. The offense can't seem to get out of its own way at times, the defense hasn't forced a turnover against any team in the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA), and first-down passes seem to be against the law. Even Schiano appears to admit that this team is a flop.

Rutgers needs to go 6-1 down the stretch to have a legitimate shot at a bowl bid and salvage their season. With games looming versus Connecticut, at Pittsburgh and at South Florida, that's a tall order.


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