10 Things We Learned: Rutgers - Cincy

RU (1-5, 0-2 Big East) finds itself in the Big East basement after a pair of conference games. The last two weeks have been a case of "close, but no cigar," which won't get you much in league play. The latest game: a 13-10 loss at Cincinnati (5-1, 1-0) Oct. 11. They say losing teaches you more than winning, so let's see what this frustrating season is showing us in 10 Things We Learned Last Week.

1. The offense is still out of sync. Quarterback Mike Teel was 19-for-35 with 177 yards passing, zero touchdowns and zero interceptions. He overshot and under-threw several receivers, but he was also the victim of several dropped passes. Rutgers totaled a season-low 192 yards and had just one drive of at least 50 yards (an impressive eight-play, 90-yard touchdown drive to open the second half). The rushing offense is last in the Big East with 113.2 yards per game, and Rutgers' 17.5 points per game are 107th out of 119 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS, formerly Division I-A) teams. It still seems like this team can't build on momentum from one successful drive to another.

2. Cincinnati punter Kevin Huber is an invaluable asset. One reason RU's offense failed to gain much traction last week can be attributed to Cincinnati's All-American punter, who averaged 46.4 yards per punt in nine tries against the Scarlet Knights, including six punts that pinned Rutgers inside its own 20-yard line. Even more impressive was his accuracy, as Huber angled many punts and did not send one into the end zone for a touchback. Rutgers' average starting field position against the Bearcats was its own 17-yard line.

3. The defense has consistently improved over the last few weeks. Cincinnati came into last Saturday's game averaging 412.6 yards and 32.2 points per game. Rutgers limited the Bearcats to 336 yards and 13 points. The Scarlet Knights defense bowed up in key situations, and Cincinnati was 0-for-11 on third down conversions against the Scarlet Knights. The best performance out of the D came late in the second quarter, with Cincinnati holding a 10-0 lead and driving for another score. The Bearcats reached RU's 24-yard line before a pair of Rutgers sacks pushed UC back and forced the Bearcats to punt.

4. RU's record placed the Scarlet Knights in some dubious company. There are 11 FBS teams without a win against another FBS opponent this year (12 if you consider Indiana's win over provisional member Western Kentucky as a win against a non-FBS team). Two of those teams are in the Big East: Rutgers and Syracuse (1-5). Still, that's not as bad as the Pac-10, which has both 1-6 Washington State and 0-5 Washington in this category.

5. Kordell Young brings a much-needed spark to the team. In his first game back since injuring his knee during the opener, Young tallied 78 yards rushing on 22 carries and threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to fullback Jack Corcoran on a halfback option. Young's running numbers weren't stellar, but he played with an attitude and fire that seem to be missing from the team this season. For his part, tackle Anthony Davis seemed to have that same desire, as he could be seen sprinting downfield on plays.

6. Freshmen kickers are playing with maturity. One area where Rutgers seems to have little concern is with its place-kicker and punter. Kicker San San Te hit a 50-yard field goal against Cincinnati and has now connected on five consecutive attempts after missing the first two of his career. Punter Teddy Dellaganna boomed a 61-yard punt against Cincinnati and is now averaging 41.9 yards per kick. Dellaganna, who handles kickoff duties, reached the end zone more than one on Saturday and forced his first touchback on a kickoff. Both players seem to be finding their comfort level.

7. RU needs to start winning the turnover battle. For the second straight game, Rutgers did not turn the ball over, which is a serious improvement over earlier in the season. However, the Scarlet Knights still have taken the ball away from another FBS opponent this season. RU is 112th out of 119 FBS teams in turnover margin and is last in total turnovers gained with four.

8. The offensive line is still in transition. After allowing just 11 sacks in 13 games last season, Rutgers' offensive line has given up 10 sacks through six games this year. RU has shuffled linemen around this year, and center Ryan Blasczyck is the only player to start each game in the trenches. Rutgers had the luxury last year of an offensive line that had been together a while, but this season the Scarlet Knights are still trying to find the right combination.

9. RU can make second-half adjustments. After being outscored 52-0 in the third quarter through the first five games, The Scarlet Knights put points on the board in the third period against Cincinnati. RU outscored UC 10-3 in the second half, but it wasn't enough to overcome the Bearcats' 10-0 halftime advantage.

10. Rutgers has to make changes quickly. The halfway point of the season is a good guidepost for how you might perform down the stretch. Rutgers still technically has a chance to make a lower-tier bowl game, but the Scarlet Knights will have to get things going in a hurry for that to happen. With nothing to lose on the year, it might be time to insert young players into key positions to get them valuable game experience.

The game was over when . . . facing a fourth down and 2 yards to go on the Rutgers 30-yard line with 90 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Teel threw a pass to Kenny Britt over the middle that fell incomplete and denied RU a chance to drive for the tying or winning score. It was the second straight week that Rutgers had at least a chance to tie on its last drive but came up short.

Post mortem: The frustration is building on the Banks. Rutgers has played better football in Big East play than earlier in the season, but the Scarlet Knights are still falling short on the field. Two power football teams loom on the horizon, giving Rutgers the real possibility of starting the season 1-7 if it can't stop the Big East's two best running backs in Connecticut's Donald Brown and Pittsburgh's LeSean McCoy. It will be interesting to see what kind of personnel changes go into effect for the second half of the season.


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