10 Things We Learned: Rutgers - Pitt

What was supposed to be a battle of two teams playing great defensive football turned into an offensive slugfest when Rutgers (3-5, 2-2 Big East) travelled to Pittsburgh (5-2, 2-1) and handed the Panthers a 54-34 defeat. It was the first time since 1993 that Rutgers had scored so many points in a Big East game, and it was the most the Scarlet Knights ever scored in a Big East road game.

Rutgers, thought to be down and out a few shorts weeks ago, is showing us a thing or two. With that, let's go to 10 Things We Learned Last Week.

1. Mike Teel has something to show us. The focus of derision and criticism the first seven weeks of the season, the fifth-year senior quarterback came out and had the best game of his career against Pittsburgh, completing 14 of 21 attempts for 361 yards and six touchdown passes. Teel was able to get the ball into the hands of six different receivers against Pitt. The six TD throws is a school record and one shy of the Big East mark set by Pete Gonzalez in a bizarre 55-48 double-overtime Pittsburgh win at Rutgers in 1997. In the first half Teel was an astounding 12-for-15 with 311 yards and five touchdowns (a new Big East record for one half) with one interception, as Rutgers jumped out to a 34-24 lead at the break. He was an easy choice for Big East Offensive Player of the Week.

2. Turnovers really help. For the first time this season, RU forced turnovers against a Football Bowl Subdivision team, and the two takeaways versus Pittsburgh couldn't have come at better times. The first was a fumbled third-quarter punt recovery that permanently turned momentum in Rutgers' favor. The Panthers had cut the RU lead to three points and forced RU to punt. Pitt's Aaron Berry fumbled the kick, and Colin McEvoy recovered at the Panthers' 36-yard line. RU scored in one play on a Teel pass to Tim Brown to put RU back up by 10. Then Rutgers delivered the knockout punch later in the third when Kevin Malast intercepted a Pat Bostick pass and returned it 74 yards to the Pitt 8-yard line to set up another score that put Rutgers ahead 48-31. RU converted turnovers into 14 points against the Panthers.

3. The running game is still spinning gears. Sophomore tailback Kordell Young scored two rushing touchdowns against Pittsburgh – an important development when you consider RU's running backs had a total of six rushing touchdowns against FBS opponents entering this game. Still, Young was RU's leading rusher at 83 yards, meaning the Scarlet Knights have just one 100-yard game from a running back this year. If the passing game clicks like it did versus Pitt, that won't matter, but you can't count on that kind of production week in and week out.

4. Kenny Britt is a pro-caliber receiver. Britt, at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, has the prototypical National Football League body. Rutgers' leading receiver finally cracked the end zone with a breakout game versus Pitt, hauling in five receptions for 143 yards and three touchdowns. That was the true junior's fourth 100-yard game of the season and the eighth of his career. Perhaps RU's best play of the season came on a 79-yard post route from Teel where Britt torched the Pittsburgh defender on his way to the end zone to give Rutgers its first lead, 14-7, with 6:09 remaining in the first quarter.

5. This offense has incredible potential. Rutgers, entering this contest scoring just 16 points per game, exploded for a school-record 54 points in a Big East road game, eclipsing the previous mark of 42 points set in a 49-42 loss at Virginia Tech in 1993. Punter Teddy Dellaganna was not used until the second half, as Rutgers scored touchdowns on five of its six first-half drives and eight of 12 overall drives. Four of RU's scoring drives versus Pitt required less than a minute. Receivers also had fewer dropped balls, and players like Brown (two TD catches) stepped up when needed.

6. Greg Schiano has Dave Wanndstedt's number. Rutgers owns a four-game winning streak against just one Big East opponent: Pittsburgh. Schiano is 4-0 versus the Panthers since Wannstedt took over the Panthers, including three double-digit victories. Schiano coached under Wannstedt in the pro ranks, but he's getting one over on his old boss in the college game.

7. Jourdan Brooks has disappeared from the offensive scheme. Brooks was RU's leading rusher in Young's absence, totaling 257 yards and five touchdowns on 57 carries in three starts (4.51 yards per rush). Brooks gained 134 yards and scored twice in the 21-20 loss at Navy Sept. 20, making him the only Rutgers running back with a 100-yard game this year. Since Young returned as RU's starter, Brooks has just four carries for 15 yards; he did not get in the game during a 12-10 victory against Connecticut Oct. 18.

8. LeSean McCoy is a special running back. If it weren't for Teel's breakout performance, McCoy would have been the hands-down selection for Big East Offensive Player of the Week. The sophomore standout gained 146 yards on 26 carries (5.6 yards per rush) and scored four rushing touchdowns in a losing effort. He almost single-handedly willed Pittsburgh back into the game, and he now ranks 11th in the country with 119.3 yards per game rushing.

9. RU's defense had a statistical letdown against Pitt. The Panthers' 34 points were the second-most scored by a Rutgers opponent this season, and their 486 yards of total offense were the most gained against RU this season. Still, the defense came up big when it mattered most, as Malast's interception return set Rutgers up at Pitt's 8-yard line and helped RU seal the deal. After the defense played outstanding football with little help from the offense the past three weeks, it was time for the offense to take the lead role. 10. The Big East is still up for grabs. Louisville toppled preseason frontrunner South Florida 24-20 last week, Rutgers dismantled first-place Pitt, and UConn beat Cincinnati 40-16 to hand the Bearcats their first conference defeat. West Virginia, at 2-0, is the only unbeaten squad in conference play. It's not likely that Rutgers will come back to win the conference after an 0-2 start, but the Scarlet Knights have been able to throw a monkey wrench into the plans of two other conference foes in recent weeks.

The game was over when . . . Young plunged into the end zone on a 4-yard touchdown run with 5:26 remaining in the fourth quarter to cap the scoring and put Rutgers ahead 54-34. Pittsburgh had cut the Rutgers lead to 48-34 on a field goal, and the Scarlet Knights answered with a nine-play, 67-yard drive that ate up 5:50 and slammed the door shut on a Pitt comeback.

Post mortem: This is the Rutgers team that everyone envisioned at the beginning of the season, and the bye week comes just at the Scarlet Knights seemed to have figured out how to get the offense going. With a home game against Syracuse looming after the break, Rutgers has a chance to get to 3-2 in Big East play heading into a pivotal contest at South Florida Nov. 15. Home games versus Army and Louisville round out the schedule, meaning a .500 record is not out of the realm of possibility. After a dismal 0-3 start, 6-6 would look pretty good.

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