For the fourth time in the last five weeks, Rutgers (4-5, 3-2 Big East) forced a starting QB to the sidelines. After the 35-17 come-from-behind win over Syracuse, Rutgers football head coach Greg Schiano discussed his team's defensive pressure, which landed five sacks and disrupted the Orange's offensive flow.
"Our intent is to sack the quarterback," he said. "That's what we try to do on defense. Unfortunately, it's led to some guys getting knocked out. There's no place in football to even talk about that on a positive light.
"But I am pleased with the pressure we have on the quarterback. We had five sacks today. We hit them a bunch more. That's critical."
Senior defensive end Jamaal Westerman and Co. put a stranglehold on the Orange (2-7, 1-4 Big East), limiting starter Cameron Dantley and reserve Andrew Robinson to 35 yards passing, earning eight tackles for a loss and another nine quarterback hits.
"They were suffocating," Schiano said of his defense, which sidelined Dantley with a crushing yet clean sack late in the third quarter. Dantley suffered a sprained right ankle on the play and did not return.
"A bunch of guys playing hard together," Westerman said afterwards. "We're a bunch of guys. The D-line- we play hard together, we watch film together, we do everything together."
However, in the opening minutes, Rutgers looked as bleak as the clouds.
After a Mike Teel interception, Orange tailback Doug Hogue erupted for an 83-yard touchdown run. Merely 1:42 later, Syracuse returned a blocked punt for a score and captured an early 14-0 lead, before a stunned crowd of 42, 172, though many seats remained vacant.
"We were relaxed," Westerman said of Rutgers' ability to overcome the deficit. "That's what Coach Schiano preaches. Relax and keep chopping. Take a deep breath and keep chopping. That's what we did and we were able to come out with a victory."
Despite throwing two picks on the day, Teel completed 26-36 for 276 yards and three touchdowns against a banged-up Syracuse secondary.
"Mike is as tough as they come," Schiano said of his fifth-year senior journeyman, who hooked up with Kenny Britt once and Tiquan Underwood twice. "He's been through so many up and down games throughout his career. The thing that I've been really impressed by is that he's a fighter."
Rutgers also saw much improvement from its ground game, as Kordell Young earned his first career 100-yard performance and sparingly-used Joe Martinek took a direct snap 45 yards to the house.
After early-season struggles, RU has now earned three straight wins. Its' bowl hopes remain intact, thanks in part to the Knights' defense, especially Zaire Kitchen.
"You're not kidding," Schiano said of Kitchen, who forced his second fumble in two games, this time with the score tied. "As I said, he has a knack for them (forced fumbles) and he plays hard."
After Ryan D'Imperio pounced on the ball, Young gave Rutgers' its first lead and the Knights cruised from there.
In the meanwhile, Dantley joined a list of injured quarterbacks, thanks to the defensive intensity by Rutgers. That list also included Pat White of West Virginia, UCONN's Zach Fraser and Pittsburgh's Bill Stull.
"I don't want to make highlight of that. Certainly, that's not our intent," Schiano said of the wounded signal callers.
Rutgers also swarmed Orange ball carrier Curtis Brinkley throughout the contest, holding him to 67 yards on 18 carries. The Orange manufactured only seven first downs en route to a huge discrepancy in possession time (Rutgers led 37:54 to 22:06).
That margin gave Westerman and Co. plenty of spare time to rest on the bench.
"That's the best defense when we're sitting on the sidelines," Westerman said. "That's the best defense. I love that defense."
Teel Throw 3TDs As RU beats Cuse 35-17
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