10 Things We Learned: Rutgers - L'Ville

The regular season is in the books, and Rutgers (7-5, 5-2 Big East) finished the 2008 campaign by thrashing Louisville (5-7, 1-6) 63-14 at Rutgers Stadium on Dec. 4. RU turned around a 1-5 start and won six straight heading into the bowl season. Let's break it down in the final regular season installment of 10 Things We Learned Last Week.

1. Rutgers is going bowling. With the way the college football landscape shaped up this year, chances are the Scarlet Knights would have secured a bid at 6-6. But the dominating win gave RU its seventh win of the season and guaranteed a spot in the postseason for the fourth consecutive season. RU is the seventh team in major college football history and the second Big East team to go to a bowl game after starting the season 1-5.

2. QB Mike Teel saved his best for last. RU's fifth-year senior set another couple of records on Dec. 4. He broke his own Big East record for passing touchdowns in the first half when he threw six in the first two periods. He also set a new school mark and tied the Big East record for passing touchdowns in a game when he finished with seven. In three-plus quarters, Teel was 21-for-26 for 447 yards (another school record) and zero interceptions. Teel also broke Ryan Hart's record for career passing touchdowns and now stands at 57. Teel has the best passer rating in the Big East after throwing 20 touchdowns to five interceptions over the last five games.

3. The offense is humming. RU amassed a school-record 671 yards against Louisville, but the Knights could have easily eclipsed the 700-yard plateau. Over the past five games, Rutgers has averaged 46.2 points per game and 507.6 yards of total offense. RU failed to score on just two possessions: one in the first quarter that resulted in a punt and another in the fourth quarter when RU turned the ball over on downs after milking the clock for nearly six minutes. The Scarlet Knights finished the regular season with the top passing offense in the Big East.

4. A turnover can change the face of a game. Rutgers capitalized on excellent field position to open the game with a four-play, 49-yard drive to go ahead 7-0. Louisville answered with a long 11-play drive that started at its own 24 but stalled at the Rutgers 2 when Courtney Greene drilled UL's Josh Chichester to force a fumble that Devin McCourty recovered. Five plays later, Rutgers was up 14-0.

5. Quick strikes are back. Rutgers had just one drive longer than 2:37 in the rout of Louisville. Prior to grinding out a 16-play, 10:51 drive for their final score early in the fourth quarter, the Scarlet knights needed just 31 plays and 11:57 to score their first eight TDs. Three of those drives took less than one minute to complete. It took 19 plays and 5:54 to score 35 points in the second quarter.

6. Kenny Britt can hit. A sure bet to be named All-Big East has proved he can catch the ball this season, turning in his second straight 1,000-yard campaign. But his downfield blocking is sometimes overlooked. Britt showed the crowd he could deliver a hit when he flattened Doug Beaumont at the Rutgers 9-yard line on the last play of the first half. In addition to his fine defensive play, Britt finished the game with a 33-yard rushing touchdown and three receptions for 63 yards and a touchdown.

7. Payback was a long time coming. Rutgers owed Louisville, not only for the 41-38 UL win where Rutgers blew an 18-point lead last season, but also for the 56-5 shellacking the Cardinals hung on the Scarlet Knights in 2005. The 63 points scored by Rutgers was a school record in a Big East game and the most the Knights put on the board since 1993.

8. Teel has found a rhythm with multiple receivers. The Louisville game was a breakout night for junior Tim Brown, who collected four catches for 173 yards and two touchdowns, including a 74-yard score where he left the defender in the dust after catching the ball. Senior Tiquan Underwood added five catches for 88 yards and two touchdowns, and Dennis Campbell scored his first career touchdown on a 23-yard connection from Teel. In all, Teel hit seven different receivers against Louisville and threw touchdown passes to five different players.

9. Kevin Malast continues to be a key player. The senior from Manchester finished the Louisville game with 10 tackles to finish the regular season with 96 total tackles. It was his second game with at least 10 tackles and first double-digit performance since the North Carolina game on Sept. 11.

10. The game was over when . . . Rutgers forced a turnover on downs at the Louisville 40-yard line early in the second quarter. The Cardinals, trailing 21-0 with about 10 minutes to play in the first half, faced a fourth down and 1-yard to go on their own 40-yard line. Rutgers stuffed the run attempt for a loss of five yards and converted the field position into an eight-play drive that culminated in a 9-yard touchdown pass from Teel to tight end Shamar Graves. The rout was on.

Post mortem: Rutgers needed to step up in the Louisville game in order to solidify a bowl bid, and the Scarlet Knights responded in convincing fashion. Perhaps more important than the fact that RU turned around a dismal season is the advantage of getting an extra month of practice. Syracuse and Louisville won't get the chance at the extra work.

It was a great run in the second half of the regular season, and we'll see if the Scarlet Knights can carry that momentum into the bowl season and beyond.


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