Despite the sloppiness of 12 penalties and a slow-moving offense, Rutgers rolled to a 42-0 thrashing of vastly overmatched Texas Southern in front of a homecoming day crowd of 50,169 Saturday at Rutgers Stadium.
It appears no significant injuries came in the win, and the Scarlet Knights got to see a few of its younger players, including freshman running back De'Antwan Williams, who rushed for all of his 132 yards on 19 carries in the final 17 minutes.
"It was sloppy at times, and other times we did things right,'' Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said of the offense. "It only takes one guy offensively to block the wrong person, or slide off his block. What could have been a very successful play turns into a 1- or 2-yard gain.
"In the pass game, they covered well. We didn't do as well route running as we have in the past in some things. Too many penalties, too many missed assignments. We're struggling a little bit there, but we are not turning the ball over and we are able to chop through it and score some points.''
Rutgers (4-1) now moves to an important, and not mention more challenging, portion of the schedule by hosting Pittsburgh on Friday at 8 p.m. on ESPN.
Texas Southern, which is a Football Championship Subdivision team, rushed 24 times for minus-25 yards, which includes the lost yards from seven sacks of quarterback Arvell Nelson. The Tigers (1-4) had 10 first downs and netted 126 yards of offense.
"I thought the defense played really well,'' Schiano said. "They are flying around out there.''
Scarlet Knights freshman quarterback Tom Savage, playing for the first time since suffering a concussion Sept. 19, completed 14 of 21 for 150 yards and a touchdown. He connected with Tim Brown on a fourth-and-3 for a 34-yard touchdown to push Rutgers' lead to 35-0 in the third quarter.
"My goal right now is not to lose a game. Taking care of the ball is the biggest part of the offense,'' said Savage, who has not thrown an interception. "I need to make the right reads, make the right calls, and everything is there. It's actually pretty easy for me to make the throws and try not to force anything.''
There were also a few take-your-breath-away moments when Savage absorbed several hits while scrambling, opting to challenge tacklers rather than sliding.
"I talked to him a little bit about, ‘Let's work your slide into your repertoire,' ‘'Schiano said. "He is a competitor and he is sneaky fast. He is good, but we do need to get him to slide a little bit more.''
The Scarlet Knights' defense, which forced four turnovers, got in the end zone for the third straight game. Sophomore cornerback David Rowe intercepted Nelson's pass and returned it 56 yards to make it 7-0 with 8:47 left in the first quarter.
It was the fourth time in three games the defense scored.
"That's what we work toward,'' Scarlet Knights linebacker Ryan D'Imperio said. "Great defenses score, and we're trying to pride ourselves as a great defense.''
Despite leading 28-0 at the half, Rutgers' offense wasn't stellar. In fact, the Tigers entered the game having allowed at least 52 points in two of its first three losses, but the Scarlet Knights first unit put up only 28 points in nearly three full quarters. Starting running back Joe Martinek played a little more than a quarter and rushed for 51 yards on eight carries and scored on runs of 9 and 15 yards and Jourdan Brooks added 38 yards on nine carries. He also scored on a 5-yard run 1:22 before the half.
"I thought we did well,'' Savage said. "We obviously have a lot to work on, but it's just the little things here and there. Once we get everything clicking, I think it's going to take off and get back to a normal Rutgers offense.
"I guess on my part, it's throwing the right ball. Sometimes I threw the ball low. Every play is there. Every play is open.''