Mix a true freshman quarterback with an unproven and untested receiving corps, and a running game that lacks speed to the outside, and it would be surprising if the offense was efficient.
Folks don't want to hear these are the necessary growing pains of rebuilding an offense because before the season there was a lot of hullabaloo about the offensive line, which has underperformed.
The truth is, what transpired offensively in Friday's 24-17 loss to Pittsburgh is not shocking. Heck, it was expected.
The Scarlet Knights cannot run the ball, and that is compounded by the lack of a running back who can get around the corner. Joe Martinek is a straight ahead runner, and now there is a question whether Jourdan Brooks is a factor after he didn't play against the Panthers.
So as the offensive line struggles to create holes to run tackle-to-tackle, the backfield is incapable of offering a change of pace by getting someone to the outside.
The health of running back Kordell Young doesn't help, either. Young possesses the necessary speed, but knee operations took a toll and his body will not allow him to be an every-down player. Therefore, the coaching staff has to limit his playing time, and his ability to catch the ball and pass protect make him a valuable third-down contributor.
Freshman running back De'Antwan Williams offers the best chance for speed and acceleration to get around the end, but so far the coaching staff does not believe he is the better option, even at small junctures in the game, so he remains on the sideline unless it is a blowout.
And some of the running game's woes can be pinned on the inexperience the Scarlet Knights have at the quarterback and receiver positions.
Teams are gearing up to stop the run, and begging the Scarlet Knights to throw the ball. It is the reason Rutgers coach Greg Schiano went into the Pittsburgh game believing the best chance to win rested on the right arm of quarterback Tom Savage, a freshman with 85 career pass attempts before kickoff.
Savage was called on to throw the ball 42 times (39 passes and three sacks), which more than doubled the number of runs the Scarlet Knights called.
In the world of quarterback progression, Savage showed he is getting better. He showed very good pocket awareness, sliding to avoid pressure while keeping his eyes downfield.
If anything – and this is in contrast to earlier in the season – he elected to remain in the pocket too long, rather than scramble for a few yards. That was the case on the game's final drive, when he could have run for a first down on third-and-6 but elected to try and get the ball downfield with his arm.
Also, Savage made a couple of wonderful throws that could have been big plays, but was let down by his receivers. Freshman receiver Mohamed Sanu needed to show more aggressiveness going after a ball in the end zone in the first quarter, and senior receiver Tim Brown dropped a ball on a post pattern in the third quarter.
On the other side, Savage showed his lack of experience by throwing into double and triple coverage too often. He tried to force some passes, as all freshmen do, and was fortunate to only be intercepted once.
There is also a tendency for Savage to look for Brown of Sanu too often, but that is a delicate catch-22 because the search for a third receiver continues. Julian Hayes had two catches and tight end Shamar Graves hauled in three, but the consistency and trust level remains a question.
As for the offensive line, the unit's inability to mesh is distressing. The pass protection was fine, but the run blocking is a problem. Rutgers ran 11 times out of a non-Wildcat formation, and four times lost yardage or didn't gain any.
Even when trickery was employed – Martinek's halfback option throw – the blocking broke down. Sanu was 10 yards behind Pittsburgh's defense, but Martinek didn't have time to make a good throw.
The implementation of Sanu in the "wildcat'' package speaks of his talent level, and also of Rutgers' inability to run out of a conventional set.
Defensively, the Scarlet Knights also had issues, but that isn't why the game was lost. The inability to tackle Panthers running back Dion Lewis was frustrating at times, but give him 31 carries and he will make his fair share of defenders look like shaky tacklers.
The defensive line was able to pressure Panthers quarterback Bill Stull, who made a few remarkable throws under pressure to convert third downs. The defensive line also lost containment on a few plays to allow Stull to scramble for big yards, and first downs.
There were also a few busted coverages, leaving tight end Dorin Dickerson open in the flat.
Cornerbacks Devin McCourty and David Rowe did a fantastic job in coverage. There is talk of McCourty being a first-day NFL draft pick and he showed why in shutting down Panthers receiver Jonathan Baldwin. Even with play-action available, McCourty was able to keep up with Baldwin throughout, effectively taking him out of the game.
The Special teams saga continued as well.
There was the good of blocking a third quarter punt (which was wasted as the offense quickly lost 18 yards and was forced to punt), but also a big kickoff return allowed in the first quarter. Furthermore, kick returner Joe Lefeged touched his knee down while receiving the ball on Rutgers' 1-yard line, and there was a 13-yard kickoff return by Brown.
If the offense was operating at an effective level, the shortcomings of the defense and special teams could be overcome.
However, with the inexperienced offense sputtering along, defense and special teams will have to win games against solid, not even stellar, competition.
The Maryland win taught that lesson.