Orange crush: Rutgers goes down 31-13

Rutgers coach Greg Schiano took the blame for not having his team ready to place in Saturday's 31-13 loss at Syracuse. The Scarlet Knights had won four straight in the series, and could gained an inside track for a Gator Bowl berth with the win. Instead, quarterback Tom Savage was sacked nine times and the Orange had the ball for more than 40 minutes.

Rutgers defense admitted surprise, which created confusion, at the amount and type of option Syracuse ran.

And the Scarlet Knights' offensive line found it difficult to figure out where Syracuse's next blitz was coming from, although it was simple to see where it ended -- usually with quarterback Tom Savage being sacked.

No. 25 Rutgers' return to the national rankings ended quickly, and worse, without the type of effort which got the Scarlet Knights there.

Big East cellar-dweller Syracuse smashed Rutgers, holding the ball for 40 minutes, sacking Savage nine times, rushing for 213 yards and allowing the Scarlet Knights 130 yards of offense in a 31-13 win Saturday at the Carrier Dome.

It was Syracuse's first win in five games against Rutgers (7-3, 2-3 Big East), and likely ended the Scarlet Knights' hopes of going to the Gator Bowl, which would have been possible when Connecticut beat Notre Dame. The Orange (4-7, 1-5) also won for the first time in league play.

"We didn't coach very well, we didn't play very well,'' Schiano said. "We didn't play like a team that was ready to play a Big East football game, nor did we coach that way. You don't do that in this league. This is what happens when you do that.''

Schiano said repeatedly he and the coaching staff deserved the blame for such a lackluster game on the heels of a blowout win against South Florida.

"It's not living in the moment, I guess,'' Rutgers right tackle Kevin Haslam said. "I think we should have kept focus better.''

Not even three blocked kicks (two punts and a field goal) by Rutgers could sway momentum. The only touchdown came on receiver Mohamed Sanu's 38-yard pass to Tim Brown, which pulled gave him the school record for career touchdown receptions (18) and pulled Rutgers within 21-10 midway through the second quarter.

"Rutgers was not ready to play, so there's one guy I point to, and that's myself,'' he said. "I take responsibility for that.''

Other than that, the offense was stagnant, led by a blitzing Syracuse defense that paralyzed Savage. The relentlessly blitzing Orange, who came after Savage from all angles, registered nine sacks, intercepted Savage twice and held him to 7 of 17 passing for 66 yards.

"Tom's not Superman. I thought he did a good job staying alive,'' Schiano said. "I don't know how great he did with his reads. I'll have to look at it.''

The offensive problems were best illustrated by a series late in the second quarter, when the Scarlet Knights had a first-and-10 from the Syracuse 14-yard line while trailing 24-10. Two sacks, a penalty for a false start and a delay of game penalty coming out of a timeout created a third-and-45.

And to add insult, Rutgers gained 20 of the yards back, but saw kicker San San Te miss a 46-yard field goal, and get injured (no penalty was called) when a Syracuse defender ran into his kicking leg.

"It was tough with the pressure we were getting,'' Savage said. "Our offensive line did as much as we could. You can't fault them. It's the way we call our protections. You just have to adjust from there and learn how to fix it.''

It wasn't just Rutgers' offense that was out-schemed.

Syracuse kept switching between Greg Paulus and Ryan Nassib, and both were effective as the Orange ran the option to perfection to carve Rutgers apart in the first half.

Both of Syracuse's first-quarter possessions ended in touchdowns, one a game-opening 76-yard drive and the other an 83-yard, 11-play display in execution.

When the first quarter ended, Syracuse ran 19 plays to Rutgers' eight, held a 149-13 edge in yards and was up 14-0.

"Their call was right against our call almost every time,'' Schiano said. "When I watch the tape, maybe there's a guy that didn't execute their job and that's why it worked, but their calls gave them a good chance.''

Even When Rutgers showed life on special teams when Joe Lefeged blocked a punt for a safety to make it 14-2, the Scarlet Knights offense went three-and-out. Syracuse, which had the ball for 40 minutes, 1 second, responded with an eight-play, 63-yard touchdown drive, capped by Paulus' 1-yard throw to a wide open Carl Cutler for a 21-2 lead.

"We prepared for option, but that was not what they showed on tape,'' Schiano said. "They did little things, but not like that.''

The interception-prone Paulus completed 13 of 16 pass for 142 yards and a touchdown. Nassib was 4 of 6 for 69 yards.

"That's the whole thing about playing defense,'' Rutgers linebacker Damaso Munoz said. "You have to be able to adjust on the run. They did some different things, and that's what we're supposed to do, adjust on the run. We didn't do it well enough.''

Rutgers didn't register a sack, failed to force a turnover and allowed Syracuse to covert 6 of 14 third downs.

"We just bought what we're going to get for the rest of the year,'' Schiano said. "There's a lot of reasons why things happen, but more than anything, we just didn't coach or play well.''

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