Analysis: The bad, the worse and the ugly

What happens when an inferiorly-talented team is out-played on the field and out-coached on the sidelines? Well, Syracuse wins 31-13, and leaves Rutgers searching for answers. The Scarlet Knights were confused by the Orange's game plan, and never got untracked. But, hey, given the youth at some of the key positions, Rutgers still has a chance to finish with a 9-3 mark.

Before Syracuse ran its first play, before the defense was truly confused and incapable of stopping the Orange in the first half, the tone was set for Rutgers' 31-13 loss when the Scarlet Knights jumped offsides.

While Rutgers coach Greg Schiano smartly tried to direct all the venom from fans and fault for Saturday's abysmal showing on himself, the players deserved plenty of blame as well.

Two offsides calls against the defense within the first four snaps is unacceptable, and missed tackles and a lack of enthusiasm defensively were as much to blame as preparation.

For the first time, Rutgers quarterback Tom Savage looked like a true freshman, and if it didn't happen then he would have defied logic because someone was going to come up with blitz and coverage schemes to confuse him.

However, it is too early to make a snap judgment and say the season is in tatters, and the coach doesn't know what he is doing.

This is the same staff that game-planned brilliantly against South Florida, and the same players who beat up the Bulls.

Nearly everyone involved had a poor game for Rutgers. As unsettling as it is, things like this happen, especially after a bunch of young men are told for a week how wonderful they are because they trounced a ranked opponent the week prior.

There were a number of distressing things, though, beginning with the time it took for Rutgers to adjust to what Syracuse was doing.

Offensively, the Orange ran the option, and did so out of formations in which the ball wasn't always given to someone lining up in the backfield, and the Scarlet Knights couldn't come up with an answer until halftime.

Syracuse's expert deception began with backup quarterback Ryan Nassib running the option, and Antwon Bailey sweeping and reversing for 51 yards on three carries on the game's first drive. It didn't help Rutgers' time to adjust last just three plays, when Savage tried to force a ball down the seam and it was intercepted by waiting safety Mike Holmes.

As if Rutgers' defense wasn't confused enough, Syracuse's deception continued on the next drive with quarterback Greg Paulus under center, either handing off or getting the ball out to the sideline for a quick pass.

Rutgers' defense looked slow, but that will happen to any defense trying to think rather than read and react.

Schiano said he and the coaching staff are shouldering the blame because they didn't help the players adjust quickly enough to what Syracuse was doing, and that was evident defensively. The Orange had 149 yards of offense and led 14-0 after the first quarter, and scored on four of its five first-half possessions.

But adjustments were made in the second half as Rutgers' linebackers settled on their gap integrity and played closer to the edge of the line of scrimmage. Syracuse's only score of the second half came with 4:44 to play, after the Scarlet Knights' chance for a rally was snuffed out by Savage's second interception.

Offensively, the issue was protecting Savage.

He was sacked nine times, hit a bunch more and never figured out where Syracuse's next blitz was coming from.

The most confusing aspect for Savage was his protection calls. Not only was the Orange blitzing from everywhere with no hint of tipping its pressure point, but the offensive line reacted slowly even when the pressure came through the middle.

And running back Joe Martinek had trouble with several blitz pickups, creating less comfort for Savage it the pocket.

As several players and Schiano said in the aftermath, Rutgers wound up chasing the game, and this offense is incapable of that.

Even with a freshman quarterback, the Scarlet Knights use the pass to set up the run, which is the biggest indictment of the capabilities of the offensive line to run block.

Falling behind 21-2 midway through the second quarter did not allow Rutgers to play to a strength, and didn't give the Scarlet Knights methodical running game time to wear down Syracuse's defense.

The staff also had finer days.

Rutgers got a delay of game on a third-and-40, and coming out of a timeout. There were also instances where the Scarlet Knights' defense didn't line up quick enough coming out of timeouts and were beaten by Syracuse's bunched receiver set.

Hey, at least the special teams did well in blocking three kicks.

Bad games happen. Folks hate it, and have a hard time understanding it, but bad games still happen.

What made this worse is Rutgers coaches and played its worst game of the season after its finest.

Rutgers still has a shot to go 9-3 – yes, the non-conference schedule is soft -- and considering the Scarlet Knights start a freshman quarterback and two of their top three receivers are freshman, that isn't too shabby.


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