In case you've decided to find better things to do with your Saturdays than follow SU football this year (spending time with the family, doing yard work, etc.), I'm here to tell you that you haven't missed much but continued torture, torment and heartbreak. For those who didn't see the game, SU came out looking like world beaters and surged to a 14-0 lead. Then, well…SU remembered they were 2-6 and hadn't won on the road this year and Rutgers…well, they remembered that they've still got a decent shot at winding up in the Insight.com Bowl or whatever it calls itself nowadays.
With the mess that SU football finds itself in nowadays, I'm going to go a bit off the beaten track on the recap here, like The Axeman did in his "Sorting Through The Rubble" this week. Let's start out by looking into our crystal ball and see how this game could influence SU's future. Certain players have shown marked improvement over the last month, giving some hope for this team in the next few years. So whose stock is up?
• Da'Mon Merkerson – The youngster recovered a block punt in the end zone for a touchdown. A heads up play for this kid, giving him TDs in back to back week. Now, my question is where else was he on the field Saturday? After being an offensive force against Louisville in the first half a week ago, Merkerson was a scarce commodity on Saturday.
• Dorian Graham – The other half of the combination that scored SU's final touchdown of the day, he was the man who actually blocked the punt. Like Merkerson, the young Graham is building quite a bit of momentum heading into the homestretch this season. He could easily find himself starting at cornerback next season if this improvement continues. On the negative side, he's just 5'11", 185 and like the rest of our secondary, will likely need to bulk up and hit one more growth spurt to compete with physical wide receivers (Exhibit A: Kenny Britt of Rutgers this weekend abusing Mike Holmes). On that note, if we were to compile a wish list of the things we need for SU football (on the gridiron, not a new coach or AD), I'm thinking a 6'2", 205 pound cornerback with lockdown corner skills would have to be up near the top of the list.
• Mike Holmes – He had an up-and-down game for sure, but I'm not totally blaming him on that Kenny Britt touchdown. Britt has size and weight on him; if I'm coaching in that situation, I'd roll a safety over to help him with that coverage. Other than that, Holmes looked solid on the field, even recording an interception in his own end zone to stall Rutgers' first drive.
• Jake Flaherty – The maligned middle linebacker comes up with an interception of Mike Teel and plays fundamentally sound football for most of the game, coming up with a couple of textbook tackles.
• Doug Hogue – One carry, 82 yards, one touchdown. If you look up ‘efficient' in the dictionary, you'll see Doug Hogue's smiling face looking at you. Of course, that begs the question of why G-Rob decided not to use him more in the game when he saw Curtis Brinkley was struggling (though I blame that more on the O-line than the Brink).
While SU showed a few bright spots on defense, they still gave up nearly 500 total yards and looked disinterested in the game. And, unfortunately, the defense was the bright spot of the game. So whose stock plummeted most this week?
• Cam Dantley and Andrew Robinson – Together, the tenacious duo (err, not so much) combined to finish 5 for 19 through the air, with a combined passer rating that makes President Bush's approval rate look otherworldly. If you want to know how atrocious the SU offense was this weekend, just read this one stat and then stop reading. SU finished the day with MORE PENALTY YARDS (41) THAN PASSING YARDS (35)!! In another gross playing with the box score scenario, combine SU's third down conversion percentage (3 for 12 = 25%) and their passing completion percentage (5 for 19 = 26%) and you'll find that six teams have third down conversion percentages this year that are greater than SU's two statsfrom this game combined together.
• The men in the trenches – The offensive line allowed penetration on most plays, thus limiting Curtis Brinkley to less than four yards per carry. Cam Dantley also found himself getting knocked down. Both Dantley and A-Rob exited the game due to injuries as Rutgers recorded five sacks. On the defensive side, other than a massive bull rush from Arthur Jones up the middle to get a sack, the defensive line got minimal pressure on Mike Teel, who was able to sit back in the pocket all day and pick apart SU's makeshift secondary.
• Greg Robinson – I hate to be a negative nancy (pardon the pun), but G-Rob again made his share of questionable decisions yesterday and then some.
a. Why not play someone besides A-Rob in the second half once it's evident he's struggling?
b. Why not give Doug Hogue, Delone Carter and Antwon Bailey more looks out of the backfield when anyone could see Brinkley was struggling? All have differing running styles and may have been able to fare better against the Scarlet Knights' D.
c. I don't even want to discuss this, but the clock management in the last two minutes of the first half was vintage G-Rob? Not taking a timeout to get the ball back, then wasting one after Rutgers gets a decent gain? Then, the botching of the whole Shadle field goal thing. Not that he shouldn't have knocked one of the three attempts home, but with good clock management, SU has one shot at the end zone.
d. Where was Da'Mon Merkerson on offense?
e. I know this isn't G-Rob's fault entirely, but at this point in time in the season, I'd like to see some of our younger guys getting chances to get in the game. One of these being safety Randy McKinnon, who regressed a bit this season, but had flashes of brilliance early in the season.
• Patrick Shadle – I guess you're allowed a miss once in a while, but whodathunkit when Shadle had three attempts at a 42-yard field goal before halftime and missed each one.
• Marcus Sales – Andrew Robinson made him look awful, throwing at least two to three passes behind him, but Sales dropped a couple of short passes in the first half from Dantley that he should've hauled in. Not that it would've made a difference. Only divine intervention would have been able to keep this game remotely close once the wheels got rolling.