Sunday, October 18, 2009

12 Hours Later (Plus).......Some Thoughts About The Week in College Football, Some NFL, and a Tragedy At UCONN

This is part of my ongoing revue of the Rutgers football season from my seat in Section 104, this one with a couple of days delay. "On the seventh day, he rested".

Before I go on to talk about some of the games this past weekend in college football, and a mention of some of today's NFL games, there's some tragic news from the University of Connecticut.

Jasper Howard, the starting cornerback for the UCONN Huskies, was stabbed to death in an on campus incident in Storrs. Howard, along with another student, was attacked after a dance just after midnight Sunday morning. On Saturday UCONN had beaten Louisville 38-25. Jasper Howard, a kid from Miami who went to UCONN to escape the violence of his neighborhood, was only 20 years old.

As I type this no arrests have been made.

My condolences to Jasper's family and friends, to the UCONN football team and coaching staff, and to the University of Connecticut community.

More on this story from ESPN.

Pitt 24- Rutgers 17....The old axiom is simple; in order to win football games on a consistent basis first you must (1) be able to run the football; (2) stop the other team's running game.

On Friday night the Pitt Panthers (now ranked #20 in the BCS poll) were able to roll up 223 yards on the ground against Rutgers, led by freshman phenom Dion Lewis with 180 yards with two touchdowns. Rutgers was able to rush for a net of 38 yards, led by Mohamed Sanu's 29 yards with 1 TD out of RU's variation of the wildcat offense. The Pitt defense was brilliant; stop Rutgers running game, and force RU to a one dimensional air attack. Rutgers qb Tom Savage actually had passing stats similar to those of Pitt counterpart Bill Stull; Savage- 23/39, 248 yards, 6.4 per pass, 1 TD, 1 INT; Stull 16/24, 153 yds, 6.4 per pass, 1 TD, 0 INT. But too often Savage was forced to go to the air to try to keep drives alive in third and long situations, and too often he couldn't get it done.

Consequently, there were too many three and outs, the Rutgers defense was forced out on to the field for long stretches of the game. The 33:46 to 26:14 Pitt time of possession advantage wasn't indicative of how the game played out- Rutgers held the ball for 10:39 in the fourth quarter until an RU fumble ended final drive with 1:02 left in the game. In other words, until that fourth quarter Pitt held an time of possession advantage of nearly three to one.

Very simply, Pitt moved the ball on the ground, and Rutgers couldn't. And if there has been an ongoing theme for Rutgers football in the post Ray Rice/ Brian Leonard era its been this- lack of a consistent ground game. And its wrong to point a finger at Joe Martinek, Jourdan Brooks, Kordell Young, and De'Antwan Williams; each of those players have had a 100 yard games in their careers. The problem is doing it on a week in, week out basis. Its how Rutgers was able to lift itself from the ranks of the also rans to respectability. Rutgers defense is usually there, with rare exceptions. Special teams have not been the problem. The team comes up with turnovers, and is among the nation's leaders in turnover ratio.

Yes, RU does need to develop a third wide receiver to go with veteran Tim Brown and young Mohamed Sanu. They've got the quarterback of the future here in the present in Mr. Savage.

But it all begins in the trenches with an offensive line that can run block, and running backs who are money in the bank on third down. Until Rutgers can get back to doing what took them to those dizzying heights of 2006- running the ball down the other guy's throats- we'll be looking at 7-5 seasons; good enough for a bowl game, but just treading water in the Big Kid's pool.

A Couple of Other Games I did watch the Louisville-UCONN game mentioned before. Andre Dixon once again continued to impress me as a running back, and as a guy who decided to get it together both on the field and in his own life. Kudos to him.

West Virginia 24, Marshall 7.... I only saw the second half of this game, after WVU QB Jarret Brown was hurt and replaced by Geno Smith. At the half in "The Friends of Coal Bowl" The Thundering Herd led the Mountaineers 7-3 in Morgantown in a minor shocker. But there was a little too much Noel Devine on the WVU side, too many miscues from Marshall (2 INT's 2 fumbles lost, 2 fumbles recovered when errant snaps shot over the quarterback's head). The Herd need to play error free ball to win at WVU, probably the best home field advantage in the Big East, and one of the nations best. They didn't...and they fell apart in the second half.

USC 34, Notre Dame 27..... This was the only other college game I watched this weekend. The Irish almost did it again with their last minute heroics. Jimmy Clausen threw three incomplete passes into the end zone as the Trojans held off the Irish, and came out with their eighth straight win over their greatest rivals. I'll admit it- with Notre Dame's penchant for winning games in the last minute this year I has visions of a headline saying "God (And Jimmy Clausen) Lift Irish To Miracle Win" in my head. But, order was restored to the universe; today USC is #7 in the BCS poll, Notre Dame among the missing.

So be it.

This and That..... Are the rest of you as tired of watching every scoring play under review in college football as I am? Why do these BCS conferences hire well paid officiating crews to work these games if they can't see some very obvious plays that broke the plane, or had one foot in bounds? And during Pitt-Rutgers on Friday, Pitt called a timeout for defense after Tim Brown caught a pass for a big gain for Rutgers. ESPN went to commercial. They came out of commercial- then the officiating crew announced to the crowd (on a 40 degree and wet night) that the previous play was under review. Does the NCAA have some sort of arcane rule about reviewing a play during a charged timeout/commercial? Incredible!

The legend of "Little Jovi" goes on. It was the 4th quarter, and young Nicholas Sasso did his Jon Bon Jovi impression on the jumbotron at Rutgers Stadium. Nicholas has become so big that when the stadium camera operator moves on to the lovely Rutgers cheerleaders or dance team, thousands in the crowd start to boo!

Nicholas...this is the business you have chosen!

Some NFL and MLB..... In the NFL; Bills 16, Jets was an OT game that nobody seemed to want to win until the Bills hit a field goal to end it all and send CBS into 60 Minutes. Welcome to New Jersey and cold weather, Mark Sanchez; 10-29 for 119 yards, 0 Tds and 5 INT's. A passer rating of 8.3. No, that is not a typo.

Saints 48, Giants 27.....and it was worse than the score indicates. The Giants never got to Drew Brees who went 23 for 30, 369 yards a 4 TD's. I was late getting to the broadcast, and it was already 14-0 Saints. This could have been the worst embarrassment for any team this Sunday if it wasn't for....

Patriots over Titans, 59-0. I didn't see it, and I'm just as shocked by this score as anyone. At 45-0, the Pats had the biggest halftime lead in league history. Tom Brady had six TD passes, including a record setting five in one quarter. This equals the biggest blowout of the AFL-NFL merger era, since the Rams beat the Falcons 59-0 in 1976. The record, you ask? In 1940 the Bears beat the Giants the NFL Championship game!

A quick shout out to former Rutgers running back Ray Rice who had a great game in a losing cause, as the Ravens lost to the Vikings on a late field goal 33-31. Ray had 10 carries for 77 yards and two TD's, and 10 catches for 117 yards. Great guy, and the best running back we've ever seen On The Banks.

In Closing...those Yankees! Early AM heroics as they win in the 13th inning, and move on to LA with a two games to none lead on the Angels.

Who wants pie?

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