A week before Rutgers coach Kyle Flood returned from a suspension for violating university policy by contacting a professor without using an academic support staffer as an intermediary, the Scarlet Knights had a comeback come up short against Michigan State. That rally ended with a 31-24 loss after Rutgers infamously spiked the ball on fourth down.
Against Indiana, it was an entirely different story. Rutgers scored the game’s final 28 points, including a 26-yard field goal as time expired to beat Indiana 55-52.
Those two weeks might be a perfect summary of the Scarlet Knights season, because all year long the team has demonstrated a flair for the dramatic.
Not even their starting quarterback has been immune. Sophomore Chris Laviano was kept out of the first half of the season opener versus Norfolk State after he used a fake ID to get into a bar.
Since then, the 6’3″, pro-style signal caller has completed nearly 70 percent of his passes, while throwing 12 touchdowns to only 6 interceptions.
Nine of those touchdown passes have gone to receiver Leonte Carroo. That shouldn’t be a surprise. Over the course of his career, 28 of 104 or roughly one in four of his catches have resulted in scores. On top of that, he’s averaging 22.5 yards/reception in 2015. He’s the team’s leading receiver in both yards and catches, even though he’s missed 11 quarters due to suspensions and injury.
And speaking of injury…
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) October 17, 2015
Carroo vows he will play against Ohio State, which is good for the Scarlet Knights, as he is probably their most talented player,
But it might be the run game that is most crucial to the team’s success.
In their three wins, Rutgers is averaging 271 yards on the ground. In their three losses, just 127 yards. Throwing the ball to try to erase a deficit offers only a partial explanation for a discrepancy that large. Also consider that since 2011, Rutgers is 27-6 in games where they run the ball 35 times or more.
There are three players who already have at least 48 carries for the Knights. starter Paul James (48 carries, 285 yards), Josh Hicks (78 carries, 420 yards), and Robert Martin (41 carries, 437 yards) have all contributed to making them the 32nd ranked rushing attack in the country. On a related note, Rutgers is ranked 20th in time of possession.
The offensive line is coached by a former Ohio State graduate assistant. Mitch Browning was in Columbus in 1982.
Meanwhile, opposing teams have found it tough to run against Rutgers. They’re only giving up an average of 126 yards/game on the ground.
Linebacker Steve Longa has had a big hand in this, and is second in the nation with 45 solo tackles. Fellow linebacker Quentin Gause paces the team when it comes to tackles for loss with 5.
Teams have thus opted to pass, and the Scarlet Knights consequently have the 124th ranked passing defense in the country. Although, Anthony Cioffi does already have three interceptions.
Rutgers is a somewhat slow starting team. They’ve been outscored in the first quarters of games this year by a combined total of 31-to-21. Saturday’s game against OSU starts at 8 p.m. on 97.1 The Fan.