The second game of 2007 is in the books for Rutgers. As with the first, there was some good stuff and some not so good stuff, with the good ultimately outweighing the bad again and resulting in the most important good thing of the night – the win. Navy is a tough game to prepare for and a tough team to play, so getting out of this game with a win is always a relief to opposing teams – and it’s been relatively rare the last few years, as the Midshipmen have been to four straight bowls and later this year will likely make it five. In this post, I’ll look at some of the not-so-good things, good things, and overall impressions from Friday night. Not-so-good stuff first…

Not-so-good: Freaking penalties. Playing a unique system like Navy’s triple option surely doesn’t help, but this particular situation was even worse than it was against Buffalo. RU was flagged an astounding 11 times for 100 yards. Looking at the numbers, I was surprised that Navy didn’t gain a whole lot more yardage than they did on offense – then, looking at the penalties, it’s easy to see how the results seemed skewed. This is an area where the team still has major work to do; luckily, the next game, against Norfolk State, should serve pretty well as a tuneup – as should the bye week that follows that game before they face Maryland September 29.

Also, there was the fact that at times Navy truly seemed to be able to run at will. I realize being able to do that is the bread and butter of their entire gameplan, but it’s frustrating when it works. They didn’t really strike for any huge plays, just a lot of steady yardage that was frustrating to watch – especially so at times during the game when Navy, after a couple solid runs, had a 3rd and short situation. They were 8-15 on third downs during the game, and it actually seemed worse as the game unfolded. Overall, they ran for 254 yards – way more than they did last year against RU, but this is a different year, and last year’s Navy game featured a pitch-perfect performance by RU’s defense, so in this case holding them to over 100 yards fewer than they rushed for a week ago (granted, that was against Temple) will have to suffice – and it did. After all, Rutgers got the win.

The earlier-than-initially-expected return of receiver Tim Brown from a broken hand was good to see. What wasn’t as good to see was when he inexplicably stepped right in front of Kordell Young on a kick return and took the ball back (not very far) when it obviously should have gone to Young. Also on special teams, the late long kickoff return RU allowed Navy is a concern, even if the game was already won at that point. This was a sore spot for the team last year, and improvement there (with the field position advantages it would provide) will go a long way toward helping this team achieve what it is capable of doing. Offensively, Ray Rice turned in another fine performance; however, he carried the ball 37 times. 37 carries is an awful lot, even for a guy Schiano says “trains like a maniac” to be able to handle that type of workload. Some of those 37 took place when the game had already been decided. In fairness, the last TD was probably the right move from a football etiquette standpoint (rather than kick a field goal to opt for the easier, less contested, meaningless points), and Rice probably won’t run as much next week against Norfolk State (if he does, something is wrong). Then, a bye week follows, so he obviously won’t be doing as much then. As Schiano himself says, Rice is “a special back” and RU needs him to be a special back to make a BCS bowl.

Good: Once again, this section outweighs the bad. The offense put up 41 points – these guys can really play. Teel was hit for the first time of the year Friday – Buffalo never even touched him – but overall, the line turned in yet another very good performance. As mentioned, Ray Rice played well, as always – he even caught a TD pass in addition to his 175 rushing yards. Mike Teel also played another outstanding game, completing 14 of 19 passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns. One was an outstanding long pass (53 yards) to Kenny Britt, who had 99 yards on three catches. Also, the tight end position (with Shamar Graves’ TD) and fullback position (Jack Corcoran’s first reception on the year) got more involved than they were against Buffalo, adding more versatility to the offense. Teel also threw his first interception of the year, but bad throws, quite simply, happen. The bottom line was he made a small number of mistakes and the good aspects of his performance far outweighed the turnover.

Speaking of turnovers, Rutgers won that particular battle Friday night. After failing to force a turnover against Buffalo, they forced three Friday (all off interceptions). Two of those picks came in the end zone, and while it is somewhat discomforting that those drives came down to making end zone interceptions in the first place, they also serve as a testament to the fact that Rutgers has guys on defense who can make big plays when they need to be made (just look at Courtney Greene’s end zone pick: a spectacular, diving catch). In his postgame press conference, Schiano said the defense never stopped playing, even when things weren’t going particularly well; this was never made more clear than in those two plays. Also, the defense came up with a critical three and out performance when Navy was still in the game; that was about it for the Midshipmen’s chances.

Overall: This was a solid win. Navy is a difficult team to play, and more or less a team you’re just happy to be done with (especially so when you beat them). Rutgers, while not even always firing on all cylinders, beat them. Not only that, they beat them fairly convincingly. At the point that the game had been truly decided, the score was 41-17. (It could also be argued that the game was essentially over when the score was only 34-17.) The bottom line is that when you play a team that’s so unique, a three-score win is hard to complain about. 100 yards in penalties is a different matter, but a tuneup game is coming, followed by a bye week, so there is some time to fix that problem. The performance pounds home what the Buffalo game suggested – RU has a lot of talent, and with some more polish, has elite potential. When the season is underway and that’s your position, things can’t be going too badly.

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