Season Report Card: Rutgers
After starting the opening the season with a 52-51 overtime loss to the eventual Mountain West Conference champion Fresno State, the Scarlet Knights went on a four-game winning streak, including a win over Arkansas.
Then the collapse began.
Rutgers would then lose five of its final seven regular season games by an average of 23.8 points, stumbling into what was a surprising invitation to the Pinstripe Bowl with Notre Dame (and lost 29-16).
Finishing with just three league wins in a lackluster American Athletic Conference isn’t exactly a good impression for the Scarlet Knights, who head to the Big Ten Conference in July.
Here is Rutgers’ report card for the 2013 season:
Things got off to a smooth start on the offensive side of things, as quarterback Gary Nova looked much-improved from the season before, the skill positions were making plays and running back Paul James was reminiscent of the Ray Rice days. Then all hell broke loose—Nova reverted to his turnover prone ways, the receivers all the sudden couldn’t create their own space, and James got hurt. It didn’t help that Ron Prince’s game plan was never consistent and was forced to lean upon a passing game that just didn’t cut it.
So many bad things happened to this secondary that it almost seems a little unfair to grade the entire defense so poorly. Rutgers was plagued with a horrendous stretch of the injury and transfer bug, not to mention numerous off-field issues that had an impact with the starting roster. But that’s not why it got a bad grade—defensive coordinator Dave Cohen almost seemed scared to put his secondary on the field, leaving many pass plays uncontested with 10-yard cushions and poor tackling fundamentals. To be fair, Cohen was fired after the regular season finale, but this group needs rebuilt from the ground up.
Special Teams: A
Special teams is what kept Rutgers’ head above water in 2013. The unit blocked four field goals and two punts to increase its total to 35 blocked kicks since 2009—nine more than the next closest team. It also did an excellent job with consistency in both returns and return coverage.
There were some pretty high outside expectations for this Rutgers club, although I had it one game better at 7-5 (4-4 AAC). It didn’t beat a winning team all season and its six wins came against opponents with a 17-55 (ouch) record. Coach Kyle Flood saw six players transfer throughout the year and watched his once strong recruiting class implode.
Sure, Rutgers went bowling. But it certainly didn’t feel like a bowl year in Jersey.
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