Thursday, December 27, 2012
Curtain call for special Rutgers defense
By Andrea Adelson
There is not much time for reflection just yet -- not with the Russell Athletic Bowl against Virginia Tech looming on Friday.
But there is no question this Rutgers defense has set a new standard for future teams to match. What we have seen develop over the past few years has been a throwback type of group that has been the strongest part of this team, that has produced a two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year in Khaseem Greene and four first-team Big East selections in 2012.
It's a defense that has produced an iron man in Scott Vallone, who has started every single game of his career (that's 50 in all). No other defensive player in the nation has started as many games.
It's a defense that has produced one of the top cover cornerbacks in the nation, Logan Ryan.
The Rutgers defense, led by linebacker Khaseem Greene, has allowed opponents just 105 rushing yards on average per game.
It's a defense that is relentless, aggressive and tenacious.
It's a defense this program surely will miss.
"We may not be the biggest, longest, fastest guys on the field but we're a bunch of determined guys that run to the football, create our own luck in terms of turnovers and interceptions," Vallone said, in describing his group. "We’re an attacking defense. We don’t sit back and wait, so those are things we’ve prided ourselves on and something I’ve been proud to be a part of the last four, five years."
Six seniors on defense will start their final game in Orlando. Ryan could be gone as well, if he chooses to leave early for the NFL draft. What this entire senior class has accomplished will go down in the school record books. That is especially true of the defense. Take a look at some of the highlights from this year:
Rutgers ranks in the top 25 nationally in four major defensive statistical categories: scoring defense (fourth, 14.3 ppg), total defense (14th, 321.3 ypg), pass efficiency defense (25th, 115.35) and rushing defense (11th, 105.0 ypg). Rutgers also is tied for fourth nationally with 18 touchdowns allowed and tied for the fourth fewest rushing touchdowns allowed.
Rutgers is holding opponents to the fourth-lowest single game rushing average since 1950, allowing only 105 rushing yards per game. Only two Rutgers teams (1976 and 1964) have held opponents to less than 100 yards per game since 1950.
A season of firsts, too: Rutgers held Temple to 191 yards of total offense Oct. 20 at Lincoln Financial Field -- the first time in school history the Scarlet Knights have allowed less than 200 yards in a Big East road game. Then against Cincinnati, Rutgers allowed only three points -- the lowest point total it has allowed to a Big East opponent on the road.
"We’ve got a very competitive and a great challenge ahead of us in playing Virginia Tech, but I do believe that after that game, people are going to look back at this senior class and certainly these players on defense and they will have accomplished as much as anybody in their body of work in the history of our program," coach Kyle Flood said.
Until then, Greene says he will savor every moment of his final game in a Rutgers uniform.
“I want to go out the right way and I’m sure my teammates, especially the senior class, feels exactly the same," Greene said. "We’re going to take in every moment leading up to the game and even during the game and once it’s said and done, we’ll definitely reminisce and talk about this time."