<
>

Rutgers survives at FIU

9/11/2010

Rutgers improved to 2-0, but the Scarlet Knights have some serious question marks on offense.

Luckily, their defense and special teams have been outstanding. And especially Joe Lefeged. The senior safety was amazing against Florida International, forcing two fumbles, grabbing an interception and blocking two punts. Without him, Rutgers may have lost instead of escaping with a 19-14 road win.

The Scarlet Knights were outgained 371-172. Their running game went nowhere (and Joe Martinek had to be helped off the field late after an apparent ankle injury). Tom Savage continued his strange early-season struggles, going just 7-for-15 for 72 yards and an interception. Both Rutgers touchdowns came when Mohamed Sanu was the QB.

The Scarlet Knights defense -- and Lefeged -- bailed them out by getting five turnovers in the first half. Rutgers tried to give it back with three turnovers of its own, but the defense would not let FIU do much of anything after giving up an early second-half touchdown.

Rutgers now has a bye week before playing North Carolina. The team needs some serious improvement on offense to get ready for that game, because it can't keep relying on defense and special teams to make big plays when the competition increases.

That ends the week for the Big East, which went 6-2 and narrowly avoided a 5-3 record thanks to West Virginia's big comeback. There were no embarrassing losses on the scale of Virginia Tech falling to James Madison. But the league also came up empty in its two high-profile, albeit high degree-of-difficulty, nonconference contests; Syracuse and South Florida lost by at least three touchdowns at Washington and at Florida, respectively.

The Big East is now winlesss against the Big Six conferences, the Mountain West and the WAC. At least Rutgers spared the conference the humiliation of losing to the Sun Belt. Barely.