Knights swtich up defensive look to 3-4 formation
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — In an effort to minimize Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson’s impact Saturday, the Rutgers football team employed a variety of new looks, none more apparent than its four-linebacker set.
Within the 3-4 scheme, sophomore Kevin Snyder lined up at outside linebacker, giving senior Khaseem Greene a larger role in coverage. Greene split out wide, covered slot receivers and roamed the middle of the field.
“He really was checking and doing things,” Greene said of Wilson. “He knew when pressures were coming. To our [defensive] coordinator Robb Smith’s advantage, he was playing the game with him.”
But in the fourth quarter, Wilson drew Smith’s hand.
After Wilson threw a pair of quick touchdowns to wide receiver Cobi Hamilton, Smith opted for a three-safety look. Sophomore starter Lorenzo Waters was not on the field for it.
Senior backups Wayne Warren and Mason Robinson, who only recently switched to safety, teamed with senior Duron Harmon on Arkansas’ second-to-last drive.
“There’s going to be mistakes, there’s certainly going to be angles we’d like to have back,” Flood said. “But when you play a really talented football team, there’s going to be some of those.”
Waters fell victim to most of them.
The sophomore took a poor route on Hamilton’s 80-yard touchdown, the longest play allowed by the Scarlet Knights this season. He did not see the field for the next drive.
But despite allowing 492 yards of total offense, the Knights defense remained opportunistic.
It held Arkansas to four consecutive three-and-outs that spanned the second and third quarters.
Junior cornerback Logan Ryan, victimized by Hamilton on a 57-yard score, intercepted Wilson in the end zone with Rutgers up, 25-13. Harmon scooped up a pass in the fourth quarter that deflected off an Arkansas receiver, all but dashing the Razorbacks’ hopes at a comeback.
“I think our defense did a really good job tonight,” Flood said. “And you say, ‘How could that be?’ That guy is going to make plays, and you just try to limit it as best you can and you try to go blow for blow with them.”
Junior wideout Quron Pratt posted his best game of the season at Arkansas, hauling in five passes for 85 yards. But arguably his most impactful play came on a block.
The Knights nursed the ball at their own one-yard line with more than six minutes left and a 9-point lead. They turned to sophomore running back Jawan Jamison, whom the Arkansas defense largely contained on first downs.
The Razorbacks initially bottled up Jamison on the first-down play, but a cutback and a block from Pratt resulted in a 24-yard run, Jamison’s longest of the game. Arkansas did not get the ball back until only three-and-a-half minutes remained.
“It was a front-side run, and I had back-side corner,” Pratt said. “I saw Jamison cut back, and I had my man. He tried to make a play, and I cut back and got him.”
Pratt entered the game with only three catches for 29 yards. But he was one of a handful of receivers that laid a stake in the outcome.
Sophomore quarterback Gary Nova connected with a season-high eight players, including sophomore tight end Paul Carrezola, whose first catch of the season resulted in a 2-yard touchdown.
“It’s a great thing for this offense to finally come together and see the potential,” Pratt said. “Now we used it … and it looked good on the field.”
Sophomore fullback Michael Burton left the game with an injury and did not return. Flood said the team received Burton’s X-rays, but he has not yet spoken with head football trainer David McCune and did not expect to do so until this afternoon.
Burton had two rushes this year for nine yards, along with three catches for 34 yards.
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