Four takeaways from the Fresno game
Here are four takeaways from the Rutgers football team’s 52-51 overtime loss Thursday night to Fresno State, the first season-opening Scarlet Knights loss since 2009 against Cincinnati.
Sophomore wideout Leonte Carroo will benefit when both he and junior Brandon Coleman are on the field:
Carroo had arguably the most impressive training camp for the Knights, and his work in the offseason with junior quarterback Gary Nova looks to have paid off.
Carroo caught five passes for 135 yards and three touchdowns against Fresno State.
“It felt pretty good,” Carroo said. “I was excited with my performance, but I’m not satisfied. I want to get out there and keep going. I want to keep getting better in practice every day and keep playing and score more touchdowns.”
The presence of Coleman will help Carroo accomplish that, as the 6-foot-6 wideout will draw attention away from Carroo. Despite facing double and even triple coverage against the Bulldogs, Coleman still managed 94 yards and two touchdowns off nine receptions.
This will create opportunities for Carroo, though it is not the only thing he said Coleman provides.
“Just watching him perform is great to see,” Carroo said. “Someone that you’ve spent so much time with out there playing on the other side of you, he’s really good. It motivates you out there on the field and you say to yourself ‘Hey, If Brandon’s doing it then I want to get some catches too.’ Watching him is just awesome.”
The Knights defense has some work to do when it comes to stopping high-pace offenses:
It is never good when a defense gives up 52 points in one game, and junior linebacker Kevin Snyder said the quickness of the Bulldogs offense played into the units’ performance.
“I don’t think we had any communication issues,” Snyder said. “I think the only thing we struggled with at times was that they were moving so fast. By the time they were lined up we got our calls in and tried our hardest to get it going, but sometimes they beat us to it.”
Led by quarterback Derek Carr, the Fresno State offense used a no-huddle offense and quick one-step drops, which Snyder said took away the effectiveness of the front seven.
Rutgers registered just two tackles for losses from that unit — one a sack from senior defensive end Marcus Thompson.
The pass-happy offense also put pressure on the secondary, a unit with three new starters.
“It’s kind of like baptism by fire almost,” Snyder said. “Now I think people have a heightened sense of urgency in preparation and in the game and all of that understanding how to win games at this level. So I thought it was good to start off with a challenge like that.”
Despite head coach Kyle Flood wanting to use two to three running backs during games, sophomore P.J. James will get the bulk of the carries:
James rattled off 182 yards rushing on 22 carries in the loss to Fresno State, including runs of 65 and 55 yards. Though Flood moved him ahead of junior Savon Huggins on the depth chart, he still wants to use more than James.
“I think Paul has done a great job,” Flood said. “Certainly his production in the last game, he earned the right to go out there first in the game. The plan going forward is two and possibly three running backs in the game. The production will dictate the carries.”
Huggins’ 15 yards on six carries bodes well for James getting carries though.
Flood said redshirt freshman Desmon Peoples and freshman Justin Goodwin could also see carries in upcoming games, but Flood will put the ball in James’ hands as long as the Glassboro, N.J., native continues to produce.
Thursday night’s loss puts more pressure to avoid an upset against Norfolk State:
Though the Knights own a 2-0 series record against the Spartans and a 9-0 all time record against MEAC teams, they are aware of the damage FCS schools have done in the first week of the season.
Eight FBS teams fell to FCS opponents over the weekend, which included Eastern Washington’s upset win against No. 25 Oregon State, 49-46.
Rutgers is more talented than Norfolk State, but Snyder and the rest of the team know it is important to put them away early.
“You can’t take them lightly, because they have athletes that can beat you just like everyone else,” Snyder said. “You need to prepare even better now and come out there and play the best game we possibly can.”
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