Senior linebacker shows impact on defense, special teams for Rutgers
Sometimes the plays that cannot be seen in the box score are more valuable than the ones printed in bold.
Senior strong side linebacker Quentin Gause made a career-high 10 tackles on defense for the Rutgers football team in the historic comeback win over Indiana last Saturday.
Gause's banner performance for the Scarlet Knights also yielded one tackle for loss, raising his team-leading total to five tackles behind the line of scrimmage in the 2015 campaign.
But perhaps the most significant play made by the senior captain never showed up on the Knights' stat sheet.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, with Rutgers trailing, 52-33, Hoosiers long snapper Dan Godsil sent the ball over the head of punter Erich Toth and sophomore defensive end Kemoko Turay eventually corralled the loose ball and carried it down the sideline for a touchdown to make it 52-39, Indiana.
Lost in the shuffle of the scoop-and-score was Gause's hit on Toth that made the tide-turning play possible.
After Indiana's senior punter scrambled to regain possession, the senior linebacker stripped Toth of the football, allowing Turay to recover the fumble and rumble 26 yards to paydirt.
"That was good to see,” head coach Kyle Flood said of the special teams touchdown. “It's good to see the coaching come up on the film, in a live situation."
Flood has always been a proponent of the special teams unit, but he feels the contributions from starters like Gause show a good example for the underclassmen on the team.
"It immediately shows the younger players in the program the value of special teams,” Flood said. “I think the only way you can do it is to have some of your better playmakers on special teams."
Other players on the defense have lauded the leadership of the veteran linebackers, namely Gause and junior Steve Longa. The pair have combined for 107 tackles in 2015, including eight tackles for loss on a defense tempered by youth or inexperience at every position group.
"I think the biggest thing with them — both of them — is their work ethic, how dedicated they are to the game,” said junior middle linebacker Isaiah Johnson.
Johnson began his career with the Knights in the spring after transferring to Rutgers from City College of San Francisco in California.
The Oakland, California, native said Longa and Gause show versatility in their leadership, not just through their play, but also with their knowledge of multiple positions on the defense.
“They're great leaders by example, but also just talking to me, encouraging me,” Johnson said. “Both of them know each position pretty well so they've taught me some things here and there to help me."
As the Knights welcome the nation’s No. 1 Ohio State to Piscataway on Saturday night at 8 p.m., a defensive unit that has had success stopping the run this fall (fifth in the conference in rushing yards allowed, 126.2) will be front and center, charged with halting the progress the Big Ten’s best running back, Ezekiel Elliott.
“That’s our base philosophy here,” Gause said. “Stop the run, limit big plays and create takeaways.”
The Rochester, New York, native has looked like a polished product at the SAM position through six games and his run-stopping acumen has been essential to the performance of the defense.
Gause has registered 20 tackles against the run this fall, according to Rutgers Athletics, nearly an even distribution of his overall total, with 49 percent of his tackles coming against the run and 51 percent against the pass.
Although it’s two weeks old now, the heartbreaking 31-24 defeat at the hands of then-No. 4 Michigan State should help serve as a tune-up for Rutgers rendezvous with the defending National Champion Buckeyes.
Similarities are plentiful when comparing the two opponents.
Sparty also visited the Banks with an impressive backfield, in a primetime game, on national television and the Knights held their own, limiting the Spartans to 122 yards on the ground after MSU entered the game averaging 173 rushing yards per contest.
"We played our balls off in that game. We went out there and we did what we had to do,” Gause said after the loss. “We just gotta finish."
Gause and company may need to call on that experience in crunch time as Rutgers hosts its first-ever nationally televised game on the ABC Network. The sellout crowd on hand should provide plenty of energy, but in order to shock Ohio State, the Knights will need to impose their will.
“We take some positives from (the Michigan State game),” Gause said. “We were just playing physical football. And that’s what the Big Ten is all about.”
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