Rutgers vs. Morgan State: What to watch for
Of the last 11 games that Chris Ash has coached, he has suffered 11 losses. While there are many things that Rutgers fans want to see when the team takes the field against Morgan State on Saturday, it is clear that simply getting a win is at the top of the list.
But besides getting a much-needed win against the Bears, an FCS team, here are some things to look for when the game kicks off on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
Kyle Bolin's Decision Making
The graduate transfer already has four interceptions in just two games. His worst one came at the worst possible time when he telegraphed a pass late in the fourth quarter against Eastern Michigan that was returned deep into Rutgers territory and was ultimately the nail in the coffin of a 16-13 loss.
Bolin took responsibility for his play against the Eagles and head coach Chris Ash praised him for recognizing that and wanting to get better.
"He watched the film and just like you know, a real guy would do, when it's over, you didn't play very well, you own it. That's what I like about Kyle," Ash said. "If he didn't handle it that way, I'd be concerned, but that's not the way he handled it. He knows it and he knows he's got to play better."
With the exception of the team's first drive of the season against Washington, Bolin has struggled to find a rhythm with his receiver and effectively move the ball down the field. Morgan State will be overmatched this week and Bolin must take advantage of that and make big plays to build his confidence for Big Ten play.
Offensive Line Play
Ash made it very clear that he wasn't happy with the way the offensive line played against Eastern Michigan. He noted that Bolin's struggles were due in some part to the offensive line not protecting him well.
"For (Bolin) to play better, we have to play better up front. We didn't play up front like we had the week before," Ash said. "You know we stood here after the Washington game talking about it was probably the best game our offensive line had played. Can't say that about week two and that's disappointing. You know, it hurt us in the run game and Kyle took more shots, not necessarily sacks, but more hits in the game against Eastern Michigan than he did against Washington. We can't have that."
Offensive line coach AJ Blazek also noted he wants to shoot for over 200 yards rushing as a team and isn't satisfied with the run blocking so far.
Against the Bears, the Rutgers offensive line should be able to pave the way for 200 rushing yards and not allow a sack.
Cornerback Ball Skills
Another glaring weakness on the team last week was the play of the cornerbacks on jump balls. Eastern Michigan's passing game was very simple: jump balls along the sideline and exploit the Knights' corners.
That plan worked to perfection, as Rutgers was flagged for numerous defensive pass interference penalties, gave up numerous catches and did not intercept a pass. They had trouble turning their heads and finding the ball, which is an issue that needs to be fixed heading into Big Ten play.
But Ash is not overly concerned with the penalties, as that is part of his aggressive defensive scheme. He wants the opposing quarterback to have to beat them deep and is willing to take those risks. He did note though that the defensive backs need to finish better.
"A couple of times we had a post safety that needs to be back in the middle on some deep balls but pass interference calls, as long as we're playing aggressive, (penalties) are going to happen," he said. "What we are not going to do is back off and play soft and let them continue to nickel and dime us in front of us and chip away that way. We're going to make a quarterback have to beat us."
Regardless, it was evident that cornerbacks were not winning their 50/50 balls and that is a concern, especially considering the level of wide receivers they will see in the coming weeks.
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