Rutgers vs. Purdue: Stock Up, Stock Down
The Rutgers football team entered Saturday's game against Purdue looking to win its second straight Big Ten game. Although it got a little close for comfort at the end, the Scarlet Knights (3-4, 2-2) defeated Purdue (3-4, 1-3) by a narrow scoreline of 14-12.
The defense gave up 474 yards of total offense, but made plays when it mattered, stopping a 2-point conversion that would've tied the game with under a minute left in the game. The offense didn't do much, but scored on two big plays, and that proved to be enough.
These players/coaches performed well and improved their stock.
Bend, not break defense
Purdue was able to move the ball well for the majority of the game, but the Rutgers defense was able to keep them out of the end zone until the last minute of the game. Both times that the Boilermakers were able to get the ball inside the Knights' 10-yard line, they were stopped and forced to kick field goals. The defense also completely stifled Purdue on third down, as the Boilermakers were 3-15 on the day. But it made plays when it mattered, making the biggest play when it stopped Purdue on a 2-point conversion that would have tied the game.
Purdue's biggest strength on offense is its quarterback's ability to pass the football. That was all but neutralized, as the secondary played arguably its best game of the season. Sophomore safety K.J. Gray had an interception for the second straight game, while sophomore cornerback Damon Hayes had his first interception of the season when he picked off a deep pass in the fourth quarter.
All of the Rutgers special teams units were terrible last season. That is not the case this year. Graduate transfer punter Ryan Anderson had another really strong day, averaging 43.6 yards per punt, keeping him at the top of the Big Ten in average punting yardage. Most importantly though, the kick and punt coverage was exceptional. Rutgers was consistently able to pin Purdue inside its 25-yard line on kickoffs, due to great tackling by guys like Dacoven Bailey.
These players/coaches did not perform well and need to show improvement.
Purdue came into this game as a team whose offense is centered around the passing game. The Boilermakers went in a different direction against the Knights, as they gained the majority of their offense on the ground. They ran for 279 yards and were very effective on first and second down.
Rutgers got the win and the options were very limited at quarterback, but that does not save offensive coordinator Jerry Kill from an honest evaluation. After rushing for over 100 yards in the first quarter alone, the Knights only finished with 130 for the entire game. The play calling was very vanilla and included a 3rd-and-short outside run to Gus Edwards — a power back — when Raheem Blackshear was available but on the bench. It would make sense to either run Edwards up the middle or Blackshear to the edge, but does not make sense for Edwards to try to beat defenders to the edge.