Despite giving up a 21-point lead, Rutgers (4-1, 1-0 AAC) opened up conference play by beating SMU (1-4, 0-1 AAC) 55-52 in triple overtime. Here’s what we learned from the game:
Three and out
1. Secondary struggles
So much for redemption. After Fresno State’s Derek Carr shredded them for 456 yards and five touchdowns on 52 completions in the season opener, Garrett Gilbert had similar success. Gilbert completed 45 of his 70 passes for 484 yards and five touchdowns. Most disconcerting was the shoddy tackling as the defense had quite a few missed tackles, just like they did against Fresno. And things aren’t going to get any easier for the back end of the defense as they face one of the nation’s top quarterbacks in Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater on Thursday night.
2. Justin Goodwin carries the load
The major question heading into this game was how would Rutgers’ running game do without leading rusher Paul James. Apparently just fine thanks to Goodwin. The true freshman had 24 carries for 149 yards and two touchdowns, including the game winner. He also had two receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown. He showed an ability to break tackles and shimmy by defenders while also displaying an extra gear in the open field. Meantime, Savon Huggins – who started the game as the No. 1 running back – had 43 yards on 17 carries.
3. Sack party
Rutgers’ defensive line was looking forward to the opportunity to go up against SMU’s leaky offensive line, which ranked 120th in the country in sacks allowed heading into the game. They took advantage by sacking quarterback Garrett Gilbert four times and caused a bunch more quarterback hits and hurries. While they did blitz, they were also able to generate a lot of pressure with only three or four rushers.
Fourth and short
Thanks to a fumble recovered in the end zone by cornerback Nadir Barnwell, Rutgers now has 11 non-offensive touchdowns in the past two seasons.