By Matt Sugam
PISCATAWAY – It wasn’t pretty. In fact, at times — like the first half that ended 6-3 — it was downright ugly. But if you ask anyone on Rutgers’ football team, they wouldn’t have it any other way.
The formula isn’t complicated. Ground and pound on offense while keeping the quarterback upright as he manages the game. Stop the run and turn the ball over on defense. Make big plays on special teams.
Jawan Jamsion ran for over 100 yards for the sixth straight game while Gary Nova wasn’t sacked and completed 67% of his passes. The nation’s number one ranked run defense held UConn to 53 yards on the ground. They also had four interceptions. Tejay Johnson forced a fumble that was recovered by Jamal Merrill on a kickoff.
“That’s Rutgers football to the T,” Wayne Warren said. “We run the ball, stop the run, win the special teams battle and you’ll be able to look up at the scoreboard at the end of the game and be satisfied with the score that’s up there. We take pride in it. We practice it everyday of the week in practice and we just come out on game days and try to execute.”
Today they executed it as well as they have all year. And while Rutgers will continue to turn heads and garner a national spotlight, the defense will be at the forefront.
“People got to respect our defense. Obviously number one in the country in rushing defense. I think that continued today because we were under the average – 53 yards,” Vallone said. “I’m not saying talk about us, but obviously the proof is in the pudding.”
Which is exactly how Rutgers likes it. Embracing the underdog role and having that us against the world mentality, they’re out to prove everyone wrong.
So the 5-0 start for just the third time since 1976 comes as no surprise. It’s what this team expected.
“No, not at all [surprised with the start] in this locker room,” Nova said. “A lot of people probably doubted us outside, but we feel we can win every game on our schedule.”
They have so far, but it means nothing yet. The team is hungry and far from their overall goal. That elusive conference title.
“We’re 5-0 but we haven’t done nothing yet,” Khaseem Greene said. “Come talk to me at the end of the season when we got a Big East Championship.”
If they follow the recipe of today — the Rutgers football formula — they may just get there.