By Matt Sugam
PISCATAWAY – Through the first seven games of the season, Rutgers prided itself on its ability to stop the run. They ranked third in the country at 69 yards allowed per game. While that was nice, they wanted to be first.
Well, that won’t happen this season.
While the it won’t be known for sure until the final five games are played, they have too much ground to make up after being shredded for 224 yards by Kent State. The lackluster performance dropped them to No. 8 in the country and ballooned their yards per game average by 20 yards.
“It was just little small things that we definitely have to get cleaned up,” middle linebacker Steve Beauharnais told SNY.tv. “Things that we were doing good at the beginning of the season that we didn’t execute as good as we did now to that point and when it gets you it gets you.”
It was the missed assignments, missed alignments, missed tackles and overall lack of execution that left what was one of the top five teams in the country against the run shell-shocked.
“Stuff that’s very correctable and stuff that we’re correcting this week and I don’t think we’re going to let anything like that happen again,” safety Duron Harmon said. “Especially when I’m playing and especially with the senior class.”
Which is littered throughout the defense. Six of the 11 starters are seniors. Which is why them not being on point against Kent State was so head-scratching.
After the game, Beauharnais said it was a lack of toughness, reiterating that today.
“When I say tough, I don’t mean just physically tough. I mean mentally tough as well,” Beauharnais said, adding, “The little things, we were tough in that aspect of the game, but it wasn’t anything thing physical. It’s just that we weren’t mentally tough in our scheme so they got us.”
However, getting punched in the mouth isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes, it can toughen up a team. Especially between the ears.
“I think it does make us mentally tougher because it’s a great character test right now. I want to see what guys want to step up. What guys were just on the bandwagon before,” Beauharnais said. “I don’t think we had any bandwagon guys because everyone came out to practice this week so I think every bodies right back on track, right where we started.”
Which couldn’t come at a better time. After the bye this week, Rutgers (7-1) takes on a triple option team in Army (1-7) that ranks No. 1 in the country in rushing offense.
“I’m looking forward to it. I love this,” Beauharnais said. “It’s a toughness test. It’s a character test.”
It’s also the heaviest dose of running Rutgers will see all year, with the Black Knights having rushed the ball 533 times to just 78 pass plays. Something the defense feels will remedy their woes from Saturday.
“It’s exactly what we need,” defensive tackle Scott Vallone said. “To go from an undisciplined game that we played to go play a triple option team where if you’re disciplined 95% and not disciplined 5%, they’re going to find that 5% and they’re going to expose you, so we really enjoy it.
“I know the team’s really taken heed to the undisciplined game [we played against Kent State] and they’re really going to want to go out and prove we’re going to be the disciplined run defense we have all year.”