By Matt Sugam
PISCATAWAY – Numbers don’t lie. But if you ask Rutgers’ secondary, the numbers don’t always tell the full story.
Sure, they gave up 254 yards and 34 completions on 48 attempts against Tulane. However that doesn’t mean that the vaunted unit played poorly.
“I thought we played well,” Brandon Jones said. “Maybe the numbers don’t sometimes show how well we played as a unit because we let up some third down and passing yards we gave up like 250-yards, but they were dipping and dunking us a little bit.”
Truth be told, Tulane was dipping and dunking more than a little bit. With former Saints’ wide receiver’s coach Curtis Johnson as head coach, Tulane adopted the Saints’ offense.
In turn, there were a lot of underneath throws off three step drops. Tulane seldom even tried to make a big play down the field.
“From our standards we gave up two big plays and as a defense we want to keep it to two or less,” Jones said. “So we did what we wanted to do there.”
Those two big plays were both third and 17. The first was midway through the second quarter, and the second was early in the fourth quarter. However Rutgers’ defense remained stout, stalling both drives and forcing Tulane to punt.
As for not getting off the field on third and long, it’s something the defensive backs have focused on this week. But the two they gave up on Saturday night are quick fixes.
“At the end of the day that’s stuff that we can fix. It’s all correctable. We know exactly what was wrong,” Duron Harmon said. “It wasn’t like it was a man-to-man issue or anything like that. It was just a little bit of a communication error on how to play the man-to-man.”
While the back end of the defense may not be as disappointed with their play as the numbers indicated, they know they can’t give up that much through the air. Even if it is mainly dipping and dunking.
“At the end of the day we still did some things that allowed for those short passes to be open. It’s something you just got to work on,” Harmon said. “It’s the first game, you’re going to make mistakes.”
One thing they didn’t make many gaffes on were the plays after the catch. For the most part, the Scarlet Knights kept the Green Wave in front of them, making the tackles they needed to.
Still, this was a back end that was rated the ninth best secondary in the country by one preseason magazine. So wouldn’t giving up such inflated numbers get under their skin?
“It’s not really frustrating. We know who we are and we know that they know that we know who we are,” Lorenzo Waters said. “But we’re going to have to come with the pressure and we’re just going to have to adjust to the quick [pass] game if they’re going to use it.”
They also have to make sure they stay in tune with the scheme, break to the ball clean, rally to the ball when it’s thrown, and force more turnover opportunities. All things Waters noted the unit needed to work on.
So while they may not have been at their best, the secondary was good enough. And to them, they’re only going to get better week-by-week.
“We were fine, but we want to be excellent. We still have a ways to go because you can never be complacent. You can always get better at something,” Harmon said. “And each week we’re going to do something where we can keep getting better at it.”