Rutgers leads Big East, readies for Navy

Rutgers has Big East wins over Syracuse and Pittsburgh this season.

This was the kind of defense that head coach Greg Schiano envisioned this year — fast, attacking the ball and creating turnovers.

Last season, it was hard to tell how good the Rutgers defense was on a 4-8 team with problems on offense. With the offense often folding after a three-and-out, the Rutgers defense was seemingly always on the field. But with a more balanced offense this year, the defense is being asked to simply keep the team in games. Just keeping Rutgers in the game is the request this Saturday as a defense built on speed will face a challenge in stopping a Navy offense that is among the best in the nation running the ball.

“Looking forward to Navy now, a unique set of challenges. They’re running the football better than anybody else in America,” head coach Greg Schiano said. “It’s a huge challenge because it’s a unique offense and one we don’t see very much.”

The Navy offense is among the most difficult to prepare for in the nation.

The triple-option is utilized by just a handful of teams in college football and is dangerous because an athletic and speedy quarterback can stretch the field vertically, attract attention and then hit a flanker with a pitch. Then when a defense spreads out to cover wide and limit the space along the line, the quarterback can throw over the top for a big play. It is pick your poison for a defensive coordinator, because there is no way to defend against the run while limiting the big play over the top.

“They do throw the ball. One of the things that’s lost in this triple-option offense, is Navy counts on hitting in two of those big plays, so we have to make sure we cover. And the hard thing is it’s all off these run actions,” Schiano said. “Very rarely do they just drop back and throw it. So you’re having trouble stopping that run, stopping that run, and all of a sudden they pop a receiver.”

Rutgers has blossomed into one of the top defenses in the Big East, as evidenced by their 34-10 win over Pittsburgh last Saturday.  Rutgers has the No.-2 defense in the conference — allowing a league-low 15.2 points per game. A revamped defense built on speed has Rutgers 2-0 in conference and Scarlet Knights fans remembering the 2006 team that was among the best defenses in the nation. The defense has been a big part in Rutgers’ 4-1 start to the season, their best start since 2006.

Rutgers finished second in the Big East that year and earned the program’s first ever bowl victory over Kansas State in the Texas Bowl. It also propelled the Scarlet Knights to their first ever national ranking to finish a season.

Follow Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.



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