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December 28, 2012

Rutgers vs. Va Tech: Did you Notice?

ORLANDO, Fla. - Points were practically invisible for the RU offense as the Scarlet Knights fell in overtime to Virginia Tech in the 2013 Russell Athletic Bowl by a score of 13-10. In the midst of the the final game of the season, did you notice...

Merrell bringing early pressure?
Early in the first quarter, Jamal Merrell blitzed on a 1st and 10 after Virginia Tech wide receiver Marcus Davis had just an 11-yard first down run as the Hokie offense was gaining momentum in RU territory. Merrell's pressure forced a quick Logan Thomas incompletion which led to a four-yard loss and a subsequent incompletion which forced Virginia Tech to punt.

The short gainers?
The Rutgers offense was successful on three of its first six offensive plays, all of which were either short pass plays or runs. Jawan Jamison gained six yards on the ground while Quron Pratt caught a 5-yard pass for a first down and Miles Shuler took a short pass for nine yards. Gary Nova had two misfires on long pass attempts that were not even close to being completed while Jamison was stuffed for a two-yard loss on the other play.

Snyder on the coverage?
On a 3rd and 12 with 9:30 to go in the first quarter, Logan Thomas rolled out and could not find a receiver to throw to as Rutgers provided air-tight coverage. Part of the reason Thomas could find no windows downfield was because Kevin Snyder blanketed the middle of the field with excellent zone coverage. Thomas wound up completing a short six-yard sideline pass well shy of the first-down marker.

Issaka's early run?
Max Issaka entered the game at the 'E' defensive end spot at the start of Virginia Tech's third drive of the game. On the first play of the drive, Issaka got off the ball very quickly and was able to lay a hit on Thomas, helping to force an incompletion. Issaka was a non-factor on second down and would return on one more play that drive in which he got into the backfield and helped force a running play up the middle for a short gain.

The would-be TD?
Rutgers squandered a chance for a touchdown late in the first quarter when Nova missed Savon Huggins badly on a screen pass that could have turned into a big play from midfield. Huggins had Antwan Lowery out in front of him and a whole lot of green leading to the endzone. But the ball was thrown much too hard for a short screen.

The halftime chippiness?
As the teams were going into the locker rooms before halftime, Nova got into a heated exchange with Hokie defensive tackle Luther Maddy. Some other players also started jawing back and forth including Virginia Tech cornerback Antone Exum. The exchanges happened on the RU side of the field and the RU faithful in attendance showered the Hokies with boos as they left the field.

Stopping the drive?
On a 1st down with just over 13 minutes to play in the second quarter, Kenneth Kirksey blew up the middle of the line and helped force a two-yard loss by J.C. Coleman. Two plays later on a 3rd and 10, Wayne Warren came through on a blitz and fought off one blocker only to be picked up by another before he could reach the quarterback. Warren's pressure may not have forced the incompletion, but by occupying two Hokies, he gave the RU defense a numbers advantage on the play.

Three down linemen on 3rd down?
On a 3rd and 6 early in the third quarter, Rutgers opted to go with a three down linemen set of Scott Vallone, Jamil Merrell and Steve Beauharnais. The trio was able to get some pressure and forced an incompletion followed by a punt.

Bachety on the block?
On a 4th down and short with two minutes to play in the third quarter, Huggins followed Beau Bachety's block en route to a 2-yard gain for the first down. Bachety lined up at fullback on the play.

Thompson forcing the play?
Defensive end Marcus Thompson came up big on a 3rd and 5 deep in Rutgers territory in the early stages of the fourth quarter when he broke into the backfield and disrupted a run by Martin Scales that went for no gain. Thompson did not get credit for the tackle but his penetration enabled the RU defense to swarm in for the swap.

Chas Dodd?
Rutgers' backup quarterback was in uniform and was available to play but he remained on the sidelines while Nova made one bad play after the other. And in spite of all those bad plays, head coach Kyle Flood ignored Dodd and continued to put the offense in the hands of an ineffective Nova.

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