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December 1, 2013

Flood trying to move Rutgers forward

This season has taken an ugly turn for the Scarlet Knights and second-year head coach Kyle Flood. After starting his head coaching career on a 7-0 run last season, he has followed up with a 7-10 performance that seems to be getting worse by the week.

Yesterday's 28-17 loss to a downtrodden UConn team, which came in with only one win, did not sit well with an already exasperated fan base as Rutgers fell to 5-6.

"I would tell the fans I appreciate them and I love them," Flood said during his Sunday conference call. "And I understand that fans can be overly emotional at times and that's what makes college football so great. The fans really care. I don't think they should have any concerns about the long-term direction of the program. All they have to do is look at the young players we have playing in the game and that will build your optimism on a day-to-day basis."

Flood went on to say that fans will see a much better result as far as future wins and losses and also responded to whether he has any concerns about his job security.

"I don't. I appreciate the fans and I know they can be reactive at times but I have full confidence that people who run athletics and run our university understand the big picture and they understand we are moving in the right direction."

As evidenced in Rutgers' Saturday afternoon loss to UConn, there were a number of things not going in the right direction. The Rutgers defense made yet another quarterback look like a Heisman Trophy candidate when redshirt freshman Casey Cochran completed 25-of-33 passes for 311 yards in just his third career start.

Flood talked about his defense which continues to struggle under defensive coordinator Dave Cohen.

"I think when you perform the way we have on defense it's a combination of we are not doing a good enough job as a coaching staff to put them in the best possible situations. And the players have to make the plays when they are in those situations. It's never just one thing. I think it's always a combination of those things."

Mental mistakes also continue to plague the Scarlet Knights, who currently rank 97th in the nation in penalties per game.

"I will never place the blame entirely on the players," Flood said of the penalty situation. "We are not going to be that type of football program. I don't have the numbers in front of me, but when you have young players, is that going to happen? Sure it's going to happen."

Once again, Rutgers struggled to put up points on offense against UConn as new starting quarterback Chas Dodd could only generate 10 points, with the other points coming courtesy of a J.T. Tartacoff touchdown pass on a fake field goal.

Dodd will remain the starter for the regular season finale on Saturday against USF.

"I thought Chas played a solid game. Now I'll never be pleased when we have two interceptions but I think the first one is probably more of a product of a guy slipping than anything else and the second is the end of the game and Chas is trying to make a play and bring us back," Flood said. "We're not happy that we had two interceptions but I can see the reasons why they occurred and we can improve on it. I do think Chas deserves another opportunity to go out there and improve."

The running game also continued to struggle even with starter Paul James back in the lineup. James left early with a leg injury and Flood said he has a 50-50 chance of playing against USF.

Yesterday, James was part of a running back contingent that managed just 77 yards on 24 carries.

"We're just not effective enough running the football when Paul James isn't in there and we have to be more effective," Flood said. "We have to do a better job blocking up front. We have to do a better job blocking on the perimeter. The ones up front I think are obvious. There are ones that aren't so obvious where a receiver has to get in on a safety and he is blocked by a corner. Those are things we can be better at immediately and we need to be."

Despite all that is going in the wrong direction, Rutgers could still find a way into the postseason with a Saturday night victory over USF.

"They are a football team that is playing better," Flood said of USF. "They played a very competitive game against the No.1 team in our conference [UCF] right now just a couple nights ago, which doesn't surprise me because the margin of error in college football is so small. ...Certainly we'll address where we are. We'll address the big picture of what's at stake this week. Those things can only distract us if we put all our focus on them. We have to put all our focus on having a great Sunday and making sure at the end of the day we're better than we were when we started."

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