【N.J】 Rutgers-Temple film review: Sean Gleeson’s play-calling, Evan Simon have room to improve – New Jersey News

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Greg Schiano has said some variation of “it’s always more fun to teach from the ‘W’ column” at multiple points this season, which must be a relief to the Rutgers players and coaches receiving those lessons.

Can you imagine what this upcoming week would be like if the Scarlet Knights (3-0) did not have a perfect record?

Undefeated but not unscathed, they have plenty of kinks to iron out before their Big Ten opener against Iowa on Saturday for any hope of earning what would be a massive win, particularly with an offense that’s racked up more startling stats than touchdowns through three weeks.


The many issues on that side of the ball were on full display in a 16-14 win over Temple that featured zero offensive touchdowns, 201 total yards, 59 passing yards, four plays of double-digit yardage, four offensive penalties, four three-and-outs, two red-zone field goals and eight tackles for loss surrendered.

Schiano, for his part, said following the contest that he was “not overly concerned” with the offense.

Should he be?

We reviewed the tape from Saturday to find out:

Was offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson’s play-calling to blame?

Much of the outside ire for the Scarlet Knights’ horrendous offensive performance was directed toward the $1 million man, who certainly made some peculiar decisions throughout the contest.

None were more confounding than his insistence on running the ball on first down. On its first 21 first downs, Rutgers passed just twice and ran the ball 19 times, including the first 11 opportunities.

The results were poor:

– Four of the first eight runs were stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage, and nine of the 19 total runs resulted in gains of three yards or less.

– That made for a lot of ground to cover across the next two downs, a big reason why the Scarlet Knights failed to convert on the first eight third downs they faced and went 4-of-14 on third down overall.

Both first-down passes, by the way, resulted in completions for gains of five and four yards.

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Another strange decision from Gleeson: Facing a 2nd-and-13 on the second drive of the game, Gleeson ran a designed run for redshirt freshman quarterback Gavin Wimsatt, which gained just one yard. On 3rd-and-12, he ran a bubble screen for speedy wide receiver Aron Cruickshank, who gained seven yards after the catch.

Shouldn’t those play-calls be reversed? Perhaps Gleeson was trying to fool Temple with back-to-back runs, but that strategy already failed spectacularly on the first drive of the game. Until the Scarlet Knights prove they can pass competently, won’t opponents naturally stack the box?

It is tough to know entirely whether these offensive issues stem from Gleeson’s play-calling, a lack of talent at his disposal, a combination of the two or any other factors. But based on this clip of Schiano and Gleeson’s conversation near the end of a dreadful first half where Rutgers mustered 70 yards of total offense, including 21 passing yards on seven attempts, the head coach was obviously frustrated with something.

Any lip readers out there?

Injury pauses quarterback carousel … for now

Gleeson’s short list of options at quarterback was reduced when Wimsatt got hurt in the first quarter and never returned. The injury appeared to come on a read-option run from the quarterback on a third-and-10; watch the play here. He limped off the field afterward, went into the injury tent and never returned to the game.

With Wimsatt joining veteran Noah Vedral among the walking wounded on the sideline, quarterback Evan Simon was given the longest leash of his career. Yet there was much of the same from the third-year sophomore, who was good at completing short-yardage passes (3-of-3 behind LOS, 3-of-3 from nine yards or shorter) but struggled to throw it deep (2-of-8 on passes of 10 yards or more).

Completion / Attempts Passing Yards / TDs / INTs Behind LOS 0-9 yards 10-19 yards 20+ yards Rushing attempts / Yards (excl. sacks)
8-of-14 59 yards, 0 TDs/INTs 3-of-3, 15 yards 3-of-3, 15 yards 2-of-5, 29 yards 0-of-3 12 yards on two carries

* A jet sweep to Cruickshank that resulted in a 7-yard loss was counted as a pass in the official stats; for the purposes of this film review, that will count as a run. Watch every throw he made here.

Not all the issues were on Simon, who dealt with the aforementioned shaky play-calling, the soon-to-be-mentioned offensive line struggles and a wide receiver group that had a hard time creating separation (worth nothing: zero drops). But it is not like the deep passes Simon missed were close calls. Most of them were not even in the vicinity of the intended receiver, with a pair thrown well behind target and another two tossed about five yards too far in front.

On a positive note: Simon finally flashed some running ability, holding the ball on a read-option for a six-yard gain and thrice scrambling out of a collapsed pocket. But he also made a poor decision on the final scramble, holding onto the ball for too long and letting himself get sacked for a 20-yard loss that booted Rutgers out of field goal range.

Given that Schiano did not have a timeline for either Wimsatt or Vedral’s return immediately following the game, it is plausible that Simon ends up as the only scholarship quarterback available for Rutgers against Iowa. At least the Scarlet Knights know what they will get out of him.

Offensive line has tough time

Rutgers rolled with the same rotation for the third straight game, starting the usual five players and using backup Mike Ciaffoni as a swing guard. In what was perhaps their worst collective performance, multiple players committed a notable mistake during the course of the game, allowing two sacks, four quarterback pressures and eight tackles for loss.

Player Position Snap Count (out of 59, per PFF) Pass Block Snaps Sacks Allowed QB Pressures Allowed Run Block Snaps Penalties Committed
Willie Tyler Left Tackle 59 21 1 1 38 0
J.D. DiRenzo Left Guard 50 21 0 0 29 1
Ireland Brown Center 59 21 0 1 38 2
Curtis Dunlap Right Guard 44 17 0 1 27 0
Hollin Pierce Right Tackle 59 21 0 1 38 0
Mike Ciaffoni Swing Guard 24 4 0 0 20 0

– Tyler gave up a sack without much resistance for the second time in three games. He’s struggled mightily in pass protection, with his pass-block grade on ProFootballFocus (44.5) ranking second-to-last among Big Ten linemen who played at least 100 snaps at left tackle this season. PFF grades are not exactly science, but the eye test backs this one up.

– Early in the second quarter, on the first drive where Rutgers looked like it could move the ball, Brown committed a false start that turned a manageable 3rd-and-3 into a 3rd-and-8. Simon then got sacked and the Scarlet Knights punted.

– Immediately after Rutgers converted on fourth down late in the second quarter and entered the red zone for the first time, DiRenzo committed a false start penalty that stalled a promising drive. Kicker Jude McAtamney went on to miss a 38-yard field goal four plays later.

– Dunlap whiffed badly on a pair of blocks in the run game that led to negative plays. He struggled mightily when pulling from the right side of the line to the left.

Run defense remains spectacular

The sample size of three games is small, and the opponents have been lackluster — Boston College might have the worst offensive line in Power Five football, Wagner is Wagner and Temple was missing two of its top three running backs — but the Scarlet Knights’ defensive front keeps making its case as the Scarlet Knights’ biggest strength.

Similar to their monstrous performance against the Eagles, Rutgers was suffocating against the Owls, collecting four tackles for loss and holding Temple to 49 rushing yards on 30 carries. It marked the third consecutive game the Scarlet Knights held an opponent to less than 50 rushing yards, their first such streak since the 2009 season.

Rutgers ranks second nationally in run defense through three weeks, allowing a combined 97 yards on 89 carries in its three games, an astonishing 32.3 yards per game and 1.09 yards per carry. The Scarlet Knights have 20 tackles for loss on the season, which is tied for 39th nationally.

Defensive end Aaron Lewis was dominant against the Owls, racking up a team-high 11 tackles, two of which for loss, along with a forced fumble and a quarterback hurry that caused an incomplete pass in the first quarter.

Quick hits:

– Sophomore defensive back Shaquan Loyal played just 12 snaps on Saturday, but he made his time on the field count. He pressured E.J. Warner twice and made the biggest play of the game, scoring Rutgers’ only touchdown with a 43-yard pick-six. NJ Advance Media’s Pat Lanni wrote a spectacular story about the play and the emotions surrounding it for Loyal and his family. Read it here.

The play was the latest example of the cornerback blitz working for Rutgers: that same action allowed cornerback Robert Longerbeam to sack Boston College quarterback Phil Jurkovec and force a fumble on the Scarlet Knights’ first play of the season in Chestnut Hill.

– Avery Young was solid for the most part, but his missed tackle on Jordan Smith allowed Temple to score its only touchdown of the game. It was the most glaring of a handful of snafus the Rutgers secondary had in coverage, leading to Warner — a true freshman making his first college start — to throw for 215 yards on 19-of-32 passing.

– After struggling against Boston College, cornerback Max Melton bounced back with his best game of the season against the Owls, breaking up two passes and making 1.5 tackles for loss.

“It was great,” he said. “I just bought into every little thing this week, chopped every play. I didn’t think about the next play or the last play, just stayed in the moment.”

– Kessawn Abraham played 17 snaps at cornerback, many of which coming while Longerbeam was inside the injury tent. He had a huge play while on the field, making a tackle on a second-quarter fourth-down to get the stop and force a Temple turnover.

NCAA football: Rutgers at Temple

Rutgers defensive back Kessawn Abraham (5) reacts after the Scarlet Knights stripped Temple on a 4th-and-1 during the second quarter on Saturday, September 17, 2022 in Philadelphia.Andrew Mills | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

– Longerbeam, who has been the best player in Rutgers’ secondary so far this season, missed a major opportunity to get his team off to a perfect start. On the first play of the game, he dropped a sure-fire interception that would have led to a walk-in touchdown. He’ll be kicking himself for that one.

– Sean Ryan made a pair of important plays: he recovered a fumble from tight end Johnny Langan to keep a drive that ended in kicker Jude McAtamney’s first field goal of the day alive, then made an 11-yard reception on a fourth-and-2 to move the chains and eventually set-up a 38-yard field goal attempt that McAtamney missed. The wide receiver said earlier in the week that his first two games of the season were “not really the performances I wanted to put out there for the world to see,” and he improved on them in against his former team.

– Rutgers did not turn the ball over once against Temple, the eighth time that’s happened in 23 games since Schiano returned in the 2020 season; the Scarlet Knights have won all eight.

– Of Langan’s 80 rushing yards, 36 (45%) came after contact, per PFF. Bulldozer.

Thank you for relying on us to provide the journalism you can trust.

Brian Fonseca may be reached at bfonseca@versuszone.com.

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