Let's get this out of the way. Those jerseys? With those helmets? FIRE. Impossible not to play well while looking that fresh. If Rutgers can take anything away from their hard fought loss against the #4 team in the country it's that they should wear all black every single game and petition the Big Ten to play all their home games at night. Guaranteed to contend every year with those gameday conditions.
I know Michigan State has been underwhelming as of late, but they are still top 5 team. This Rutgers team wasn't supposed to play them to within one score. The team that is starting a secondary that is almost entirely brand new, for reasons we have discussed ad nauseum? The team that is without it's head coach? The team that lost to a bad Washington State team at home? The team that was never in the game against a mediocre Penn State team? The team that made a comfortable win versus Kansas as uncomfortable as possible? That team shouldn't contend with ANYONE that has a number between 1 and 25 preceding their name. Never mind a team with the offensive and defensive talent of a Michigan State.
When the front 7 wasn't completely shutting down the run, or getting to Connor Cook on the blitz, an inexperienced secondary actually ran step for step with the MSU wide receivers. In fact, the only plays they did make were just a product of better offense beating good defense. That't not what Rutgers fans expected going into this game. They didn't expect to successfully run the ball against a vastly superior front four. I can't imagine they expected Chris Laviano to play a relatively flawless game that included three touchdown passes. Sure, Leonte Carroo was back, but the talent difference between these teams isn't one future NFL receiver.
If this game was going to be close it was supposed be a byproduct of Rutgers taking advantage of them early. Not going down seven and answering right back with two quick scores. Not making a huge defensive play to take the lead into half time. This team wasn't supposed to survive giving up two touchdowns early in the second half. They weren't supposed to fight their way back to tie the game. I was supposed to be slugging beers in hopes of drowning my sorrows by the start of third quarter, not sitting on the edge of my seat until the ball hit the ground on a game clinching spike.
Hey, don't get me wrong. It was refreshing to see the team perform that well against some of the best competition in the country, but to be completely honest, it also scares me to death. They just played as well as they could have possibly played and it was in a losing effort. They are ripe for a emotional letdown, and this is a team that can't afford to not play their absolute best with their upcoming schedule. I know their wasn't a good chance that Chris Laviano's prepubescent arm was going to throw a game tying touchdown pass from the 50. However, spiking the ball on 4th down is just the most "Rutgers" way of reminding their fans that no matter how good they looked they are more than capable of looking equally as bad at times. Just the most sobering way to end a game that could have had Rutgers fans drunk with optimism. Let's hope they can carry some sort of buzz into Indiana, because the team I watched on Saturday might actually have something to offer as far as entertainment value is concerned. That's a far cry from what they offered to start the season.
The game just wouldn't have felt complete without one "fuckin' Laviano"...