Running away: Huskies run game falters

Rutgers running back Jawan Jamison drags a Connecticut defender along as he gains yardage during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Piscataway, N.J., Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012. Rutgers won 19-3. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

John F. Silver

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – The 110 rushing yards that Jawan Jamison accounted for on Saturday tied a season-low for the Rutgers star running back.

It was 12.8 yards off his average and equaled what he had against Howard, which he had on only 10 carries. It took Jamison 28 carries to do it on Saturday against UConn and his modest 3.9 yards a carry was nothing to write home about.

Make no mistake however, Jamison was the best player on the field on Saturday during Rutgers’ 19-3 win over the Huskies at High Point Solutions Stadium.

UConn (3-3, 0-1) came into the game with the No. 6 ranked defense in the nation including the No. 6 ranked defense against the run. The Huskies held Rutgers to 287 total yards and allowed only one notable drive the entire game. The difference was Jamison, who ground out 110 yards and provided just enough of a threat to give time to an efficient Gary Nova in the passing game. Nova finished 18 of 27 for 157 yards and a touchdown and no interceptions. He can thank Jamison’s ground effort with enough of a threat to keep UConn honest.

Rutgers (5-0, 2-0) wasn’t explosive against the Huskies on Saturday, but they moved the ball just enough to get the chains moving. With the kind of defense the Scarlet Knights have, that was good enough.

“I thought they pushed the pile forward pretty good,” Pasqualoni said on Saturday. “(Jamison) is shifty and he made some good cuts.”

Pasqualoni then relayed a story about a certain back he faced when he was coach at Syracuse. Jamison broke tackles and gained plenty of yards after contact on Saturday. Sometimes, the opposing player is the problem and not the defense.

“We played against a guy named Curtis Martin as a freshman. We had problems tackling him,” Pasqualoni said of the former NFL great out of Pittsburgh. “Four years later he was Curtis Martin and I found out why we had so much trouble tackling him. Their kid made plays.”

That’s the difference in the game and the season between UConn and Rutgers. It’s a safe bet in this season of incredibly high-scoring and poor defending college football season that UConn and Rutgers figure to be the best defenses in the Big East and two of the top units in the nation statistically. There is nearly no daylight between UConn and Rutgers on defense. Both are powerful, aggressive and can dominate games.

The differences on offense however are large, and a lot of it rests with Jamison at running back. UConn’s running game isn’t anywhere close this year with an offensive line that isn’t able to physically move the defense and running backs that aren’t able to make something out of nothing.

Connecticut running back Lyle McCombs (43) stands on the field during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Rutgers in Piscataway, N.J., Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012. Rutgers won 19-3. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

On Saturday, UConn’s Martin Hyppolite started and on five carries was -2 yards. He gave way to Max DeLorenzo who had a little more success with four carries for eight yards. Where was Lyle McCombs? He was on the bench for the first quarter as he sat out for disciplinary reasons stemming from an arrest after an alleged domestic dispute with his girlfriend on Friday morning. When he came into the game the Huskies tried to get him the ball to the tune of 12 carries for 32 yards.

The lack of a running game, even a mediocre one like Rutgers had, was profound. UConn quarterback Chandler Whitmer didn’t have a run game there to hold off the rush and lived on second and long. Whitmer finished 14 of 32 for 191 yards and four interceptions, three coming on the final three possessions. UConn had 13 first down plays of zero or negative yards on the day and that forced Whitmer into an inordinate number of passing situations. UConn averaged 1.9 yards per rush on Saturday.

“It’s everybody not clicking with us,” Whitmer said. “We just didn’t get it done today.

“It’s tough, you want to be balanced. when we are good we are balanced and we didn’t do either well today.”

UConn’s offense is built off the running game and gaining positive yards on first down, but through the first three quarters the Huskies ran 18 plays for only 19 yards excluding a roughing the passer call that resulted in a first down in the second quarter.

UConn simply can’t play like that in the running game or on first down.

“We have to be able to run the ball more efficiently than we ran it today,” Pasqualoni said. “We have to protect the passer, we have to be able to do those things. Give (Rutgers) credit, they played a very good good game.”

Jamison, on the other hand, proved to be the difference. He had 44 yards rushing on the 84-yard drive in the third quarter that turned a 6-3 halftime lead to a 13-3 Rutgers score. Jamison also had 25 yards on a key fourth quarter possession that saw Rutgers backed up at its own 1-yard line, but ultimately changed field position and moved clock.

They weren’t the huge highlight numbers that Jamison is accustomed too, but they did the job, kept the chains moving and made the defense stay honest. Even UConn’s defense, which doesn’t like to give credit to anyone, were impressed.

“A darn respectable running back,” linebacker Sio Moore said. “He doesn’t go down on first contact. He’s probably one of the few people I respect on that team.”

Jamison earned that respect in the trenches on Saturday, and it made all the difference.