Offensive Game Ball:
There shouldn’t be any question where this think is going. John Ross snagged five balls out of the air and we are just going to hand him this one. Though we did find out that it is possible to overthrow him, it is quite difficult. Most of his yardage (83 of 90) came from his two touchdown catches, which fits right into what we have come to expect from the speedster. His return from essentially a two-year layoff (last played in October 2014) was all highlights, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Defensive Game Ball:
Keishawn Bierria may not have the overall athleticism of his running mate Azeem Victor but he has all the physicality and violence. He led the way with 11 solo tackles, and had the statement play of the game (more on that later) with a forced fumble tallied by attempting to cave in Chris Laviano’s ribcage. Bierria looked good getting pressue on blitzes, and though it was difficult to see on my run-through of the broadcast, he didn’t seem to be a liability in coverage - a plus when speaking about a thumper at linebacker.
Most Important Play:
The aforementioned Bierria drilling of Laviano. There are multiple candidates, with Ross’s first touchdown being my other consideration. I chose this because of the tone it set. The Huskies physically dominated this game everywhere but the run game. UW receivers burned the corners three times by running straight lines. Laviano’s pocket collapsed all day because of the strength UW has on the line.
Most Important Statistic:
3. John Ross scored three touchdowns in his return. If he scores three touchdowns every game for the rest of the season then I think that would be some sort of a record probably so let’s just assume he is going to be the best long-touchdown maker in the history of NCAA Football. That, really, is a possibility. If only he hadn’t had four kick return TDs called back from penalty.
Most Encouraging Takeaway:
Can I talk about John Ross more? Oh yeah, I am writing, so of course I can. Post-surgery Ross is faster than pre-injury Ross. I would say that he is faster than pre-surgery Ross but pre-surgery Ross needed a surgery to get to full strength because of an injury. The guy can fly. As I put so eloquently on Twitter:
JOHN ROSS LIVES IN THE ENDZONE AND MAKES HIS DAILY COMMUTE BY FIGHTER JET— Ben Kenobi (@KnibbeBen) September 3, 2016
The best way for Browning to find his deep ball was to start throwing to the most difficult player in the country to overthrow. Put all the air your little shoulder can muster under the ball and Ross will find it somewhere above the painted grass.
Biggest Source of Frustration:
The running game. The strength of the Rutgers defense is its defensive line, and the deep ball was open because of an extra safety being dropped into the box. The extra safety doesn’t have anything to do with Myles Gaskin being met in the backfield on half of his carries. There was very little room to run. There was some success on sweeps, aside from the one to Budda Baker. Bubble screens, which are more of a constraint play off the run game than the passing game, found little success. This forced long third downs that the Dawgs were not up for, going just 3-of-12.