Tom's Take: 3 things I learned from Rutgers' win over Washington State

It was a great Big Ten debut for Rutgers, which won a 41-38 thriller over Washington State in Seattle. The win sends a message to the rest of the Big Ten: The Scarlet Knights have a physical offense and a defense with underrated speed. Don’t overlook this team, which also gained a lot of confidence with this triumph.

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RUTGERS 41, WASHINGTON STATE 38: BOX | PLAY-BY-PLAY | AP RECAP | GALLERY

Here are three things I learned:

1. Paul James is in midseason form, rumbling for 173 yards and three touchdowns. The Rutgers back is one of the most physical runners in the Big Ten, capable of carrying a big load. The Scarlet Knights will need James to have more nights like this if they want to make the program’s Big Ten debut a success. Also, kudos to the offensive line, which controlled the trenches behind line coach Mitch Browning. These guys are tough.

2. It’s just one game, but it’s apparent that new OC Ralph Friedgen has made an impact on this offense. After the opening drive, QB Gary Nova struggled with his consistency. But he found his rhythm in the fourth quarter and showed a command of the offense, finding open receivers and making some nice decisions. This is a performance to build on for Nova, who hit 16-of-27 passes for 281 yards with two touchdowns and a pick in a back-and-forth game.

3. Prior to arriving in Seattle for this game vs. Wazzu, there were concerns about the defense. After this game, those concerns are warranted, as Rutgers allowed 532 yards passing. The Cougars sliced and diced the Scarlet Knights’ defense through the air, as Rutgers offered little resistance. But the Scarlet Knights made timely plays late in the game, as Johnathan Aiken forced a key fumble in the fourth quarter that set up Rutgers’ game-winning TD and sealed the victory by breaking up a fourth-down pass to end Washington State’s hopes.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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9 Comments

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bob jones on 8/29/2014 @ 8:07am EDT Said:

Nice wins by Rutgers and Minnesota to open the season.

Scott J. on 8/29/2014 @ 8:21am EDT Said:

Good to see the B1G get a win.

huskerfanbb on 8/29/2014 @ 9:08am EDT Said:

I’ll admit it. I didn’t think Rutgers would win this game. Sure, they gave up too many points, but even the 532 yards passing isn’t completely embarrassing given the fact that the Mad Scientist has that team throw the ball 60 times a game. Most teams are going to give up a lot of yards passing to Washington State. Fun game to watch. I thought Rutgers was better than advertised, and Minnesota was worse–at least on offense.

RU Serious on 8/29/2014 @ 11:20am EDT Said:

I can take giving up 500 yards in week one to the air raid offense, as long as lessons are learned and corrections are made.

Rutgers might not see such a pass heavy offense until the Indiana game.

Rutgers will win or lose in the trenches and with Nova’s decisions.

Will on 8/29/2014 @ 12:13pm EDT Said:

Is this where we all should start the chant “B1G, B1G, B1G or is that too SEC for everyone! LOL

DH on 8/29/2014 @ 2:36pm EDT Said:

Go RU! Stay healthy!

LM on 8/29/2014 @ 6:16pm EDT Said:

Still have huge concerns with Nova at QB and they have to defend against the pass. James is a beast though!

Policy ThinkShop Blogger on 8/31/2014 @ 2:13am EDT Said:

Thanks Tom …

Your analysis is fair and on point.

I do think you could have given an honorable mention to Longa and Turay … They are going to reck havoc on B1G QBs and give the RU pass defense the break they need to learn and mature on this new B1G stage …

B1rthplace1869 on 9/1/2014 @ 12:50pm EDT Said:

RU fan here saying I’m proud to see the boys debut with a win for the B1G especially over a power 5 foe but even more proud to see the love being shown by the B1G fans for Rutgers. Go RU and B1G ups to the B1G! #KeepChoppin #RU