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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Despite solid effort, final drive breaks Rutgers defense against Penn State

(AP photo)
By Tyler Barto
Twitter: @Tyler_Barto

PISCATAWAY — Five sacks. Sixty-four rush yards. One sinking feeling.

That's what Rutgers' defense left with in a 13-10 loss Saturday to Penn State in its Big Ten opener.

Despite a game plan from defensive coordinator Joe Rossi that bottled up Penn State super sophomore Christian Hackenberg, a six-play, 80-yard drive foiled Rutgers' first conference game.

"A loss always hurts," said linebacker Steve Longa, who finished with a team-high nine tackles. "This game was a tough game. We knew it wasn't going to be an easy game. It was going to go down all the way to the last second. ... They just executed better than us."

On the final drove, Rossi reinforced several defensive staples: know your assignments, disrupt the quarterback, keep the ball in front.

PHOTO GALLERY: Rutgers hosts Penn State in Big Ten debut

It failed that last criteria on the first play, a slant pattern by Penn State's Geno Lewis that went for 53 yards after a missed tackle. Bill Belton's 6-yard score followed five plays later.

But Rossi's mixes of pressures and front-four rushes kept Penn State at bay for most of the contest. Edge blitzes dotted his play calls. Interior pressure from Darius Hamilton closed lanes.

It added up to Rutgers' most impressive defensive performance in recent memory. It just wasn't enough.

"It was just a matter of how we prepared," safety Lorenzo Waters said. "Throughout the week, Coach Rossi definitely helped us out with the points of emphasis we needed to capitalize on. I think we did a pretty good job of that. It was just a matter of doing that down in and down out every single play."

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