While Rutgers has done some obvious things very well on the way to starting the season 3-0, they’ve also been strong in many areas. Limiting their own mistakes while taking advantage of opponent miscues has resulted in three double digit victories. Here are ten key stats that have been strengths for RU and hopefully continue to be as Big Ten play ramps up.
Third down conversion rate
This is an area of major improvement. Rutgers is tied at No. 33 nationally with Colorado with a third down conversion rate of 47.8%. Last season, RU converted just 28.5% of third downs. While the sample size is just three games, this is major progress and highlights the immediate impact that offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca has had.
Third down defensive conversion rate
The Rutgers defense is tied at No. 35 nationally with Ohio State in allowing opponents to convert third downs at a rate of 32.6%. This is a slight improvement so far compared to last season when RU allowed foes to convert at a rate of 34.1%. Joe Harasymiak’s unit has shown an ability to bend but not break and being stingy on third downs is a big part of that.
Penalty yards per game
Huge improvement so far with penalties. Rutgers is No. 23 nationally in averaging just 36.7 penalty yards per game. RU is also tied for No. 15 in committing only 3.7 penalties per game. Last season, the Scarlet Knights averaged 64.2 penalty yards and 7.8 penalties per game. It’s early, but limiting mistakes with penalties has been a huge improvement in 2023.
red zone offense
A couple important stats to note here. Rutgers is tied for No. 31 nationally in scoring on 11 of 12 trips to the red zone this season. Of the 11 scores, nine have been touchdowns along with two field goals. While RU has been more efficient overall in the red zone this season in converting 91.7% versus 78.6% last season, they’re doing two other things much better as well. They’ve scored touchdowns 75.0% of the time compared to 42.9% last season. The Scarlet Knights are also averaging four red zone trips per game after last season only averaging 2.3 trips. Of course, Big Ten play will be a major test but progress is being reflected through three games.
red zone defense
The defense has improved in this area and are tied for No. 4 in allowing opponents to score just 50.0% on four of eight trips to the red zone. This includes three touchdowns and one field goal. Last season, opponents scored 95.1% of the time in the red zone against Rutgers, converting 39 of 41 opportunities. They also scored touchdowns 70.7% of the time compared to 37,5% so far this season. Red zone opportunities are also down from 3.4 per game to 2.7. Red zone defense was something RU had to get better at and so far they have.
Obviously a major improvement has been with turnovers. Rutgers is tied for No. 15 with a +4 turnover margin. They’ve committed just two turnovers in three games will producing six takeaways. It easily could have been more with four forced fumbles not being recovered. Last season, RU finished with a -6 turnover margin and averaged 1.7 turnovers per game. Limiting turnovers is a major key for Rutgers in Big Ten play in order to be more competitive and win games.
Time of possession
This one has been discussed at length but Rutgers is currently No. 17 in averaging 33:04 in time of possession. Last season, RU averaged 29:11. Whether they can sustain drives and eat the clock in Big Ten play remains to be seen. Another factor is that the offense has taken advantage of the new running clock so despite less plays from scrimmage, they’re maximizing their time of possession. This is a strategy that could really help be more competitive against Big Ten foes.
Kick return defense
A small sample size as Jude McAtamney has been proficient with touchbacks on kickoffs this season. He’s produced touchbacks on 16 of 19 kickoffs for a rate of 84.2%. Last season, McAtamney only produced 17 touchbacks on 47 kickoffs for a rate of only 36.2%. Rutgers is No. 10 in allowing just one return for 12 yards this season. In 2022, opponents averaged 25.1 yards per kick return. Special teams has been very solid and this stat is one that has had a bigger impact than it’s been discussed.
Rutgers is tied for No. 16 nationally in producing 10 team sacks through three games. Last season, they produced just 20 overall. This is a stat that really highlights how much more disruptive the Rutgers defense has been.
Sacks/Tackles for loss allowed
Credit the entire offense in that Rutgers is tied for No. 2 nationally in allowing just one sack for minus-2 yards this season. They also have only allowed 12 tackles for loss for minus-24 yards which is tied for No. 20. The offensive line has been up and down but certainly has been solid in pass protection. As a whole, the run blocking by running backs and receivers has been really good as well. While finding gaps to run through has been an issue at times, there aren’t many busted plays where running backs are being stopped behind the line of scrimmage. Major progress that needs to continue in Big Ten play.