MORGANTOWN - Rutgers football Coach Greg Schiano decided to call plays again on defense this season and has the Scarlet Knights ranked sixth nationally in sacks per game.
They average 3.43 per game and have 24 this season, but were blanked in Friday's loss at Louisville.
"I thought they did an excellent job," Schiano said. "They got rid of the ball quick and did a lot of three-step, quick-five (step) game. They took their shots. They threw a lot of fades and connected on a few of them, but they weren't going to let themselves get sacked. I thought it was an excellent plan."
It was the second time this season Rutgers (5-2, 2-1 Big East) played without a sack. Both games were losses. Rutgers plays host to No. 25 West Virginia (5-2, 1-1) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday (WCHS telecast) in the first game for the Mountaineers after Syracuse sacked WVU's Geno Smith four times in Friday's 49-23 win.
"I think it's critical," Schiano said.
"It's not only the pressure, it's the hits and the quarterback pressures you get in addition to the sacks. Sacks aren't always the most important thing.
I think the Louisville kid did a nice job throwing the ball and not taking too many hits. You watch the Syracuse tape, they did a very good job hitting the quarterback. That's what's most important."
The Scarlet Knights have forced mistakes with the hits and the threat of hits. After forcing just 22 turnovers last season, Rutgers has forced 25 already this season, most in the country. The 15 interceptions are also tied for the national lead and Rutgers is No. 5 nationally in turnover margin.
The Scarlet Knights led the country before finishing minus-two in the loss to the Cardinals.
In addition to the sacks, Smith was hit on one of his two interceptions. The constant pressure disrupted WVU's passing game.
"Syracuse blitzed, shoot, 75 percent of the time, which is more than I've ever been a part of, and we didn't handle it for a variety of reasons," WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen said. "The quarterback and receivers didn't do the best job with the quarterback seeing stuff and the receivers making sight adjustments.
"I think we were targeted pretty good up front. There weren't just three people coming, unless they were out-manning us, but even with that said, when they were bringing five, our guys didn't hold up in pass protection, which was discouraging."
Syracuse physically and mentally challenged WVU's protection. Holgorsen said the Orange used a variety of blitzes and 16 of the first 24 were different. He also knows Rutgers will be similarly aggressive.