Last week against Cincinnati, everything seemingly went right for Rutgers. That was not the case at all yesterday, with a game that rapidly spiraled out of control almost exactly as UConn would have scripted it. They won the toss, and momentum-wise, it was all downhill from there. A quick succession of turnovers led to Husky points. Bad field position and critical mistakes (like with the snap exchange) compounded on themselves. Suddenly, one of the very worst offenses in the bowl subdivision could dictate the pace and tempo, and after a year under the gun, they adapted well to the change. A Rutgers team that has proved resilient in the face of adversity all season fell into their steepest hole of the year. This time, against what should have been an overmatched opponent that had already seemingly given up on the season, RU was not able to regain focus.
Rutgers now has a month to ruminate over this loss before an inevitable Pinstripe Bowl matchup with a six or seven win Big XII team. First and foremost is the question of who should be playing the crucial quarterback position. Both Gary Nova and Chas Dodd have betrayed their youth at times. Nova was the better passer yesterday, but made his own fair share of mistakes, and his performance has to be adjusted for the context of playing from within a deep hole. The feeling here is that Dodd's struggles were only a matter of time given some mistakes he got away with against Cincinnati. The bad snaps may not have been his fault, but forcing throws, and having tunnel vision for Mohamed Sanu certainly were. Both would ideally still be learning on the bench, but Nova is the better option right now, and will certainly be the better option in 2012. One can only hope that Dodd sticks around with the intent of proving the naysayers wrong, if only so that RU won't be so lacking in experienced QB depth moving forward.
That fatal flaw ultimately put a ceiling on expectations for this year. The roster talent was their saving grace, but also proved to be their undoing. The naysayers were wrong; Rutgers was an 8-4 team on paper, and thus cannot be fairly accused of overachieving. It's just the matter of how everything happened though, with the Big East as wide open as ever for the taking, with so many self-inflicted wounds. Once again, the Rutgers football program finds itself in a familiar position of soul-searching for a way out of their awful rut. It's just always something, there's always one critical obstacle standing in the way. in that sense, 2011 cannot be seen as either a success or a failure for the program. It just was. They fell in line precisely where they should have. There were certainly highs and lows, but nothing of the sort that would leave any discernible impression on anyone except stasis and wanderlust. What's next? Is this all they've got?