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Rutgers implodes in 35-23 loss

Mischief night comes early for shell-shocked Scarlet Knights

Alex Trautwig

You couldn't predict that it would happen yesterday, and by all means, it should not have happened yesterday. However, one would have been remiss not to see some sort of stumble coming with the way that Rutgers has played for most of this season. That is not to validate the conventional wisdom that Rutgers has gotten a few breaks here and there and has overachieved. That couldn't be further from the truth. What's actually happened, repeatedly, is that Rutgers keeps showing up to games flat. This is a team that is content to let opponents beat themselves and that only wants to go for the jugular when absolutely required. It worked until yesterday, and it will probably work for a few more games this season, but that is not a winning strategy if you don't hold up your end of the bargain.

If you run into a rough patch, and you're up against an opportunistic opponent, then that is a recipe for the kind of 7-turnover disaster that we saw yesterday. This pervasive attitude of "this is only Howard/Tulane/UConn/Syracuse/Temple/Kent State. We can run on third and long, we can call a million screens, we can play in a soft zone defense that trades yards for points all day" finally exploded in the coaching staff's faces, wrecking the team's chances for a truly special season. All hope is not lost and for naught, not even close, but a significant attitude adjustment and stiff upper lip are in order for Rutgers to be able to execute better once they get into the heart of Big East play in a few weeks. Give Kent State credit for playing a heck of a game and taking our gifts, but this meltdown should not have happened, and cannot be allowed to happen again.

If there's any consolation in this loss, you can only hope that the right lessons sink in with the coaching staff. The lesson is not "turnovers are bad, so we should never take a risk, ever." Rather, it's that when you fall down early, you have to press, and THAT is a recipe for making critical mistakes. Usually you can come back, but not always. It's better to leave it all on the field from the first snap to the last. That's what has been so frustrating about this year's Rutgers team. They're not a national championship contender, but this is a good team, a very good one. From 1-22, there's so much talent here that it blows my mind knowing where they were not a decade ago. Everyone hoped that Rutgers would finally be over its issues with being prone to upsets with Greg Schiano's departure, but here we are a year later with the exact same result. Now it's time for the team to stop buying their own hype and get back to work after a well-needed week off.

This certainly was a day to forget for fledgling Rutgers signal caller Gary Nova. After a season of looking wise beyond his years, he finally regressed to his bad freshman habits of forcing passes and losing his composure. It's not fair to rip Nova too bad, and certainly wrong to call for his benching against Army. Everyone can have a bad day at the office, and Gary is a big, big part of why Rutgers has won seven games thus far. Perhaps it would have made sense to sit him for Chas Dodd yesterday if he just didn't have it, but that's one thing you can't kill the coaching staff for. Winning the battle isn't worth losing the war. Gary Nova didn't have it yesterday, but you can't wreck his confidence and have him looking over his shoulder with a quarterback controversy. He's the guy for Rutgers, and there's no debate even possible left at this point. The team lives or dies on his shoulders. There are things to be worried about for sure, but QB is not one of them.

This loss is beyond depressing, and to top everything off, New Jersey is about to get hit by Hurricane Sandy. Stay safe everyone, especially if you're in a flood-prone area (Cranford, Manville, Sayreville, Bound Brook, LBI, etc...)