The spot of the ball was half an inch short with a minute plus to play, and with that, the miserable season that was Rutgers football was finally over. Today's game was a microcosm of the entire season and a perfectly appropriate ending. Rutgers showed flashes of being a good football team, ultimately undone by undisciplined and uninspired football, with bad coaching mixed in. As hall of fame coach Bill Parcells famously said, "you are what your record says you are." Rutgers finishes 4-8 and last place in the Big Ten East with a 1-7 conference record. They are a bad football team and no Kyle Flood superlative can make anyone believe otherwise.
Blowing two different 21 point leads and surrendering four rushing touchdowns of 40+ yards, including the 80 yard game winner by Brandon Ross, highlighted the defensive collapse. Rutgers had nine penalties for 92 yards, including four holding calls by the offensive line. Despite winning the time of possession battle with almost 37 minutes, Rutgers was just 3-11 on third down conversions and 0-1 on the game ending 4th down conversion attempt. The offensive gained 530 yards of total offense and were still OUTGAINED 126 yards by the Maryland offense.
Defensive coordinator Joe Rossi never adjusted, failing to stack the box as Maryland's running game was thrashing Rutgers at will in the second half. Maryland ran for 401 rushing yards on 42 carries, a whopping 9.5 yards per carry! That is Tecmo Bowl or Madden video game numbers.
Let's review key performances in today's game:
Arguably the greatest receiver in Rutgers history, Carroo played his heart out and was clearly not 100% healthy. Carroo had 7 receptions for a career high 183 yards and 1 touchdown. His 10 touchdowns for the season set a Rutgers record. He is a warrior, supremely talented and left it all out on the field today. He will flourish for one lucky team on Sunday's next year.
It wasn't his best game in a Rutgers uniform, but he led the Rutgers rushing attack with 71 yards on 17 carries for 4.2 yards per carry. He had 1 touchdown and ran hard all day. He left the game on the last drive, banged up from another punishing hit. The former walk-on's comeback this year was one of the few bright spots this season. His leadership and spirit will be missed.
He had another up and down season, but finished his career on a high note, connecting on both field goal attempts, giving Rutgers a 41-39 lead late in the 4th quarter. He finished 12-16 for the season.
Yes, Laviano made some bad throws today, but he was not the reason this team blew a 21 point lead and lost the game. He had a career high 4 touchdowns and 1 INT on 21-33 passing for 344 yards. He took several big hits, including a devastating full upper body blow that knocked him out of the game for one play in the 4th quarter. He came right back into the game and was promptly booed, a completely classless move by Rutgers fans. Laviano waved his arms in the air, essentially saying "bring it on." Look, Laviano has had many head scratching moments this season, but there is no denying his toughness. He played his guts out this season and never quit. The same cannot be said for some other players on this team.
Flood should be completely embarrassed by this epic collapse. The fact that it came against a 2-9 Maryland team, led by interim head coach Mike Locksley, who had a career record of 2-31 coming into this game, seems just about right. This team fell apart and showed no spirit in the second half. The saddest part was when Laviano threw the interception on the first play of the second half, every Rutgers fan knew the collapse was on. Flood has proven to be very bad football coach, who inspires no one, and no longer has the integrity card to play. He has to go, plain and simple. Today's game tape is the first one to review when examining what is wrong with this team. As my friend calls it, Rutgers plays "joyless football." The second half was like a greatest hits album for all the bad football Rutgers has played this season.
Turning Point of the Game
With Rutgers leading 17-0 early in the second quarter, Locksley benched starting quarterback Perry Hills and inserted Caleb Rowe in the game. Maryland scored in eight of their last nine possessions the rest of the way. Rowe was just 16-32 but threw for 239 yards passing and ran for 98 yards on just 7 carries. He had zero turnovers. Most importantly, he gave Maryland energy and played with a nothing to lose attitude. How appropriate it was that Rutgers collapsed after the opposing coach made a actual decision to change personnel during the game.
The watch begins now, as yesterday's article from Keith Sargeant indicates President Barchi scheduled a meeting with athletic director Julie Hermann for this weekend. Depending on the outcome of the university's internal review of the football program, it's possible that Hermann and Flood could be terminated by tomorrow. It's time for them to go, time for the Rutgers community to heal from the countless scandals of the past few years, and the incompetency on the football field. We deserve better.