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Rutgers Football: Takeaways from the loss to Penn State

Spoiler Alert: It was uglier than we feared it would be.

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The nightmare season of 2015 continued last night in Happy Valley.  The team self destructed in the 2nd quarter and never recovered.  Here are some takeaways from the game:

  • The running back foursome of Josh Hicks, Paul James, Robert Martin and Justin Goodwin combined for only 80 yards rushing on 23 carries.  The lack of run game prevented the offense from ever getting going, as they were only able to enter the red zone once all night. Hicks did have a great run out of the Rutgers end zone, turning a would be safety into a 19 yard gain.  He finished with 49 yards on just 7 carries.  Paul James really struggled, rushing for just 7 yards on 10 carries. To add insult to injury, former commit Saquon Barkely continued his emergence at Penn State, thrashing Rutgers for 195 yards on 21 carries and 2 touchdowns.
  • Chris Laviano looked sharp early but came undone in the 2nd quarter.  He rushed throws, overthrew the 6'6" Carlton Agudosi multiple times, and threw another interception off his back foot.  Rutgers best drive of the night occurred at the start of the 2nd half, gaining four first downs and marching into Penn State territory.  After a penalty, Laviano threw his second interception of the game, essentially ending any chance for Rutgers to mount a comeback.  He finished 27 of 42 with 252 yards and 2 INT.
  • Interim coach Norries Wilson was asked about Hayden Rettig after the game: Why didn't Rettig play? "I didn't put Rettig in. "Did you have the authority?  "I would have.  "Why didn't you put him in?  "I didn't think the situation called for Hayden to go into the game."  Perhaps it was unfair to think Wilson would pull Laviano, head coach Kyle Flood's choice for quarterback, under any circumstances.  However, it was a wasted opportunity to see how Rettig could do in the 2nd half, when it was obvious Laviano was not leading this team back.
  • Wilson made a bizarre decision to kick a field goal early in the 4th quarter, down 21-0.  It was meaningless as Rutgers still need another three scores to take the lead.  Wilson stated, "Well, I decided to kick it (because) it was fourth-and-10 from the 11. We had just run what we thought was one of our good choices in that distance so we decided to kick the field goal.''
  • The team committed another eight penalties in the game, including four false starts by the offensive line.  Two occurred on the first drive, with Rutgers pinned on it's own 2 yard line to start the game.  The offensive line struggled all night, as they were unable to open running lanes and could not prevent Laviano from being under pressure most of the game. They gave up 5 sacks for a loss of 51 yards. Starting right guard Chris Muller did leave the game with an injury to his right leg midway through the 2nd quarter.
  • The defense was torched on the ground by Penn State, allowing 330 yards rushing at 8 yards per attempt.  The defensive line was terrible, unable to stop the run and unable to generate much of a pass rush, unable to register a sack.
  • The linebackers did play well, as Steve Longa, Quentin Gause and Kaiwan Lewis each had 8 tackles a piece last night. Safeties Davon Jacobs and Anthony Cioffi had good games as well, with Jacobs having 7 tackles and Cioffi contributing with 6 tackles and late interception.
  • Carlton Agudosi played well in place of Leonte Carroo, turning in 6 catches for 80 yards.  He did lose a fumble on his last reception of the game.  He wasn't able to run much after the catch, but that was the case for every receiver last night.  Janarion Grant was limited to just 4 catches for 22 yards and didn't have any notable returns on special teams.
  • Rutgers had 20 first downs but just 294 yards of total offense.  In comparison, Penn State had 17 first downs for 471 yards of total offense.
  • Captain Darius Hamilton did suit up but was severely limited and did not register a tackle in the game.  It's obvious he is not right, no word yet on his availability for next week.  Without a doubt, Hamilton should be credited for being a true leader on this team and for showing all heart by his attempt to play last night.

Below is one of the strangest post-game press conferences you will ever see.  Norries Wilson called on various people in the room, asking for their question. A few times he called on people who were not actually reporters and he was a little combative at times.  No question he was put in a difficult position last night and did the best he could.  I apologize in advance for the video quality, but Rutgers has not posted and I thought it was worth seeing.