I have worn my Rutgers hoodie in public twice since the blowout loss to Michigan this past weekend. Every time I come across someone who loves college football, or worse the Michigan Wolverines, I receive a comment about the game. I respond with “yeah, it is embarrassing but it is a new coach in a new system with players he did not recruit. I am looking to the future instead of the past.”
That is something all Rutgers fans should be doing. Do not dwell on the past and the rough two games we just faced; look forward to Coach Ash to recruit players that fit his spread system. I am confident that in a few years this program will at the very least be a middle tier Big Ten team rather than in the gutters. There is no reason Rutgers should be underdogs against Illinois at home for homecoming.
Coach Ash and the assistants spoke to the media today. Both Ash’s and Mehringer’s press conferences are below for reference.
Looking back on this week’s pitiful offensive performance, I will break it down, for what it is worth.
The lead back had another rough game for the Scarlet Knights. He only gained 23 yards on 11 carries for an average of 2.1 a carry. He needs to perform better and move the ball to allow Chris Laviano or Zach Allen or any of our other quarterbacks to get the time and space they need to get the ball out to our receivers. I look for Martin getting back on track against Illinois who gives up, on average, nearly 182 rushing yards a game.
The Freshman back got some good work in at the end of the game. He ended as the Knights’ lead rusher tallying 27 yards on 8 carries which is a 3.4 average. When your lead back is a garbage time player that only got 3.4 yards a carry, you are going to have offensive issues. I think Sneed had a good performance as he made a few big runs, including our only two first downs. I look forward to seeing more of him.
Goodwin only got a few touches, yet again, in this game. He touched the ball 3 times for 7 yards, a 2.3 average. Goodwin just has not performed thus far and he needs to pick it up if we want to move the ball offensively. He is a good change of pace back that can catch the ball out of the backfield and can move well in the open field, hence him being on kick offs. With Josh Hicks getting work at safety due to depth issues, I look for Goodwin to get more touches against the Illini.
Offensive Coordinator Drew Mehringer said that they are looking at moving Goodwin around because they think he can do big things for the team. Maybe they have him catch some passes or just get the ball in his hands more in general. He knows they can do it, but they need him at running back for the depth because you cannot have only two backs going on game day.
Quick mention of Josh Hicks in Ash’s press conference. He said his future is dependent on the team’s needs. If they need safety depth, he will play safety. If they need running backs, he will be there. I am interested to see where he goes and how he does. He is incredibly athletic and can make plays, so I hope to see a lot of him no matter where he is lined up.
Moving on to the passing game. Laviano did not play too much, but Coach Ash said it was not due to an injury. It seems they wanted to see what Zach Allen could do against a good team. I will speak of Allen next. Laviano went 1/8 for 6 yards and rushed the ball once and lost 8 yards. He played poorly for sure. The fans have been calling for Laviano to not be the starter anymore and I think Coach got the message.
Even though Laviano got pulled during the Michigan game, Coach Ash made it clear in his press conference that Chris Laviano is the starting quarterback, but they are looking for more consistent play out of the position.
Drew Mehringer said that it is not good that we have only completed 5 passes in two games, but it is not from a lack of effort They are researching ways to get more completions and redid a few things here and there, but he said it does not matter what plays they call if the quarterback is not protected.
As I mentioned above, Allen went into the game for Laviano after his poor start. Unfortunately for Rutgers and Allen, he played pretty damn bad as well. He went 1/10 for a whopping -1 yard. Let me repeat that. Minus One Yard. How do you only throw the ball 10 times, only complete one when you are down that big? Why not throw a bubble screen or downfield to try and get some momentum and confidence going. Instead, Coach Ash tried to use Allen’s legs to get yardage. Bad idea. Allen lost 7 yards on 11 carries. That is a -0.6 yards a carry. It was one of the best defenses in the country and I believe Allen is better than that. I hope we get a chance to see him in a game we are competing in to see what this kid from TCU really has.
Coach Ash made mention of the fact that it is hard to properly evaluate a quarterback when they are constantly getting hit. Even if they are not sacked, the hits pile up and get to the player. To me, it seems Ash wants to get a better look at Allen too because he believes that he can do better, too.
Forget the past two weeks and go back to your alma mater for homecoming. I will be there, forgetting the past and looking toward to future. Coach Ash, the assistants, and the players are all looking forward, and you should too. Lovie Smith is a good coach, but Illinois is not that great of a team. They, like us, are rebuilding and looking to the future. We need to show Illinois and the nation that we can bounce back strong from such embarrassing losses. We need to bELieve and have faith in our coach and the process. We need to #KeepChopping.
Go RU. Beat Illinois. Make Homecoming a great experience for everyone. Show the nation we do not crumble. We are strong. We are Rutgers.