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The Good, Bad, & Ugly In Rutgers’ Loss To Illinois

NCAA Football: Illinois at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Believe it or not, when you break down everything that happened in Rutgers 24-7 loss to Illinois yesterday, there were a significant amount of positive things that happened in the game. The problem was the negative things that did occur, completely cancelled out everything else. Turnovers, a lack of execution, and mistakes at the worst times, sunk any chance Rutgers had of winning this game. And yet, the sun came up on this bright Sunday morning. Let’s all exhale and commiserate over all that took place during an extremely disappointing loss on Homecoming.

The Good

  • Rutgers had 387 total yards of offense, outgaining Illinois by 67 yards.
  • Rutgers had 23 first downs compared to 10 for Illinois.
  • The offense went 9-16 on third down conversions.
  • They also won time of possession, having the ball on offense for 32:48 of the game.
  • The offense showed life in the second half with Gio Rescigno at quarterback. He led Rutgers to their first touchdown in over 13 quarters and made several good throws, as well as flashed his ability to run the football.
  • Head coach Chris Ash and offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer declared an open competition at quarterback this week!
  • Robert Martin has proven he can run well against most Big Ten teams and did so again yesterday, finishing with 97 yards rushing on 16 carries for a 6.1 yard per carry average.
  • Andre Patton had his best game of the season with 5 receptions for 90 yards.
  • John Tsimis finally emerged in the passing game, logging 5 receptions for 39 yards and picked up several key first downs.
  • Other than allowing two big gains, the Rutgers defense did a good job in this game. Illinois scored 31 points the week before against Purdue and the Rutgers defense held them to 17.
  • Darnell Davis, who is starting in the place of injured Quanzell Lambert, registered 6 tackles and the first sack of his career.
  • Starting linebackers Trevor Morris and Deonte Roberts, both of whom were limited in practice this week, combined for 16 tackles.
  • Cornerback Blessaun Austin made an athletic interception in the end zone, ending a scoring chance for Illinois early in the game.

The Bad

  • The coaching staff did not have a good game. The lack of execution and focus from the team at crucial points of the game was extremely disappointing. The stats show Rutgers had every chance to win this game. Credit Ash with putting the result on himself and the staff in his post-game presser, but that doesn’t change the fact that this was the worst loss of the season.
  • Rutgers didn’t score until the first play of the fourth quarter, ending a steak of 13 consecutive quarters without any points. That’s flat out depressing.
  • It’s very rare to win a football game when you commit 5 turnovers. The fact that Robert Martin, Jawuan Harris and Justin Goodwin committed one each made it even worse. They are the best players Rutgers has on offense at the moment. Chris Laviano fumbling inside the Illinois 10 early on set the tone for a game full of missed opportunities. Gio’s pick six that ended any chance of a comeback highlighted his inexperience.
  • Laviano’s inability to lead the offense to any points whatsoever against an Illinois team that just surrendered 34 points to Purdue. He overthrew Patton on two deep balls when the receiver was able to get behind the defense and would have resulted in big gains.
  • It’s wasn’t fair to expect Harris would step in and come close to filling Janarion Grant’s shoes. However, 3 receptions for 9 yards and 2 carries for 5 yards, as well as the fumbled punt, equaled a disappointing day for the redshirt freshman. He has a ton of talent and speed, but he needs more time to develop.

The Ugly

  • Rutgers lost by three scores to an Illinois team that was 1-4, without a win over an FBS team, and had just lost to Purdue at home. It’s time to accept the sad reality that Rutgers is the worst team in the Big Ten and at the moment, it’s not even close.
  • Rutgers went 0-3 on fourth down conversions, including two of them failing due to issues with the snap. Again, a lack of focus led to bad execution in crucial moments of the game.
  • Chris Laviano has started all seven games this season, but hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since the fourth quarter against Iowa on September 24th.
  • The student section at kickoff, despite the $10 food voucher given out for those who entered the stadium 30 minutes prior to the game starting:
  • My poor attempt at humor during the 13th consecutive quarter without Rutgers scoring:

One Last Thought:

Stay strong everyone. Riding out the tough times and sticking together now will make the climb up the Big Ten ladder in the future all the more satisfying!