Rutgers fought till the very end but ultimately came up short in a 34-32 loss to the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
This loss was heartbreaking to say the least, but it was the team’s best game of the season by far and there are plenty of positives to take from this game. We’ll cover the good and bad, as there was plenty of both.
The Good: Gio Rescigno is our QB
Yes, he turned the ball over 3 times, but Gio Rescigno did plenty good to prove he is the best QB for this team and he will not have to look over his shoulder when out there. He threw for 3 TDs and displayed athleticism previously unknown the QB position at Rutgers. He was running all over MInnesota in the first half, but suffered what was described as a hamstring injury and was limited running the ball the rest of the game. He was still able to move the offense with half of his game absent. The most impressive thing about Rescigno is he made plays for his wide receivers. Previously, Rutgers could not make tough throws that allow a receiver make a play even if they are covered. Rescigno made throws that were good enough to be completions even if the receivers didn’t get open. He made so many throws yesterday that other QBs on the roster are physically incapable of making. Hopefully he heals up during the bye week and is ready to go for Indiana.
The Bad: Tackling
Chris Ash has introduced rugby tackling to the Scarlet Knights, which is supposed to cut down on missed tackles. Simply put, Rutgers couldn’t tackle on Saturday. It seemed like every play Minnesota would run it up the middle, the running back would be met no further than 2 yards past the line of scrimmage. Just about every time, these turned into 8-9 yards gains. Rutgers couldn’t wrap up and bring down and it played a huge part in the last drive of the game, when running back Rodney Smith dragged tacklers for 10+ yards to set up a chip shot field goal. They really need to improve in this department.
The good: Justin Goodwin
Since Chris Ash doesn’t believe in injury reports, we had no idea Robert Martin was hurt and that Justin Goodwin would start. Goodwin was more than a pleasant surprise, as he racked up 149 yards of total offense with a receiving touchdown. He looked fast and ran really tough and was hard to bring down. He looked like an elite playmaker out there and has definitely earned himself extended playing time even when Robert Martin is healthy. He took some hits on wheel routes, but stayed tough and was the best player on the offense yesterday.
The Bad: Depth
Rutgers is really struggling with depth, particularly at linebacker. It became pretty clear yesterday that Trevor Morris is not ready to be a starting linebacker in the B1G. I really hate to single out a player, but don’t let his 15 tackles distract you: he really struggled. He often looked lost and never attacked the ball. He seemed too afraid to hit the hole and try to make a play. There was a lot of standing around and not a lot of aggression. Tyreek Maddox-Williams should not have the pressure of being a starting linebacker, but was forced into the position due to the Greg Jones injury and Najee Clayton drama. He played pretty well, but had obvious struggles.
The good: Cornerback potential
It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t perfect, but the Rutgers cornerbacks continue to get results. Blessuan Austin and Isaiah Wharton still really struggle with ball skills, but were all over the Minnesota receivers. There was some bad miscommunication early, but they really tightened up and played a pretty clean second half. True freshman Damon Hayes had a huge 55-yard pick-six and will be a big contributor in his time at Rutgers. Even when they got beat, they had great coverage but just couldn’t get their heads around. This is stuff that they can work on in practice, but their 1-on-1 coverage has really improved this year.
The Bad: Pass rush
The Rutgers pass rush was horrendous. They had no sacks and hardly forced pressure. Minnesota Mitch Leidner is not an elite QB but they gave him so much time to throw the ball, he made some plays look easy. On Minnsota’s last drive, the defensive line had chances to get a sack and force MInnesota into uncomfortable downs and distances. However, they couldn’t get a hand on Mitch Leidner. They have pass-rushing specialists on the roster, but they have been relatively ineffective this year, and especially yesterday.
This is not the team of the 3 previous games
Let’s get something straight: This is not the same team that got blown out 58-0 to Ohio State. This is not the same team that got embarrassed, dismantled, and emasculated against Michigan, and this is not the same team that lost a home game to Illinois by double digits. This is a new team with new energy and new motivation. Following last week, everyone seemed to accept that Rutgers would go 2-10 and that would be that. However, the team has not given up. There is still dignity, recruiting, and at 2-6, a bowl game to play for. People have seemed to forget that 6 losses is a bowl game, and you never know with college football. The team will be rested up during their bye week and come out firing against Indiana. I’m betting the house on them in 2 weeks, and so should you.