Rutgers’ offense was scored points in the two wins they have gotten. They have even scored some points in a few losses, such as Minnesota and Indiana. In other games, they have not gone anywhere the entire game. In the games they did score, third downs were what lost them the game.
Getting off to a slow start is what has been killing this team this season. Going down 21-0 to a Michigan State team that has not won a conference game is not good. When you are playing in East Lansing it is even worse. Give a team that much momentum and cushion, you are in deep trouble.
Playing from behind has been an issue all year, starting from both Washington and Howard. Below there is a chart that breaks down the amount of yardage Rutgers has gained in each first quarter this season. Breaking it down by the rushing yards and the passing yards and totaling it up.
As you can see, there are way too many games with little to no yardage. In the Michigan game, we actually lost yardage in the quarter. How that happens is beyond me, but it happened and it is a huge issue.
If this team wants to defeat Penn State or Maryland, they cannot gain that little yardage and give up so much points and yards to the opposition.
Rutgers is 117th in the FBS in third-down conversions this season. Leading the entire FBS is undefeated Western Michigan at a 56.3 conversion rate in their ten games. In Rutgers’ ten games, they have a conversion rate of 31.9%. Converting less than a third of your third downs disallows a team to keep drives alive and rest up your defense. Rutgers’ defense is slacking because the offense cannot convert third downs which forces three and outs.
As you can see, Rutgers really struggles with third downs a good amount of the time. They have a decent conversion rate for a handful of the games, but there are some, like Michigan and Indiana, where they were simply disgraceful.
If Rutgers converted some third downs against Indiana, one may say that they easily would have won that game. If Rutgers simply moved the ball a little bit and forced Indiana to drive down the field, the outcome could be different.
Again, If Rutgers wants to win one of the last two games, if not both, they need to fix these issues. If Penn State or Maryland get an early lead, it is game over. If Rutgers cannot sustain drives, it will be game over. Rutgers needs ball control and to sustain drives. If they can do that, they will win a conference game.