Despite a spirited effort by the Rutgers defense on senior night, the loyal sons laid down their swords to Penn State by the score of 39-0. The offense could not get anything going and eventually the defense could no longer hold the wall alone. After leading 9-0 at halftime and struggling to finish drives against the Scarlet Knight defense, Penn State broke through in the second half with a 16 point 3rd quarter. It was over at that point.
The defense, led by seniors Darius Hamilton and Julian Pinnix-Odrick, kept Rutgers in this game longer than expected. It’s certainly disappointing that such valuable players and stand up men for this program saw their last home game end the way it did. For the fans, it was another joyless game in a very long season.
Unfortunately, there wasn't one noteworthy play on offense in this game. They only had three plays from scrimmage go for 10 yards or more all night. It was too much to expect from Rutgers to really give Penn State a scare, but the offense never gave this team a chance. Even so, it could have been worse for sure. However, it was still painful and hurtful to the soul to suffer through this game. Rather than to go through all the gory details of another blow out loss, I’m focusing on a few things to note from this game.
Defense Played Tough
It’s been this way all season and, although the defense has given up a boatload of yards, there have been a few encouraging spots. Tonight was one of them. Holding Penn State to three field goals in the first half, including one when the drive started at the Rutgers 30, was impressive. Not to mention they held the Nittany Lions on a 4th and goal from the 2 yard line and got the ball back. Darius Hamilton played like it was his last home game and was a force to be reckoned with. The secondary was better, as corners Blessaun Austin and Isaiah Wharton each broke up passes to prevent big plays.
There were other plays to be had, as Anthony Cioffi had a potential interception hit him in the chest and felk to the ground In the end zone. Tyreek Maddox-Williams almost grabbed another. After inevitably getting worn down by a maddeningly inefficient offense, the Rutgers defense eventually got worked over by the Penn State offense. However, there were signs of life from the defense after last week’s debacle, giving us at least something positive to take away from this game. Next week is a chance for them to take another step forward.
Offense Is Offensive
The regression of the offense has been downright depressing. Gio came into the second half of the Illinois game and played through the Minnesota game with flare and made some big plays. He suffered some type of hamstring injury in that second game and hasn’t been the same since. His ability to run was what made him most effective, but he hasn’t attempted to use his legs much at all in the past three games. And as each one passed, his ability to throw effectively diminished with it.
If Tylin Oden is going to play they need to let him throw just once— On the Banks (@OTB_SBNation) November 20, 2016
The passing game was terrible. I know it was windy, but the entire offense was out of sync from the start. The offensive line was pushed around again, rendering the running game useless. The play calling was unimaginative and Rutgers went an abysmal 1 for 13 on 3rd downs, a third straight game marred by a lack of execution. They’ve killed the defense, wearing them out game after game due to their ineffectiveness. If there were zero playmakers on this offense, I’d be more understanding, but there are two experienced and proven players that aren’t being used much at all. That brings me to my next point.
What’s The Deal With Martin & Hicks?
Seriously, we deserve answers after this game. I know Robert Martin has been battling injuries all season, but after playing special teams only against Indiana and getting 8 carries last week, he only had 2 carries for 5 yards. Chris Ash talked about the importance of Josh Hicks a few weeks ago, stressing the need to get him more involved. After playing in the secondary for a short stint and leaving the team for another to deal with a personal matter, Hicks has been largely absent from the offensive game plan for awhile. It’s puzzling that two running backs who have proven to be effective players for two full seasons would have such limited opportunities in a game like tonight. Whatever the factors are, I think it’s time Ash tells it like it is and explains why they played so little.
In the first half with Penn State in the red zone, a foreign object was thrown on the field near the action. On a pass thrown in the corner of end zone near the pylon, a white round object that looked like a lacrosse ball, flew by the players and rolled down the field near the 25 yard line.
Penn State staff member picked up baseball size object that you can see land on the field near Saquon Barkley between R and S pic.twitter.com/uXQkccC9gt— Ben Jones (@Ben_Jones88) November 20, 2016
It was barely touched on by the BTN announcers, with Matt Millen commenting it was going foul anyway.
It’s appalling that a Rutgers fan would do this, although that’s unconfirmed. It did come from what looked like the student section, but I haven’t seen footage identifying where exactly it came from. Regardless, it's upsetting and someone could have been seriously hurt. Athletic director Pat Hobbs emailed students and visited groups this week, urging them to behave at this game. He must be sick. I’ve written enough about taking the high road, as have others on this site. The moronic actions of a few taint the reputation of us all. Certainly, the most disappointing thing to happen tonight on that field was this incident.
Rain & Sleet Appropriate
It’s been a difficult season for everyone involved including the coaches, players, families, support personnel and the fans. I’m still optimistic for the future and think Chris Ash is the right coach for this program. With that being said, it's been another tough season to watch. There have been only a precious few moments to truly enjoy Rutgers on the field this season. On senior night, the stadium emptied out in the third quarter, as Rutgers fell apart and inclement weather rained down on the field. Sleet followed. The second half was brutal to watch. Mostly Penn State fans stayed to see Rutgers break down on senior night. There was no joy this night for the Scarlet faithful.
Rutgers plays the last game of their season next week at Maryland, who would become bowl eligibile after losing four straight with a win at home. There is a chance for Rutgers to play spoiler to their neighbor in the south and end the season on a high note. In a season full of many lows and few highs, that would be something. However, the offense needs to come alive and right now appears to be on life support. The defense has a chance to give a struggling Maryland offense fits though, so anything could happen. Either way, Rutgers has clinched last place in the Big Ten East. One week to go until it’s officially the offseason. We all need a break.