All three units for Rutgers had their moments in yesterday’s 33-27 loss to Indiana. The special teams blocked two field goals and forced a fumble on a kickoff return that they recovered. The defense forced three turnovers and scored a touchdown in a second consecutive game. On offense, quarterback Gio Rescigno threw a 68 yard touchdown to Andre Patton in the 1st quarter. However, in terms of big plays and sustained drives on offense, they were few and far between, which put too much pressure on the defense and sank any chance Rutgers had to win the game.
Let’s take a look at some key stats that lead to the loss:
- On 18 possessions on offense, Rutgers went three and out on 10 of them. They only managed four drives longer than four plays. In those drives, they attempted three field goals, making two, and had a turnover on downs late in the 4th quarter.
- Execution was a big reason Rutgers couldn’t sustain drives. The offense was 1-16 on third down conversions. The offense was more inefficient in the second half, when they went through a stretch of seven consecutive drives without a first down.
- Starting field position for Rutgers in the game was at their own 27 yard line. Indiana’s average starting field position was on their own 39.
- In the second half, Rutgers had a starting field position on their own 23 and Indiana started on their own 47.
- In the 4th quarter, Rutgers had a starting field position on their own 10 and Indiana started on their own 49.
- The kicking game struggled on punts and kickoffs, obviously being a major contributing factor to the poor starting field position. Michael Cintron averaged just 35.7 yards on 9 punts and had one partially blocked. David Bonagura averaged just 51 yards on five kickoffs, including one that went out of bounds. I know wind was certainly a factor, but both players have struggled in these areas all season.
- Rutgers three touchdowns were on the 68 yard pass from Gio to Andre Patton, the 75 yard fumble recovery by Darnell Davis, and the a four play, 23 yard drive that led to a Gio 1 yard touchdown run after special teams recovered a fumble off the opening kickoff of the 2nd half.
- While the offense couldn’t sustain drives, they couldn’t generate big plays either. There were just four plays on offense that went longer than 20 yards, and three of them took place in the 1st quarter. After Justin Goodwin’s 30 yard rush midway through the 1st, Rutgers didn’t generate a play for more than 12 yards until the last drive of the game, when they trailed by two scores.
- Rutgers ran for just 93 yards on offense on 34 attempts, averaging just 2.7 yards per carry.
There was some positives in the game for the offense. Justin Goodwin followed up on his 149 all-purpose yards on 25 touches against Minnesota with 130 all-purpose yards on 22 touches yesterday. Jawuan Harris caught a career high 8 catches for 81 yards. Gio was able to throw for 258 passing yards, the most for a Rutgers quarterback in a game this season.
However, there were plenty of disappointing moments as well. While Andre Patton did have six receptions for 91 yards and that big touchdown, he had multiple drops, including a potential touchdown in the 4th quarter that would have brought Rutgers within a field goal of Indiana. He leads the team with 5 touchdowns and has had his moments for sure, but Patton has had some big miscues in key situations this season.
With Robert Martin limited to only playing on special teams, you would have thought Josh Hicks would have seen more opportunities to make an impact. That didn’t happen, as Hicks amassed just 5 touches on offense for only 5 all-purpose yards. After Ash has emphasized wanting to get Hicks more involved in the offense, you would have thought it would have been a focus during the bye week. We’ve all seen Hicks rough and tumble running style wear defenses down during games. Despite Goodwin playing well, I still find it perplexing Hicks didn’t have his number called more.
Gio was making just his second career start and played okay. He looked to still be hindered by the hamstring issue, only looking to run late in the game. He made some good throws and took some big hits as well. Overall, the lack of a consistent running game put too much pressure on him to make throws on third and long. That isn’t a winning recipe for any quarterback.
The offensive line continued to struggle and Gio was under pressure from the Indiana defense most of the game. They couldn’t generate much push in the run game either.
Overall, the offense couldn’t generate more than a couple of sustained drives and put too much pressure on the defense to hold off the 3rd best offense in the Big Ten. The defense continued it’s strong play in the red zone and kept Indiana at bay a good portion of the game, despite yielding 576 yards of total offense. Ultimately, the defense wore down as we all feared they would, no longer just bending and Indiana broke them and the game wide open, scoring 20 unanswered 2nd half points to win the game.
Rutgers will look to end their six game losing streak this season and an 11 game conference losing streak overall against Michigan State on the road. The Spartans stand with the same 2-7 record and 0-6 record in Big Ten play. For Rutgers to have any chance to win the game, the offense needs to make significant improvement.