Coach Chris Ash spoke to the media Monday in preparation for this week’s battle against the Spartans from East Lansing, Michigan. The fans, though, are not as excited as ticket prices are dirt cheap. The opening line in Vegas lists Rutgers as more than two touchdown underdogs.
Ash was disappointed with this past week’s loss to Indiana, but he is always looking forward and staying as positive as he could be.
On top of Coach Ash having his game week press conference, both of the coordinators, Drew Mehringer (Offense) and Jay Niemann (Defense) also spoke to the media Monday afternoon.
Coach Chris Ash
Coach Ash started off his press conference by giving kudos to the defense even though the stats may not have said they are deserving of such praise. Ash loved how the defense played well against the run which is what they planned on all week long. There were only two really big runs, one late in the game and one via the wildcat early on. Outside of that there really were not too many large runs for Indiana.
Coach Ash said that Isaiah Wharton, despite his struggles Saturday, is still his guy. Wharton got called for a few penalties and gave up some catches, but he is progressing and Ash is looking for him to progress further.
Lastly, Ash said he loved how the defense went out there and blocked a field goal and a punt. It may seem like special teams but Coach Ash said that those plays were the defense and he loved their effort.
As far as the Spartans of Michigan State are concerned, Ash is looking forward to playing them. Despite their 2-7 record, Ash is not overlooking them. They are coming off of a year where they made the College Football Playoff and they are coached very well by Coach Dantonio.
Heading into the questions, Ash got asked about the field position battle and how it is hurting the team. Ash said that is what it is. Special teams is a battle of field position. As of right now, it is not where Rutgers wants it to be. They need to start in better position and force the opposition to start further back on the field, too.
Saquan Hampton played the most against Indiana since getting injured week one against Washington. Ash loves his potential but acknowledges that it hasn’t shown too much yet due to his injury. Ash is really high on Hampton and expects big things from him in his years of eligibility he has left.
Coach Ash got asked how he feels, despite the struggles, about the fight this team has week in and week out. Ash said that the effort from his team has been everything. This team never stops competing and the execution will start to show as time goes on.
Lastly, Ash was asked about the running back group. This group was supposed to be a strong point for this team, but, so far, there has only been one rushing touchdown by running backs. Ash said that the backs and the offensive line need to execute come game day because he knows they are both good units that can produce.
Ash loves the production Justin Goodwin has given in Robert Martin’s absence. While Ash said Goodwin had a good game and not a great game against the Hoosiers, he said he was happy with the production overall. It all comes down to execution on game day which has been an issue for this team this season.
Offensive Coordinator Drew Mehringer
Drew Mehringer started off his press conference by stating that third downs are essential. Rutgers needs to do a better job against Michigan State in order to win. Mehringer said that the running backs are not producing the way he desires with the lone touchdown from the unit. He says the offensive line needs to play better in order to open up the run game so they could be successful.
Tylin Oden update. Tylin did not play against Indiana but Mehringer said his opportunity just was not there against Indiana. It simply did not make much sense to throw him into the game just for the sake of letting him play, therefore, he did not play.
Mehringer said that they have been trying to create more backfield passes to the running backs such as screens. They ran a few against Indiana so it is starting to come little by little. If utilized right, this could be huge for the offense.
The key to this game is vision. Mehringer used a Coach Ash term ‘eye violations.’ Players need to keep their eyes up and focused. If there are eye violations, especially against the Spartan pass rush, it will be a long game that Rutgers will probably lose.
Defensive Coordinator Jay Niemann
Jay Niemann said that no matter who is behind center for Michigan State Saturday, the preparation is the same. He does not foresee much changes in play calling or anything from Coach Dantonio.
Niemann said the defense worked over the bye week to get better coverage and reading offenses. It is not where it needs to be yet but progress is certainly being made.
The jump balls are an issue. Niemann said that they have been working on these kind of plays so Rutgers does not lose so many 50-50 balls. They are 50-50 balls for a reason. They have gotten some go their way, but, against Indiana, they lost most battles. He expects the corners to have a short memory and play the way they normally do.
With the linebackers finally playing better and healthier, Niemann said this Indiana game was one of the best games the unit played all year. Niemann is careful to add new defensive schemes this week because it can cause confusion and big plays as a result.
Michigan State has people moving everywhere. Adding in more defense could be a recipe for disaster. They are trying to improve on what they are already doing before they add anything in unless it is a calculated thought that is game-specific.
Lastly, Niemann said he is looking for consistency from his safeties when rotating them. Playing them in a rotation allows each of them to improve each week. Reps are essential and these safeties will continue to grow.
Michigan State is a huge game for this team. It is in East Lansing and both teams are struggling. Rutgers almost beat the Spartans in Piscataway last year if some quarterback did not spike the ball on fourth down.
This game should be competitive and entertaining. Despite the low ticket sales and prices mentioned above, these teams are both looking for a conference win to almost kind of salvage their season a little bit.
It will not be easy, but watching progress in action sure is fun. This team fights and they will fight this Saturday.
Lets go Knights, beat the Spartans