This game was a roller coaster and I think I experienced every emotion that is possible during the course of a football game. So many thoughts, good and bad, as Rutgers suffers a gut wrenching loss to Iowa 14-7. Here are some brutally honest, off the cuff, knee jerk reactions to the Big Ten opener.
We all went through the full spectrum of emotions on the bubble screen Janarion Grant caught and ran 77 yards down to the Iowa 5 yard line late in the 2nd quarter. What was a thrilling, spell binding run quickly turned into a horror scene, when All-American Desmond King accidentally stepped on Grant’s leg/ankle at the end of the play. It looked ugly and he was soon carted off the field. He was on the sideline on crutches with what appeared to be a cast on his foot and ankle in the second half. He looked devastated and it’s obvious the best case scenario is that he only misses a few games. It could be much worse and we don’t know the actual diagnosis as of yet. No matter the outcome of this game, losing Grant for an extended period of time is worst case scenario for Rutgers and overshadowed whatever the final result ended up being.
With that being said, it sure as heck would have been a satisfying win and would have at least given this team and fan base something to celebrate. Instead, we are left to lament what might have been. Rutgers started on the Iowa 5 after the Grant catch and called four consecutive runs by the quarterback. Freshman Tylin Oden, who played a few snaps on several drives, was stuffed on back to back carries on 1st and 2nd down. Chris Laviano returned and on 4th down, had Jawuan Harris on his left open, but instead of pitching it to him, he kept it and was stopped inches short of the goalline. It was certainly an insult to injury that Rutgers could not even score after Grant’s play of the game. The fact is game conditions speed things up too quickly for Laviano and his decision making sputters, unable to adjust. He was too indecisive throughout the game, something that has plagued him all season.
I don’t dislike Rutgers going for it there on 4th and goal and Chris Ash was visibly upset about Laviano’s poor decision making on that play when interviewed at the start of the second half. Laviano actually missed three touchdowns today and that simply cannot happen with your quarterback. He missed Harris on all three, overthrowing him in the end zone in the first half and overthrowing him on a deep ball in the second half. Harris would have scored on all three, including the pitch that never was, and it was the difference in this game.
The defensive line in particular, played a spirited game and created consistent pressure on Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard throughout the day. The defense held the talented signal caller to just 12-23 for 162 yards and 1 touchdown. I would have easily signed up for those numbers before the game. Julian Pinnix-Odrick had another stellar performance and picked up a huge sack late in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. He now has 4.5 sacks on the season.
Rutgers once again showed a ton of fight and heart in this game. It’s encouraging and a team with less character would have easily folded after Grant went down. After Iowa responded with a 99 yard touchdown drive when Rutgers turned it over on downs at the 1, the Hawkeyes led 7-0 and had the ball to start the second half. The Rutgers defense kept them in the game and the offense did get into a rhythm towards the end of the 3rd quarter.
Robert Martin was solid, rushing for 106 yards on 21 carries and had a big catch for 19 yards that moved the chains on a key drive in the second half. He should have gotten his number called more in my opinion, instead of some QB runs. Justin Goodwin came up big during the only touchdown drive of the game and he finished with 74 yards rushing on 11 carries. Despite leaving the game before halftime, Grant led Rutgers with 5 catches and 98 yards receiving. Andre Patton continued to be a red zone threat, catching a clutch pass from Laviano on third down for a 14 yard touchdown. Juwuan Harris can only wonder what could have been if Laviano had connected with him even once. He will surely be a major focus on offense moving forward.
Patton fumbled the game away deep in Rutgers territory with about 9 minutes to play. It was a questionable call that was surprisingly not reviewed. Iowa’s Akrum Wadley, from Newark, New Jersey, ran for a 26 yard touchdown soon after and that was pretty much the ballgame.
I didn’t expect Rutgers to hang in this game with Iowa and they certainly gave a great effort in the conference opener. Even still, this game was there for the taking and Rutgers simply missed too many opportunities to put points on the board. Rutgers actually outgained Iowa in total yards from scrimmage 383-355, but they couldn’t finish.
Quarterback play continues to hold this team back and even more questions exist now that Grant is out for the foreseeable future. It was encouraging that this team came to play today in front of a relatively strong crowd, although the life was sucked out of the fans after Grant was carted off. Quanzell Lambert was also carted off late in the game, which would be a significant loss for the defensive line if he misses time. The crowd awoke in the 4th quarter but it wasn’t enough to push Rutgers through. All in all, another Rutgers football game has left me and all of you completely gutted. Ohio State awaits in Columbus on their Homecoming next Saturday. #PrayForJanarion.
For Chris Ash’s post-game press conference, click here.