Rutgers dropped a heartbreaking game to the Iowa Hawkeyes on Saturday, by a score of 14-7. While Rutgers definitely had opportunities to win this game, they collectively came up short and sent the fans home unhappy. Here are some of my takeaways from the game.
The coaching staff struggled
I guess you could consider it a positive that the coaches did not do a very good job and the team almost beat a ranked conference opponent. At the end of the game, Ash made a controversial decision to go for it on 4th and 2 instead of kicking a field goad. He made this decision with no timeouts in his pocket, which he burned wayyyy too early. He took his third timeout with about 13 minutes left in the game and took two of them early in the 3rd quarter. Drew Mehringer also had a rough game. Rutgers had 1st and goal from the 3 and wound up getting stuffed on 4th down. He put Tylin Oden in to start and then brought in Chris Laviano. Not once did Robert Martin get a chance to punch it in and not once did they try to throw it to a big body. Having Chris Laviano run the speed option on 4th and goal is not ideal either. Going off that, the QB rotation was not very smart. It was too obvious that Tylin Oden wasn’t going to throw the ball and Iowa never respected Chris Laviano on the read option and were able to sell out on the running back and make more stops.
Rutgers actually looks like a B1G team
The biggest positive about this game is that Rutgers finally looks like they are a true B1G team. They played against Iowa (if that counts for anything) in a low-scoring game. They played great defense and ran the ball very well. Despite the announced attendance of 44,061, the crowd was loud and definitely made a difference. This game was also incredibly even between the two teams. Rutgers barely out-gained Iowa 383-355 and had 21 first downs to Iowa’s 19. They also barely out-possesed Iowa, with a time of possession of 30:41. Many people expected a typical Rutgers blowout loss but credit the team for playing a gritty game and never giving up.
Everyone needs to do better getting to the game
The students get a lot of crap for not showing up to the game on time and rightfully so. However, the fan base as a whole has to do a better job of getting to their seats on time. I’m sure Bob will have more on this later, but I can’t imagine how deflating it is as a player to run out to a 1⁄4 full student section and tons of empty seats everywhere else in the stadium.
The defense flashed its potential
The defense really stood out today especially in passing situations. The corners seemed to do much better in man coverage and were breaking up lots of passes. Kiy Hester had 10 tackles, 1 TFL, and broke up 2 passes. He continues to shine in the absence of starting FS Saquan Hampton. Trevor Morris also had a very strong game, adding 8 tackles and a huge sack in the 4th quarter. The defense as a whole was very strong and did not wear down. They locked down Iowa in the 4th quarter, with the exception of a running touchdown on a short field. They only had one bad drive, when Iowa went 99 1⁄2 yards to score a touchdown right before halftime. Besides that, they looked much improved from the previous 3 weeks, and allowed no big plays.
Tylin Oden is being groomed
Chris Laviano hadn’t done anything wrong and was not injured when Tylin Oden came into the game in the first half. They ran the option with him but did not let him throw the ball. It is clear they want the ball in his hands more going forward. When asked why they wouldn’t let him throw, Chris Ash said “He can run and pass, but right now we're doing what we feel he is most comfortable with.” The fact that he got playing time early in a close conference game speaks volumes about what the coaches expect from him. However, as Drew Mehringer said after the game, “Tylin, and bless his heart, he just doesn’t have enough ass behind him to punch it in.” He’s still about 30 pounds away from being able to play extensively and still isn’t smart enough throwing the ball, but it is clear that he is the guy they want running this offense.