The Ash era had a tough beginning today against the ranked Washington Huskies out in Seattle. Though the game was quickly out of reach, there were many glimpses of what Chris Ash ultimately expects. A no-huddle offense that moves the ball by means of runs, short passes, and trickery showed glimpses of what the future under this staff will bring.
However, those glimpses were not enough to impact the score. The first four Washington possessions resulted in scores and by the end of the first quarter the score was 24-0. Washington throughout the day demonstrated why they are considered contenders for not only the Pac-12 title, but even a contender for playoff consideration.
Fans of the Scarlet Knights may be happy that they did not have access to the Pac-12 Network, as it was never in doubt who was the stronger team on the field. Quarterback Chris Laviano was sacked four times in the first half alone, though one ended up not counting as a result of a penalty against Washington.
Punter Michael Cintron, who had a very busy first half, was very effective after an initial wobbly kick, and kicked one as long as 52 yards early in the 2nd quarter.
While there is plenty of blame to go around, anyone watching should remember that this is the first game by a new coach using players recruited for a different system, and a game played after a cross-country trip. While this was the expected outcome, the reality of it was a painful process to watch.
By the second quarter, it seemed Rutgers had settled down. After a magnificent 4th down defensive stand at the Rutgers 6 yard line, Rutgers took possession and moved the ball downfield well until they stalled at the Washington 27 yard line, surrendering the ball after going for it on 4th and 12.
Josh Hicks entered the game in the second quarter and quickly had two nice runs, and even a caught a pass. This moved Rutgers enough to score David Bonagura’s first college FG, and eliminated the possibility of a shutout by the Huskies.
Washington answered with a 93 yard kickoff return to make the score 31-3, and tacked on another field goal to end the half at 34-3.
The second half began well for Rutgers, with the Huskies playing conservatively and Rutgers again trying out some unusual formations, including Janarion Grant quarterbacking a few times, and gained a couple of first downs that way.
Anthony Cioffi intercepted a Washington pass but a bad snap on third down led to another punt. Washington returned the punt for yet another TD. In the following Rutgers possession Laviano threw a pass which was intercepted and led to a seventh Washington TD. At the end of the 3rd quarter, the Huskies led 48-3.
It was obvious that Ash did not want to attempt field goals. However, in the fourth quarter, Rutgers capped off a 17-play drive with a second short Bonagura field goal. Weaknesses abounded throughout the game, and special teams had a very difficult day as well.
The second half scoring for the most part was a result of Rutgers breakdowns, rather than Washington overpowering the Scarlet Knights. While this may be good news for the future, it was still difficult to watch those breakdowns play out on the field as the game progressed.
Mid-way through the 4th quarter, with many of the Washington starters sitting on the bench, Rutgers was finally able to score a TD, making the final score 48-13.
Another positive was seeing Trey Sneed enter the game as a running back. Though he did not gain a lot of yards, seeing a true freshman enter in “garbage time” means that the staff expect to see him in more critical times as the season progresses.
Rutgers was held to an average of three yards per play today, which is a tough stat to swallow. However, the team as a whole grew as the game progressed, and after a horrific first quarter, where everything went wrong, the remainder of the game’s scoring was 24-13.
Again, while this was a rough initial outing by the Scarlet Knights, there is definitely hope for the future. How the team deals with this loss will determine their future this season and beyond.