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OTB Staff Round Table: Reactions To Rutgers Beating Illinois & Ending B1G Losing Streak

Rutgers v Illinois Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Rutgers won their first Big Ten game in almost two years and ended a 16 game conference losing streak on Saturday with a 35-24 victory over Illinois. A few of our contributors got together to talk about what this win means and how Rutgers needs to build off of it moving forward, starting with Purdue at home next week.

Jim Hoffman: My first thought was, “Well, it’s about time!” But seriously, it is good to be able to feel good at the end of a conference game again. There were errors, for sure, but I was impressed by several things today. First, Gio did a great job. His ability to run kept the defense off-balance, and he was pretty accurate in his throws as well. Next, the offensive line was really able to get some movement, and man-handled the Illini defense throughout the day. It was good to see the combo of “Gus the Bus” Edwards bulling his way, and Raheem Blacksheer juking his way down the field. I was glad to see Robert Martin made up for his early fumble by scoring a TD in the second half. When needed, punter Ryan Anderson demonstrated his powerful leg, and was one of the best pick-ups this year. Finally, kudos to Jawuan Harris on his interception. Harris, who is not only a two-sport (baseball and football) athlete, he can play well on both sides of the ball, as a cornerback as well as wide receiver. I can barely wave bye-bye!

Now, there are still concerns. After seeing him in a couple of games, Janarion Grant is not the same player he was before the Iowa game last year. There are still too many mental errors in almost every group, and the secondary was fairly porous today, (we miss you, Blessuan!). Finally, I sure hope Gio’s leg is OK for next week. Seeing him fall after completing a pass due to the pain in his right leg was very upsetting. But, now I’m ready to see how we do against Purdue next week!

Aaron Breitman: A win is a win is a win. Rutgers committed too many penalties and turnovers, but this team needed to start somewhere. It's a lot better to win without playing your best and learn in the process than the alternative.

Raheem Blackshear is an exciting weapon and looks like a big recruiting win for this staff. Time to give him more carries and to set up screens for him in the passing game because he can flat out fly.

Seeing Jawuan Harris step up like he did and come through for his teammates was great to see as well. With Kiy Hester and Saquan Hampton out for this game, Harris and K.J. Gray came up with interceptions in their absence and played pretty well. Having players rise up when they are needed is something that happens on good teams and this was a start for Rutgers.

Gio is all guts and no caution, which isn't a good thing. I just don’t see him as a sustainable option because he takes a beating with the way he runs. Can Harris teach him how to slide? No doubt he brings an intangible asset in getting the offense to operate better and I personally like him, but I still think not getting Lewis more involved in this game was a mistake for down the road. (NOTE: Jerry Kill said Monday that Lewis tweaked his ankle last week and was limited in the game as a precaution). The reckless way Gio plays, he’ll be lucky to make it to November.

I think Rutgers can run on Purdue regardless of who is under center. It's going to a tough game, but it's another big opportunity for Rutgers to show improvement by winning. They’ll need more from the passing game and hopefully Jerome Washington is healthier for next week. It was great to see Janarion Grant have that big reception, but they need to get him more involved.

Picking up another 3-star recruit for the 2018 class on Friday and winning this game brings much needed positive energy back to the program. If they can build on this with another win against Purdue and or Maryland, the narrative shifts in a positive way, as there would be real proof that progress is actually occurring. Passing this test had to happen first and now it's time to build on it in order to keep things moving forward.

Bob Cancro: Okay everybody, 24 hour rule. Celebrate, jump up and down, take deep breaths into paper bags. It's a win. It's a conference win. It breaks the unbelievably painfully long losing streak. We should all be very satisfied, very pleased with this. Regardless of how many mistakes were made (three fumbles lost) it is a win. The fact that Illinois is playing 12 year old’s, and is a worse team, perhaps, than Rutgers doesn't mean anything. We won. The rest of this reaction is really about Chris Ash and what he does with this. Purdue is a better team than Illinois, but it isn't Ohio State.. It is doing pretty well this year. But it's the kind of game that can be a season and program changer if you can win. Chris Ash now has to take this team and turn it around in seven days and say, "Do it again". I am very pleased that we won today. But now I want to see what happens next week. A close loss is just a loss. A close win, on the other hand, is a very big statement. Let's make it happen.

Patrick Mella: Everyone from the players, to the staff, to the alumni and fans in general needed this win. Regardless of the quality of Illinois this year, Big Ten wins, especially on the road, are never a given. The change at quarterback was felt immediately. From the start Gio looked comfortable and poised even when under duress although he’s going to need the ice bath after the beating he took. Gus Edwards and Raheem Blackshear looked like a true thunder and lightning combination with a sprinkling of Josh Hicks and Robert Martin to boot. The offensive isn’t always sexy looking but when it produces the way it did today, you’d take it every game. Actually, I really should’ve brought up the offensive line first. They got thoroughly pushed around in the Ohio State game, but were able to impose their will on the Illinois defensive line. The wide receivers are still struggling but this isn’t an offense that relies heavily on the passing game (regardless of quarterback). Janarion Grant looked eh ok, I guess? He may still be dealing with injuries because he just doesn’t look the same. The defense did a great job holding Illinois rushing to 86 yards rushing but did allow over 300 passing yards. Some of that was in garbage time but it still counts on the stat sheet. Purdue is up next, coming off a close loss to Wisconsin. But for at least one day let’s all enjoy this victory.

RutgersNation: Wins in the Big Ten are tough to come by, especially on the road, and while Illinois is certainly not the toughest opponent, a win is a win. The game was certainly sloppy at times, but there were many positive takeaways as well. As expected we needed a solid run game, and to eliminate their passing game to come away with a win and that is exactly what we did. The Scarlet Knights offense rushed for 274 yards while allowing 308 yards in the air. Illinois QB Jeff George Jr. had some success throwing the ball in the second half, but much of that was when the game was no longer in doubt. Hats off to quarterback Gio Rescigno who went 5 of 10 passing for 89 yards while also rushing for 41 yards on 7 carries. As the newly anointed starter he showed tremendous poise and was able to make plays with his legs keeping drives alive. I would still like to see more time from Johnathan Lewis to develop his game. His redshirt has already been burned and I would like to see him get more playing time to get him ready for next season. Defensively we were able to put pressure on the quarterback and while the secondary looked porous at times, they came away with two important takeaways. Hats off to Jawuan Harris who was moved to the defensive side of the ball for this game registering an interception, a forced fumble, and 11 tackles. Lets hope we can build on this momentum heading into Purdue.

How are you feeling the day after the victory? Sound off in the comments.