We are going streaking! On homecoming, Rutgers beat Purdue in a hard fought 14-12 victory in which the defense held strong and led the team to its first winning streak since joining the Big Ten in 2014. It is the first time the program has won back to back conference games since 2012. The offense struggled and Purdue outgained Rutgers by 257 yards (474-217), but Jerry Kill’s unit produced two big plays that were the difference in the game.
On just the second snap from scrimmage, running back Gus Edwards broke a tackle and ran free for a 74 yard touchdown. It was exactly the start Rutgers needed after the defense stopped Purdue on their first drive.
The only other notable offense play in the first half was this great call and catch by Nakia Griffin-Stewart on a 3rd and 1. What a one handed grab it was, but it didn’t amount to any points.
As for the defense, credit them for bending, but not breaking. Purdue was just 1 of 8 on 3rd down conversions in the first half and held them both on a goal line stand, as well on a 4th and 2 on the Rutgers 45 yard line. Limiting Purdue to just a field goal in the first half while the offense struggled was so big in keeping Rutgers in the lead at the break.
After both teams traded three and outs on their opening possessions of the second half, the Rutgers offense finally woke up. Jerry Kill opened up the play calling some and Jerome Washington had a huge catch on a play action call on the drive. Robert Martin had a couple big runs as well before the drive stalled on the Purdue 37 yard line and it was 2nd and 20.
After Gio handed off to Gus Edwards, who took it up the middle for just 2 yards, the home faithful started booing the conservative call. It looked like Gio checked down at the line of scrimmage and made the wrong adjustment. Thankfully, on 3rd and 18, he redeemed himself. After stumbling in the first half with Raheem Blackshear wide open on the sidelines, missing a big opportunity, Kill called the same play and this time Gio found Blackshear in stride, who rumbled downfield and into the end zone for a big time touchdown, putting Rutgers up 14-3 midway through the third quarter.
Purdue had some big runs on their next drive, but they stalled in the red zone again and Rutgers held them to another field goal after being inside the 10 yard line.
After Rutgers was conservative the rest of the game, clinging to a 14-6 lead, the defense was tremendous in stopping Purdue when they had to.
Chris Ash opted to punt it away in the Purdue territory early in the 4th quarter, continuing to task his defense to hold the lead. Purdue took over on their own 10 yard line. They ran all over Rutgers once more, until stalling yet again near the red zone at the 30 yard line. Purdue coach Jeff Brohm went for it on 4th down for the third time in the game, this time 4th and 1 and Rutgers stopped them again. After trading non-productive drives again, Purdue threw deep on the first play of the drive and Damon Hayes had a big time interception on the Rutgers 40 yard line.
Gio Rescigno has a lot of guts and was clearly playing at less than 100%. His mobility was limited and when he did try and run, it was clear he wasn’t going to be effective. Offensive coordinator Jerry Kill continued to call a run heavy game that wasn’t very successful, as they averaged just 3.5 yards per carry on 37 attempts.. Despite the struggles on offense, Rutgers won the game behind their defense, which made several big plays and stops when this team needed them most.
While Purdue racked up a lot of yardage, especially on the ground (279 yards), their offense was just 3 of 15 on third down and 1 of 4 on 4th down conversion attempts. They also committed eight penalties for 50 yards, several of them crippling the Purdue offense in key spots. While the Rutgers defense allowed almost 500 yards against the Boilermakers, they made plays when they had to. None were bigger than forcing an incompletion on Purdue’s 2 point conversion attempt with 25 seconds left trying to tie the game.
Ryan Anderson also played a big part as the punter came through with several big, booming kicks to pin Purdue deep in their own territory.
I know people are upset by the conservative play calling in this game, but it was obvious Gio was not healthy. Chris Ash pushed all his chips into the middle of the table and bet on the defense. Rutgers played a field position battle and dared the Purdue offense to beat them. The bottom line is the strategy worked and Rutgers is now 2-2 in Big Ten play and 3-4 overall this season. Both wins against against Illinois and Purdue were ugly, but they were monumental wins in the sense that this program badly needed positive results and proof things are headed in the right direction. This is a big development and much needed boost for recruiting.
There is now hope that Rutgers isn’t done winning conference games this season. Although next week is a tall task playing at Michigan, they will now return home the following week to play Maryland (3-4; 1-3) after the game was switched yesterday from Yankee Stadium back to Piscataway.
It was great to see this team fight hard and capitalize on their momentum from their victory the week before. I picked them to lose in a blowout and I'm thrilled to be wrong. I was most concerned about Rutgers defending the pass and they did a great job in this game. After losing to Ohio State 56-0, this team has shown great character and resolve in bouncing back with two victories.
Rutgers minimized their mistakes (4 penalties, no turnovers) and played tough football. This is a flawed team on offense, but Rutgers found a way to win. They gave the home faithful something to cheer about on Homecoming. There will be plenty more to analyze from this game, but it’s time to savor another Big Ten victory as Rutgers moved to 2-0 in October!