Rutgers has now won back to back Big Ten football games for the first time ever. The Scarlet Knights have now exceeded their win total from last season and sit at 2-2 in the Big Ten standings, tied for fourth place with Michigan. Our staff share their reactions and thoughts to beating Purdue on Saturday.
Cara Sanfilippo: Ahhh. Omg. Yessss. Still celebrating and recovering my heartrate over here. I really didn’t think going in this would happen, and I’m so happy to be wrong. Listen, I know enough about football to know that we definitely could have played better today, especially on offense. There are those on social media that are already complaining about it. But guess what, right now I don’t care. We were 8 point underdogs who beat a team that was close to beating an undefeated, top 5 team last week. Somehow our pieced together secondary managed to somewhat minimize the Boilermakers pass game. The fans represented this week and supported a team that has never given up. I love, and sometimes love to hate, this team and I’m so happy for them. So in the words of Coach Ash, I’m taking 24 hours to celebrate and then we can analyze the areas of improvement: A win is a win is a win, and even if it wasn’t pretty, I’ll take it.
Patrick Mella: Well, a win is a win right? Rutgers did not look good but if you can win the games you don’t perform well in that’s a good sign, no? Outside of the rushing touchdown from Edwards early, there wasn’t much offense to speak of. Give credit to Coach Kill for going back to the Blackshear wheel route after Gio missed him wide open the first time around. I love the toughness of Gio as he did not look 100% out there, but he made the plays that mattered. I think the expression “bend but not break” is a great way to describe this defense. I was disappointed with the lack of pressure on both Purdue quarterbacks but they got the job done. The defensive backs limited big plays and functioned well as a group. Kemoko Turay played okay, but to me if you’re the type of defensive player people are talking about going to the next level, at some point there should be a game where you take over. Don’t get me wrong, he didn’t play poorly by any means, but I find myself waiting for him to absolutely dominate a game the way you’d expect a player to do so with NFL aspirations. But this is a day to be positive and enjoy the win. If you’re Rutgers, you look at this game as one that you were able to get the victory in without playing very well. That should serve as motivation for the team going forward as the schedule only gets more difficult from here. They will surely not be picked as a favorite the rest of the season but that really allows them to play as loosely as possible from here on out. Grab one more win and I think this season (as bleak as it looked a few weeks ago) would be considered productive.
Jim Hoffman: What a lousy homer I am! I picked Rutgers to be beaten by a 23-20 score. Boy, am I glad to be wrong. But anyone in that stadium knows it was a VERY near thing, and it had the feel of defeat being snatched from the jaws of victory yesterday. The offensive production was abysmal. It seemed we were back to last season’s run-run-pass-punt offensive scheme.
However, I was very impressed with both special teams and the defense. Special teams did a great job taking advantage of Ryan Anderson’s strong punting and they stopped any big returns, often pinning Purdue’s offense deep in their own territory. The defense had a definite bend-but-don’t-break mindset, where they seemed to be letting Purdue march down the field time after time, only to stiffen up in the red zone and stop them short of the end zone. I’m thrilled with their work.
If we can somehow get some offensive production, we may be in business here, ladies and gents!
David Brown: Rutgers played extremely well on defense. The secondary was fantastic, especially KJ Gray. Offense is still a big question mark. Though Gus Edwards made an amazing 74 yard run, the offense was very pedestrian. One throw to Blackshear was the only big play through the air and gave RU enough points to win. I need to see more QB play with more passes longer than five yards. Jerry Kill is very conservative and it’s hampering the talents of their athletic receiver core. That’s my main concern is their offense from this point on, but the defense improved tremendously. First back to back B1G wins and least points given up in the B1G for Rutgers. MVP should be the punter Ryan Anderson, who kept Purdue away from the end zone numerous times. Great win for RU.
Bob Cancro: Someone in the comments sections this week, more or less went off of something I said in my prediction. This was a test for Ash. I questioned, maybe I just asked, if he could get this team ready for two weeks in a row and repeat what happened in Illinois. He did. Purdue came in here with a lot of things going for it and we came into the game with a lot of questions. This isn't Chris Ash’s final test, but he passed a really big hurdle this week. He got his team ready to play, and it was a very important win for Rutgers. I'm going to give him credit. It wasn't pretty, but who cares how pretty or ugly it is when you win. Let's all savor this and enjoy it.
Aaron Breitman: I went into detail about how winning ugly is a beautiful thing here, but there are a couple other things that stick out. Rutgers won back to back conference games as the underdog. When is the last time that happened? The last time Rutgers won back to back conference games was in the Big East in 2012, but that team was not an underdog that often. The point being Rutgers just won two games the oddsmakers didn’t figure them to win and that’s satisfying. This is what proving people wrong looks like. Another thing to think about is that the Maryland game is even more important now and it’s a big deal that the game was moved back to High Point Solutions Stadium. Playing in front of your home crowd in your own stadium instead of in a converted baseball field in front of a mixed crowd farther away from the field is a big plus. If Rutgers can beat Maryland, they virtually guarantee they won’t finish in last place in the Big Ten East. Rutgers is 2-2, Maryland is 1-3, and Indiana is 0-4. If Rutgers can win at least three Big Ten games and finish in fifth place, it would be a big step forward this season. It’s possible now and that should be the goal in terms of the next box to check off during this rebuild.