Rutgers ended their eleven game losing streak with a 65-0 victory over Morgan State on Saturday afternoon. While this win doesn’t erase the disappointment of last week’s loss to Eastern Michigan, today’s performance was exactly what Rutgers needed. They were dominant on both sides of the ball, a few true freshmen made some big plays, and they gained some confidence ahead of next week’s Big Ten opener at Nebraska. Here are a few takeaways from today win.
Johnathan Lewis Shows Potential In First Extended Action
Lewis wasn’t perfect, with the botched handoff at the goalline an example, as he confused which side Raheem Blackshear was running, but overall he showed that he has the potential to be an exciting and efficient player for Rutgers. The true freshman ran for four touchdowns and throwing for another, showing off his dual threat ability.
He became the first Rutgers player to rush for four touchdowns since Ray Rice did it in the 2008 International Bowl. It was very important for Lewis to get a lot of time in this game and overall, he did well. Lewis finished with 11 carries for 58 yards for 5.3 yards per carry and was 2 of 2 throwing the ball, although the second pass went for a 6 yard loss. Former Rutgers signal caller Ray Lucas said during the telecast that “his potential is enormous.” For a full breakdown of how the entire freshman class performed in the game, click here.
Kyle Bolin Played Well
After struggling badly last week and Rutgers punting on the first two possessions he led in this game, Bolin bounced back and made some great throws in the contest. His touchdown pass to Jerome Washington was thrown where no one else could catch it and he connected on a 48 yard pass play to Bo Melton, the first catch in the true freshman’s Rutgers career.
Bolin played less than Lewis did, but that was by design to get him more experience. Overall, Bolin was 11 of 17 for 141 yards and one touchdown in the game. I don’t think Lewis did enough to take over the starting job next week, especially because this wasn’t a Big Ten defense he was facing, and Bolin certainly needed this game as a confidence boost. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Lewis get a chance to start some of his own drives next week at times against Nebraska, but we’ll have to see what the coaches say leading up to that game. Without a doubt, Lewis needs to be involved each week moving forward.
The Defense Dominated As They Should Have
Morgan State was shut out in their first two games against FCS competition, so holding them scoreless today is no surprise. However, Rutgers needed to do it and the defense played well the entire game. They held Morgan State to 145 total yards, 6 first downs and 4 turnovers. The rush defense continued to be a strength, as they allowed just 2.2 yards per carry. Some younger players got some action too and true freshman Tyshon Fogg had his first interception late in the game. For our David Anderson’s full review of the defense, click here.
Special Teams Improving
A blocked punt late in the first half was great to see, but especially because Rutgers was aggressive in sending the house to make it happen. It was a high snap, but three players were quickly on the punter, who had no chance on the play. True freshman Hunter Hayek got there first.
In addition, Andrew Harte made a 39 yard field goal and is now 3 of 4 in attempts this season. With Big Ten play starting next week, Rutgers needs consistent play from their special teams unit and they’ve had two solid performances in a row after a subpar effort in the opener against Washington.
Raheem Blackshear Had A Big Game
The true freshman also got the first extended action of his career and played very well, showcasing his speed. Blackshear rushed for 102 yards on 12 carries and two touchdowns, while also making two catches for 30 yards. His second score was an impressive 33 yard run after making a cut to sprint down the sideline. With the news that Trey Sneed will redshirt this year, and Josh Hicks fumbling in this game, Blackshear cemented being third in line at running back behind Gus Edwards and Robert Martin. He is an exciting player to have on this roster and start thinking about the potential of him running behind Lewis on a regular basis next season.
A Positive Step Forward But...
It was nice to see Rutgers finally put together a complete performance and dominate an opponent the entire game, something they’ve struggled to do against FCS competition in recent years. However, we really don’t know what to expect from this team in Big Ten play. If Rutgers can play closer to how they performed in the 16 point loss to Washington and the offense can continue to improve, then they can hopefully win a couple of Big Ten games, possibly more. Remember, Northwestern lost to a MAC school in Western Michigan and a FCS school in Western Illinois last season, but still finished with a winning record. There are still nine games to play this season for Rutgers. Next week’s Big Ten opener against Nebraska on the road will tell us a lot more about this team than this win. The Cornhuskers lost today by the way, also falling to a MAC opponent, suffering a 21-17 defeat to Northern Illinois. After losing 11 straight games, we can all take a breath and hope Rutgers can keep improving.
One More Thing
A very cool thing happened in this game, as the first female referee officiated the contest. After Rutgers won the first ever college football game, it seems appropriate this piece of history happened at the birthplace as well.
Amanda Sauer has a great story, and it has so much more to do with than being the first female referee. pic.twitter.com/MdjP11jKlA— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) September 16, 2017