As I take my third dose of Tums and try to pull myself together after a rollercoaster of a game that ended in a devastating 16-13 loss for Rutgers to Eastern Michigan, here are some quick takeaways.
Offense Struggled Badly
Kyle Bolin had a terrible game, completing just 17 of 37 passes for 197 yards and 2 interceptions. His tendency to stare down receivers, something he had an issue with at Louisville, resulted in a catastrophic turnover that was returned all the way to the Rutgers 5 yard line late in the game after driving inside the EMU 30. While he was able to get Rutgers back down into field goal range on the next drive, he really struggled in this game. Taking a sack as the clock was running out in the game is inexcusable. Major improvement is needed or it will only get worse in Big Ten play.
True freshman Johnathan Lewis played two snaps, handing one off and getting sacked on the second play. It may only be a matter of time before Ash and Kill decide to hand over the reigns to Lewis and let him gain experience in what could be another lost season.
The running game wasn't great and struggled badly in the first half, as they continued trying to run up the middle and weren't very successful. Jerry Kill did a good job adjusting and running outside in the second half, but not establishing a consistent ground game in the first half was a major problem. Robert Martin looked better than Gus Edwards and rushed for 68 yards on 13 carries, averaging his normal 5.2 yards per rush that he has for his career. Edwards was decent, but other than his 23 yard TD run, he averaged just 3 yards per carry on his other 11 rushes in the game.
Defense Played Well Again
One of the few positives is the defense performed well again. They held EMU to just 4 of 17 on third down conversions and QB Brogan Roback was just 19 of 36 passing. He did throw for 260 yards and a touchdown, but the Rutgers defense held strong on three goal line stands, as EMU settled for two field goals and had the third attempt blocked. The bottom line is the defense played well and Rutgers didn't lose because of them.
Sebastian Joseph Was A Beast
The fifth year senior had a forced fumble for the only turnover of the game for EMU and blocked the field goal attempt with less than two minutes left to play. It was great to see such a passionate and well liked player step up in a big way.
Penalties Were A Killer
After only committing just 2 penalties against Washington, Rutgers had 9 penalties for 88 yards. None were worse than captain Dorian Miller committing a hands to the face penalty for 15 yards with 15 seconds left and Rutgers on the EMU 25 yard line. It pushed them out of field goal range and Bolin was sacked on the last play of the game. Terrible finish.
Janarion Grant Has Shaken Off The Rust
He led the team with 8 catches for 91 yards receiving and also had a 25 yard punt return. It was great to see him look more like himself before last season's injury and was more involved down the stretch of this game. However, Kill needs to get him more involved, as he had two early catches for 40 yards and then didn't make an impact again until the 4th quarter. One consolation in this loss is that Rutgers fans at least have Grant to look forward to the rest of the way.
It's Going To Be A Long Season
Last week, Rutgers surprised a lot of people by playing better than expected against a top ten team in Washington. Today, they came out flat, exactly as I feared they would, and laid a major egg at home against a team from the MAC. There is no other way to sum up this game other than a horrific loss for the program. This was likely only game Rutgers will be favored in this season versus the spread, as next week's opponent, Morgan State, is an FCS school and there will be no line. Of course, this team can improve and there are potential games they can still win this season, but all of a sudden there is a real concern this team won't improve on their 2-10 record from last year.