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Rutgers Falls Short In Hard Fought But Disappointing 20-7 Loss To Penn State

The Scarlet Knights had chances to win this game but couldn’t capitalize as disappointing season continues

NCAA Football: Penn State at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Another Saturday resulted in another loss for Rutgers football, who are now 0-8 in Big Ten play and 1-10 overall after a 20-7 loss to #14 Penn State. The team played hard and made it a closer game than expected, but it was still a defeat due to mistakes and a lack of execution. They could have won this game, believe it or not, had they played better in key spots. There were opportunies for Rutgers to pull off the mammoth upset, but were unable to take advantage. Here are some key takeaways from the game.

Offense Unable To Produce Again

Artur Sitkowski had another poor performance, completing 3 of 7 passes for just 18 yards and two interceptions, the second giving Penn State great field position that ultimately led to the first touchdown of the game. He was pulled soon afterwards for senior Gio Rescigno, which was the right call. The offense put together its best drive midway through the third quarter, producing all on the ground, including rushes of 11 yards and 18 yards by Gio, the second of which drew an unsportsmanlike penalty on Penn State. Unfortunately, on fourth and goal from the 2 yard line, a trick play involving Trey Sneed throwing to Gio fell incomplete on a pass he frankly should have caught. It was a great play call but the inability to execute it pretty much summed up the offense in this game and really the entire season. They did score later in the fourth quarter and the run game was effective at times in the second half. Raheem Blackshear and Gio were able to produce some big gains, but ultimately it was too little, too late.

Overall, Rutgers rushed for 188 yards, but just averaged 3.4 yards per carry, while the passing game was non-existent, producing only 46 yards in the game. The three turnovers killed this team, including Isaih Pachecho’s fumble on the next possession after Penn State’s only giveaway of the day.

Defense Played Well

This was a 3-0 game late in the second quarter for one reason, the strong play of the defense. They had held the Penn State offense to under 100 total yards up until that point and was really limiting quarterback Trace McSorley, who started the game just 3 of 13 passing wise. The Rutgers defense forced four punts on Penn State’s first five possessions, including two three and out’s. It wasn’t until Art Sitkowski’s second interception of the half deep in Rutgers territory was the Nittany Lion offense able to get something going. McSorley threw a 6 yard touchdown pass to Pat Freiermuth and on the next possession, PSU kicked its second field goal after being stopped inside the Rutgers five yard line to lead 13-0 at the half.

The defense held up relatively well in the second half and produced a much needed interception after the said missed opportunity by the offense in the third quarter. Isaiah Wharton picked off McSorley at the Rutgers 24 yard line, but same story as the offense couldn’t capitalize. They allowed just 322 total yards in the game and frustrated McSorley for most of it.

Overall, the defense has shown improvement in the second half of the season, but it also leaves questions as to why it performed so poorly earlier this season against teams like Kansas, Buffalo, and Illinois. Still, it was good to see this unit play well against a ranked opponent.

Thank You Seniors

Despite a 1-10 campaign and lots of disappointment in their last season, the senior class for Rutgers football deserves thanks and appreciation for the sacrifices they’ve made during their careers. They came to Rutgers under previous head coach Kyle Flood and stayed through the difficult period that followed, as well as worked to move the program forward under new head coach Chris Ash. It’s safe to say things didn’t turn out the way any of them wanted it to, but every senior handled themselves with class throughout the tough times. It’s was a disappointing result on senior day, but this team continues to play hard, which is a testament to the senior class.

Missed Opportunity

We hoped Rutgers would play better against the top four teams of the Big Ten East this season and this game was the first time they have under Chris Ash so far. Still, a loss is a loss and Rutgers can only blame themselves in a game that they could have made a huge statement. Instead, it’s a footnote in a lost season.

Notable Stats

Gio Rescigno - 2 of 8 for 28 yards; 7 carries for 35 yards

Isaih Pacheco - 18 rushes for 53 yards, 1 fumble

Raheem Blackshear - 22 rushes for 102 yards, 1 TD; 1 catch for 6 yards

Bo Melton - 3 catches for 29 yards

Up next, the season finale at Michigan State next Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on FOX.