At the beginning of the season, there was hope that Rutgers football could take a step forward and be competitive against the top tier teams of the Big Ten. On Saturday, Rutgers couldn’t even stay in the game before halftime against MAC contender Buffalo. After stopping the Bulls on a three and out on the first drive, followed by the offense producing a field goal, the game went downhill fast. Despite intercepting Jackson on a drop by a Buffalo receiver on the following drive, the Scarlet Knights couldn’t capitalize. The opportunity to take control of the game soon passed. The playmaking ability of quarterback Tyree Jackson was then too much for a Rutgers defense that collapsed by the second quarter. With an offense that continued to struggle, it was clear Rutgers had zero chance to come back in the game. Buffalo steamrolled the home team to a 35-6 advantage at the half and ultimately won the game by the final score of 42-13.
To put things in perspective as to how poor this performance was, look at the recruiting rankings comparison that NJ Advance Media’s Keith Sargeant put together in this article according to the 247Sports.com national rankings:
- 2015: Rutgers (56), Buffalo (118)
- 2016: Rutgers (64), Buffalo (118)
- 2017: Rutgers (42), Buffalo (113)
- 2018: Rutgers (57), Buffalo (136)
If there was an ever an indictment of Chris Ash and this coaching staff, it is this. Rutgers had more talent, but played far worse than the visitors. This team looks so uninspired and underperformning so much on the field, it’s depressing to watch.
The Scarlet Knights have now lost to Kansas and Buffalo by a combined score of 97-27.
Buffalo is a team that has elevated its potential by developing its players and being well coached. They are now 4-0, own a victory over a Big Ten team, as well as beat two teams that own wins over the conference. Rutgers is a team that while being young (73% of the roster is redshirt sophomores or younger), is playing its very worst in every phase of the game. Inexperience is one thing, incompetence is another. This team is so poorly coached and unmotivated it truly is scary to ponder what the next two months of games against Big Ten competition will produce.
Give Ash credit for at least having a sense of urgency early on. Rutgers actually went for it on fourth and 1 on the Buffalo 8 yard line on the opening drive, but a false start penalty led to a field goal attempt instead. Justin Davidovicz connected from 31 yards out and was 2-2 on attempts in the game.
In regard to big plays, Buffalo had three touchdowns of 40+ yards and a 59 yard pass that set up another score. On the flip side, Rutgers produced an opening second half drive of 14 plays for 33 yards that resulted in a punt. The Scarlet Knights averaged 4.5 yards on pass plays and 3.1 yards on rushing attempts in the game.
Rutgers produced plenty of frustrating moments. The Scarlet Knights had to call their final timeout of the first half to avoid delay of game on a punt attempt. They committed 9 penalties for 97 yards and was another sign this team is poorly coached. Rutgers was also just 2 of 18 on third down conversions.
Before the season, offensive coordinator John McNulty emphasized the importance of producing big plays and converting on third downs. Rutgers couldn’t do either against Buffalo and hasn’t fared well in either area all season.
The offense looked so inept that they could bring Mike Teel back to run McNulty’s offense and it wouldn’t matter. Artur Sitkowski struggled once again, completing just 6 of 13 passes for 39 yards. He led two drives that resulted in field goals and didn’t turn it over for the first game in his career. However, the offense didn’t look very good with him under center and he was pulled late in the second quarter.
Gio Rescigno took over and was somewhat better, but it took place with Rutgers already trailing by multiple scores. Down 35-13 in the fourth quarter, Rutgers went for it on the Buffalo 7 yard line but Rescigno was sacked. Gio finished the game completing 12 of 24 passes for 129 yards.
Raheem Blackshear ran for 69 yards on 15 attempts for 4.6 yards a rush and the lone touchdown. Jon Hilliman had 10 carries for 36 yards. True freshman Isaih Pacheco was limited by the staff once again, only registering 5 carries for 15 yards. Jerome Washington led all receivers with 3 catches for 62 yards.
The defense put up little resistance in the first half and could not prevent huge gains from the Buffalo offense. There is no doubt that Bulls QB Tyree Jackson is an NFL talent, but Rutgers also gave up rushes of 37 and 42 yards. While the defense played better against Buffalo in the second half, the damage was already done.
What has happened to a unit that improved last season and has the majority of starters back? I understand depth has been depleted and injuries have been an issue, but the tackling is so poor and space is wide open all over the field for the opponent. It’s alarming that the defense has fallen so far backwards under Ash and defensive coordinator Jay Niemann this season.
On the day Buffalo gained 445 yards, while Rutgers produced 284 yards. The Scarlet Knights actually won the turnover battle 2-0, but couldn’t produce any points off of them.
Chris Ash now owns a 0-2 record against MAC teams, having lost at home to Eastern Michigan last season.
Next up, Big Ten play starts in earnest and that’s a scary prospect for this program. Indiana comes to Piscataway for a noon kickoff next Saturday, as the Hoosiers are 3-0 ahead of their matchup against Michigan State tonight. Can Rutgers improve on last year’s result against an Indiana team that beat them 41-0? We will find out soon enough, but how Rutgers has performed so far this season lends little confidence that they will. Today’s game was a huge opportunity for this program to make a statement and they did, just the one we feared the most. This team looks dead in the water with eight games to play.