After Rutgers defeated UMass 48-21 on Friday night, head coach Chris Ash met with the media to discuss the team’s season opening performance. We reviewed the good, bad, and ugly from the come from behind victory and Ash commented on some of those areas. There are plenty of things that Rutgers needs to work on, but at least they figured it out enough to win this night after a first quarter that seemed like they probably wouldn’t, if you we are being honest. Ash had to be somewhat relieved and seemed to be when even allowed for an extra question to be asked after the cutoff time. Hopefully, Ash will have several other press conferences this season that are as positive as this one.
He discussed such topics as McLane Carter’s debut, the outlook regarding Artur Sitkowski, the improved offense overall, how the team came back and thoughts on specific players.
You can watch the entire postgame presser presented by RVision here:
Here is the full transcript of the postgame presser:
Go ahead and get started here. I’d like to first just thank the fans that showed up tonight, especially the student section. That was outstanding, and if we can do that every game, they are an X-factor, a difference maker.
When we got down 14-0 with the fans into the game the way they were, obviously it keeps our team energized, and we continue to play hard and came back because of that. So fans were great. Student section was awesome.
Really want to thank our players, as well. You get down 14-0 the first game, you obviously start the game off on a negative note. The fact that they stayed together, they believed and they kept fighting and we went on a 48-7 run there after the first five minutes, that was pretty impressive by them, and the staff, as well, sticking together and keeping the players together. Great job by all those guys.
Obviously we had a statue open up today, the victory statue, from the Garutti family. Great way to celebrate that unveiling with a victory on the opening night. It was good.
A lot of things we’ve got to clean up, especially things that happened in the beginning of the game. You know, defensively, the tempo got us, some of the new plays, when you play a first game with a new staff, there was some things that they did a really nice job. They got us and kept us off guard a little bit early in the game and we didn’t play well out of the gate.
We had a couple missed tackles, mental errors and penalties killed you us in the first half, especially a couple critical ones on third down. But we overcame it, controlled it, didn’t let the situation control us and rebounded.
Offensively, I think you got a chance to see some of the potential we have on offense. Obviously didn’t start out great with the interception right out of the gate but McLane Carter ended up playing a pretty good game a pretty good stretch there during the game. Got to clean up the turnovers. Had three of them, minus one on the evening and that’s not what we want. That’s not going to get it done as we move forward. But to be able to finish the night the way he did with 340 yards of passing, a couple touchdowns, that’s pretty good. It’s really good.
Isaih Pacheco, 156 yards; Raheem Blackshear, 126 yards receiving, 39 yards rushing, all-purpose yards, was really impressive. Those are two of our top players. I think you saw those guys on display.
Big-time game by Bo Melton tonight, 127 yards and a touchdown. Just really, really happy with his development and it’s a great start to the season with what he did tonight. But really just happy for our players. When you go 1-11 and it’s been a long time since we’ve been able to celebrate a game, and we’ll celebrate this one, but we’ll get back to work on Sunday.
The players are off tomorrow and we’ll get back after it on Sunday. We have a lot of things to clean up and we’ve got a very, very tough opponent, Big Ten opener on the road next week, and we’ve got to get back to work.
What I really liked, though, is the attitude of the players. They are happy that we won, but not satisfied with the way that we played in some areas. Some of them are really impressive but others we’ve got to get cleaned up. With that, I’ll go ahead and open it up for questions.
Q. What went into your decision to start McLane?
CHRIS ASH: I think with you watch the game, you probably saw. He has the ability to extend plays. He’s got poise in the pocket and a lot of that is just because he’s a fifth-year guy. He’s an older guy. You’re talking about a guy that’s 22, 23 years old, been in college, going on his fifth year, but just the experience, the poise.
It was a very, very difficult decision, but again, we didn’t rush the decision, and as it continued to unfold as we went through camp, McLane edged Art out and you know, I think again you saw the potential on display tonight in some of the things that we saw in camp, especially on the back half of camp.
Q. What does it mean for Art’s future?
CHRIS ASH: Art is in a great spot. It’s going to be, you know, game-by-game on how the offense is going. Obviously the question would be in a best case scenario, would we be able to redshirt Art? Yeah, best case scenario, yeah, we would love to have those conversations. It’s not the plan right now. Art is going to prepare as he is a starter and we’ll be ready to go at any moment if needed.
Art’s development from last year at this time to this year has been tremendous. The game has really slowed down for him. He is a much better quarterback and I would have no worries about him going out and leading our offense right now. McLane is just a little bit better and that’s why we made the decision.
Q. Late in the first half, 32 seconds left, to send your offense back out there with a ten-point lead to try to score, that speaks to the confidence you must have had even at that point?
CHRIS ASH: Well, we needed to get that work, as much as anything. You know, any time you can get two-minute, end-of-the-half game work early in the season, you want to get it. But yeah, we did have confidence in our ability to hopefully go down and get some more points.
Q. You mentioned the 14-0 deficit and maybe in the last couple years that, would have been a death sentence for your team. Why was it different this time around?
CHRIS ASH: The players. Simple as that. They believe. They want to fight and play for each other, and you know, that’s what it’s all about. It’s the mindset of the players. They never question and never doubted. We knew -- they knew we got off to a bad start and we knew it was us as much as anything.
Again, give credit to UMass, Coach Bell, offensively for a couple of things they did, and a lot of it was our own mistakes and as soon as we cut those out, obviously the game changed.
Q. You mentioned Bo Melton. What went into that break out performance?
CHRIS ASH: Hard work. That’s. It hard work. The kid has matured, he’s developed and he’s worked extremely hard. There’s no secret sauce. There’s no secret pill. There’s no secret formula to it. He knew where he was after last season. He wasn’t happy with it. He knew what he needed to do to help his team and that was to improve and develop, and the only way he was going to do it was work extremely hard.
And that’s exactly what that kid has done since the last game last year. He started right away the week after we played Michigan State, getting back in the weight room, getting back out, running routes, working on his skills and really, really pleased and happy the way he started the season.
Now he’s got to continue this. It can’t be a one-game deal. He’s got to continue this and we have to continue to get big plays out of him, but it’s because of his hard work.
Q. Defense, four personal fouls, is that a concern for you?
CHRIS ASH: They were aggressive penalties that you don’t want, but they were aggressive penalties that we can’t have, as well. We just have to make better decisions. You know, when you’re out on a game -- in a game, there’s a lot of talking back and forth. There’s a lot of pushing and shoving.
What happens is always the last guy that does it is the guy that’s gets caught and we’ve got to make better decisions. We’ve got to play with better discipline and more poise defensively. We can’t go out there and get, whatever, three or four personal fouls in a game, especially the critical situations they happened. One was on third down and one was at the end of first half. Tyreek had one, Avery had one and Damon had one end of the first half where they were kicking off at the 50-yard line to start the second half.
But we’ll get it cleaned up. They understand the mistakes that they made, and I have trust and faith in all of those guys that they will get it cleaned up, get it fixed and it won’t be a problem moving forward.
Q. What did you think of Tre and a couple of nice kick returns?
CHRIS ASH: He was really a few inches away on a couple of kick returns and possibly breaking them out for big ones. He has that potential. We wanted that out of him last year and didn’t get it obviously with the injury. I think as he plays and gets more reps as at corner and as a kickoff returner, you’ll see big play potential and big plays from him.
Love the kid. He’s worked extremely hard after he got injured last year to get back out there and be where he’s at today. I think our corners are pretty good with Damon and Avery Young and Tre, I think we’ve got three guys that are pretty good players and we are going to need them.
Q. You shuffled the offensive linemen a lot of second half. Is that something you plan on doing this year or maybe taking advantage of the time you had?
CHRIS ASH: You know, it’s hot out there, and the game, what is it, 48-21 there in the second half and we needed to get some guys some reps. They need to play and we need to find out -- I think we are pretty set on our starting five. We need to find out who the next guys are going to be as we go through the season, and the only way to do that is get them in there and get some reps. We have trust, again and faith that they can go out and do the job, but until they do it, you know, there’s some unknowns there.
So that’s all it is, is they needed work, and we need to see who can do it on game day.
Q. The big runs for Pacheco, you talked a little about it before, but just what was the -- why was he so successful?
CHRIS ASH: Combination of things. Blocking by the O-line and tight ends and wide-outs, and just him being a hard runner, a hard, tough runner. He runs behind his pads and he’s got that gear to take it to the end zone and take it to the distance when he sees a hole.
But it’s a combination of everybody working together. You know, you talk about the passing game, why was it better? Because all 11 guys worked together in those situations better tonight than what we would have last year.
You had one more?
Q. You had a freshman making his first start at left tackle and the offensive line opened it up for 200 rushing yards and only gave up one sack. Would you say that was one of the better units tonight?
CHRIS ASH: Yeah, without watching the film, it felt like they played pretty well. You know, you can’t rush the ball like this and throw the ball like that without the offensive line playing fairly decent.
So you know, we’ll watch the film, but it just felt good from the sideline. I think Raiqwon O’Neal played a really good game at left tackle, as a first-time starter, and I’m excited to watch the film and see what he did.
But nobody was perfect, I can tell you that. If they were, we would have been scoring a lot more points, but I thought it was a very good start to the season.
All right, guys, thank you.