With Rutgers on a bye this weekend, you may be disappointed there isn’t a game or maybe even relieved that your heart can take it easy instead. Last week’s loss at no. 20/19 Iowa was hard on it’s own, but reopened wounds from last season and really the entire Ash Era. The Scarlet Knights were anything but competitive and despite a 1-1 record, the season appears to be a critical juncture already. Our staff give their thoughts on the state of this team so far.
David Anderson: If you are what your record says you are, Rutgers is where we thought they would be, 1-1 through two contests. That’s a lot more true in the NFL though than it is in college where fundraising, public perception, recruiting, etc. all are based more on optimism than anything else. You can understand why hope in the current direction of the program is approaching all-time lows; Rutgers has been shut out more times than the rest of the Big Ten teams COMBINED during the Ash era. If Rutgers could just move the ball against the opponents’ often third and four stringers for a late touchdown or two, that wouldn’t matter in the won-loss record in the short term but provides something to build on. The fact that Rutgers can’t even put a scare into ranked team with only a slight player talent gap, when so many Group of Five, even FCS programs can and do seemingly week after week is both mind boggling and embarrassing. We are not even a quarter of the way through the season, so hopefully our Scarlet Knights prove us wrong like they did in 2008. There’s no reason to expect that type of turnaround, but when I left Rutgers Stadium after the drubbing by North Carolina that year, there was no way I expected to be at the Olive Branch watching the Knights defeat Russell Wilson in a Bowl game just a few months later.
Adam Ross: Just about everyone could have guessed Rutgers would be 1-1 entering the Week 3 bye, but for some reason it does feel like a worse 1-1. Looking for any sign of life from the offense to improve against a conference opponent, it felt like they took a step backward against Iowa. The real bellwether game has always been the Boston College game next week, and to paraphrase Kirk Ferentz, September is supposed to be about learning who your team is. Hopefully, the coaching staff can learn from the dreadful Iowa game and make the correct adjustments. The BC game honestly could be the breaking point for Coach Ash’s career on the banks if this team comes out flat once again. Rutgers’ opponents are currently 20-4 (including our own UMass and Iowa games), so it won’t get any easier. There’s no denying that the Knights looked bad last week, but I’m willing to chalk that up to playing a ranked opponent on the road early in the season, and at least hold on to some optimism that this team can improve over the next 10 games.
Fred Gaudios: If Rutgers doesn’t look much better next Saturday the 21st against Boston College, this could get really ugly, quickly. Relative to other sports, mid-season coaching changes in football are rare, but they do sometimes happen and if we see the same sort of outcome vs. BC as we did against Iowa... who knows. Anyway, I digress. The radically optimistic view (not sure I buy this) is our problems are largely constrained to offensive production and maybe they’re fixable? I’m impressed our defense only gave up 30 points to Iowa, given how much time they spent on the field, though a big part of this was Adam Korsak kicking like Superman. But I’m really reaching for what I just wrote. It looks to be another depressing season in Rutgers Football-land, though I’m hoping I’m wrong about this.
Dave White: I am not impressed. I wasn’t impressed by the UMass game because they jumped out to a 21-7 lead. And I mean, other than Korsak, how can you be impressed with the Iowa game? It was the same kind of game we’ve seen for four years now. Defense plays pretty good for a half. Offense does nothing... blowout loss. Beyond that... I don’t even know what to say.
Patrick Mella: It’s difficult to watch. Even after they stormed back to beat UMASS, it was a victory riddled with inconsistencies. The offensive explosion was something Rutgers fans have been salivating for. But the Iowa game, geez. I think most diehard fans can agree it’s not the losing that’s tough to deal with. I mean face it, we’ve seen enough losses that you almost become immune to them. But it’s the lack of any sort of offensive identity that drives fans insane. Couple that with stupid penalties, bad tackling, the lack of any energy. I mean you can’t even put up a field goal or a late TD in garbage time at Iowa? We’re talking year 4 of the Ash era and we’re not even remotely competitive with most of these teams. Show me some fight for 3 quarters and if it falls apart because of lack of depth or talent then that’s fine. I can deal with that. But the product that’s being displayed each week has no resemblance to a power 5 team. If they wanna save some face, go out and find a way to beat BC in two weeks. But there’s nothing I’ve see this year outside of some stellar punting that would lead me to believe differently.
Aaron Breitman: Cutting to the chase, the Iowa game was a microcosm of the last 17 games Rutgers has played during a stretch they’ve won just two of them, neither coming against power five opponents. You can’t win, let alone be competitive, when you consistently commit penalties in key moments of the game combined with multiple turnovers, while rarely forcing your opponent into mistakes of their own. Against Iowa, RU committed more penalties than first downs and the turnover margin was -3. It was just one game against a ranked opponent on the road in which they were heavy underdogs, but it felt like a rerun of last season. Having two weeks to prepare for Boston College at home will be the defining moment of the season. Win and this team can breath easier, hopefully leading to improved confidence heading into a stretch of four straight Big Ten games. Lose and the weight of the season will grow heavier. Get blown out and the worst thing possible will occur....an absence of hope, at least from a wounded and weary fan base.