Rutgers beat Purdue on Saturday and continued to exceed expectations in Greg Schiano’s first season of his second tenure. Entering the season with a 21 game losing streak in Big Ten play, the Scarlet Knights are now 2-4 and have been competitive in every game. Some might even think the record should be better than it is after losing the two previous games in which they held second half leads. Even though there have been some frustrating and disappointing moments, there have been far more positives this season.
Year one of a rebuild isn’t as much about wins or losses. Rutgers is accomplishing things this season that they haven’t come close to doing since joining the Big Ten in 2014. Here are few statistical achievements that show how much progress is being made this season. Let’s first look at firsts they accomplished in the win over Purdue and then how they are tracking for the season.
- Rutgers produced 26 first downs against the Boilermakers, the most they’ve achieved in a Big Ten game since joining the conference in 2014.
- The 18 play, almost 10 minute drive that ended in a Valentin Ambrosio field goal in the fourth quarter was the longest the offense has produced since joining the Big Ten.
- The win against Purdue saw RU punt just once the entire game. When I posed the question on Twitter whether this had ever happened in Big Ten play, James Kratch replied that it was in fact the first time the Scarlet Knights punted just once since joining the league. He also pointed out it was the first time this happened in a conference game since 2008 against Louisville. Fun fact, the offensive coordinator for the Cardinals in that game was Jeff Brohm, who is now receiving a lot of criticism after his Purdue team lost to Rutgers on Saturday.
- Rutgers now owns multiple wins against a Big Ten opponent without having lost, as they are 2-0 against Purdue all-time.
- Rutgers has now scored at least 20 points for the sixth-straight game. They have now opened the season with six straight performances of 20 or more points for the first time since 2007.
- The Scarlet Knights continue to set a program mark with each game they score 20 or more points, as they previously never had a streak of five games in row in conference play of scoring that many points.
- Rutgers only scored 20 or more points in 12 of its first 52 Big Ten games. They only scored 20 or more points five times in the previous four seasons (36 Big Ten games). This season they’ve done it in all six. Amazing progress.
- Going back to the 2008, Rutgers hadn’t scored 35 or more points in back to back conference games since that season until the past two contests against Michigan and Purdue.
- Rutgers is now averaging 30.8 points per game, which is almost 10 points higher than the program’s previous season best since joining the Big Ten, which was 21.3 points in 2015.
- A reminder that Rutgers scored 51 points in nine Big Ten games last season and with 185 total points in three less games this season have almost quadrupled that mark.
- Against Purdue, Rutgers scored a touchdown on its opening drive for the third time this season. The Scarlet Knights had only done that three times in 24 games the previous two seasons and just once in Big Ten play (18 games).
- Rutgers has now won multiple road games in Big Ten play for the first time since joining the league. They had only won three road games in the previous six seasons.
The progress that Rutgers football has made this season was visibly noticeable since the first quarter of the first game. However, this team continues to battle every week and the improvement has been significant. The win Saturday over Purdue was extremely satisfying and better days are ahead for this program in the long term. However, it’s also important to appreciate the milestones and steps forward that are made along the way.