Maybe it was the frigid temperatures in Piscataway on Friday night. Maybe it was the grueling task of nine Big Ten games in nine weeks. Whatever it was, Rutgers seemed to run out of gas in the second half of a 28-21 loss to Nebraska.
The Scarlet Knights were outscored 21-7 in the second half and their lone score came on a 98-yard touchdown return from the return specialist of the year in the Big Ten Aron Cruickshank.
With Noah Vedral sidelined, Artur Sitkowski was prepared to start under center but it was the defense that got going early. The Scarlet Knights were able to cause an Adrian Martinez fumble that led to a Valentino Ambrosio field goal, one of two in the first half.
Sitkowski finished 10-20 for 122 yards. The Scarlet Knights were unable to get the ball in the end zone following two Nebraska fumbles. This ended up costing them in the long run.
Christian Izien was recently named an honorable mention in the Big Ten defensive awards by both coaches and media. Trailing 7-6, Izien might have turned in the play of the year for the Scarlet Knights.
Nebraska faced a second-and-15 from Rutgers’ eight-yard line. Izien was able to go up with one hand and intercept a Martinez pass in the end zone. The Scarlet Knights were finally able to take advantage of a turnover. Isiah Pacheco would score on a 33-yard run. Bo Melton would convert the two-point conversion for a 14-7 lead.
Martinez turned the ball over three times for the Cornhuskers in the first half. When it was all said and done, he was able to get the last laugh.
Back in Week 4 against Illinois at SHI Stadium, Isaiah Williams lit up the Scarlet Knights for 192 yards and a score on 31 carries. On Friday night, Martinez was able to light a similar spark.
Martinez led a change for the Cornhuskers that could not be stopped all night. Even when drives ended in turnovers, which four did, Nebraska was able to move the ball effectively.
Martinez finished 24-28 for 255 yards while rushing for 157 yards and two scores. Dedrick Wills led the Cornhuskers in rushing with 25 carries for 191 yards.
The final score does not do this game justice. Nebraska won the first down battle 27-9. They outgunned the Scarlet Knights 620-252. Nebraska rushed for 365 yards compared to 130 from Rutgers. And in the end, Rutgers was still in this game late with chances.
There are no moral victories, especially in a game like this. After game nine in nine weeks, Rutgers should look back on their season as a win. they were able to complete their schedule and maneuver through a pandemic as smoothly as possible.
Yes, there are some improvements that need to be made but that was to be expected in Greg Schiano’s first year back. The Scarlet Knights would have liked to finish the season off on a higher note but there is much to look forward to. On to 2021.