On senior day and the opportunity to clinch the program’s first bowl bid in seven years, Rutgers football showed who they really are. They played hard as always and mostly mistake free with just one turnover and one penalty, but their lack of an offense sunk any chance of a storybook moment in the regular season finale that ended in a 40-16 defeat.
The Terps scored two first quarter touchdowns but had their second extra point attempt blocked by Ifyeani Maijeh and returned for a two-point conversion by Kessawn Abraham. Rutgers fed off the momentum and put together a drive that got them near the goalline. However, the Maryland defense put together a stand and a Noah Vedral pass on 4th and goal from the 3 yard line fell incomplete.
It was a missed opportunity and while Rutgers cut the lead to 26-16 in the third quarter after touchdown runs from Johnny Langan and Aaron Young, they were unable to generate anything else the rest of the game.
Maryland produced 575 yards of total offense and stormed to halftime with a commanding 20-2 lead. Quarterback Taulia Tagvailoa led the Terps throwing for 21 of 30 for 312 yards and 3 touchdowns through the air and one score on the ground. Rutgers also had trouble stopping their pair of backs, as Tayon Fleet-Davis ran for 152 yards and 2 touchdowns and Colby McDonald had 99 yards rushing.
A major difference in the game was Maryland converting 9 of 15 third down attempts with Rutgers just 2 of 11. In addition, the defense was unable to generate any takeaways.
Noah Vedral struggled once again in completing just 8 of 15 passes for 56 yards and an interception. He was ultimately benched and replaced by Evan Simon, who wasn’t much better. He completed 7 of 14 passes for 86 yards while burning his redshirt in the process. Gavin Wimsatt did not play in an obvious effort to preserve his redshirt.
There is a logical reason as to why as Keith Sargeant of NJ Advance Media is reporting that there is a likelihood of Rutgers making a bowl game despite the 5-7 record. APR scores are involved and while nothing is confirmed, if enough 6 win teams do not qualify then the Scarlet Knights have a good chance of being selected. Head coach Greg Schiano didn’t confirm in the postgame what the program’s decision would be if that possibility did become a reality, instead saying he was focused on his players after the loss.
While the extra practice time for the younger players and the reward of a bowl game for the veterans, including 34 seniors honored before the game, would be significant, the way Rutgers played on Saturday was disappointing nonetheless. We’ll continue to track this possibility throughout the weekend.
UPDATE: Rutgers has been eliminated from bowl contention as 82 six win teams have qualified.