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Rutgers falls to No. 17 Wake Forest in TaxSlayer Gator Bowl, 38-10

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The Scarlet Knights offense could not get going all afternoon.

TaxSlayer Gator Bowl Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

The offense for Rutgers looked like you might expect after a month away from the field and receiving late notice about a game.

The Scarlet Knights struggled to get anything going in a 38-10 loss to No. 17 Wake Forest in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl. The Scarlet Knights were without both Bo Melton and Isaih Pacheco after they declared for the 2022 NFL Draft and did not return for this game.

In the first half, Rutgers took advantage of a Wake Forest defense that allowed 30.3 points per game during the regular season. After a quick score by the Demon Deacons, Rutgers converted three third downs on the ensuing possession to get the score even at seven.

The offense of Wake Forest continued to flex its muscles as Sam Hartman hit A.T. Perry for a 29-yard score to take the lead back. This is where Rutgers’ offense began to stall a bit. The Scarlet Knights were able to move the ball in the first half but trailed 20-10 at halftime. This was largely in part because Noah Vedral threw an interception at the goal line with just under four minutes left in the first half.

The deficit could have been worse but Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson took a conservative approach at the end of the first half. After a screen pass to Taylor Morin went for 14 yards on third-and-15, Wake Forest decided to let the clock run down from 26 seconds to kick a field goal as time expired.

This was a chance for Wake Forest to deliver a blow and go up two scores heading into halftime. Wake Forest was facing a fourth-and-one but the offense went up to the line to try and draw Rutgers offsides.

In the second half, Rutgers’ offense continued to struggle as Wake Forest woke up a bit. This was sparked by a third-and-26 conversion on a screen pass by the Demon Deacons. This drive resulted in a field goal for Wake Forest.

The Demon Deacons put the final nail in the coffin with a one-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Hartman followed by a two-point conversion. This gave Wake Forest a three-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter.

Hartman finished 23-for-39 with 304 yards and three touchdowns. The absence of Jaquirii Roberson did not play a factor as Perry finished with 10 catches for 127 yards and a touchdown. Rutgers did what they could offensively but at the end of the day, talent and depth took over.

Hartman and Rutgers’ Swiss Army knife Johnny Langan were named MVPs of the Gator Bowl. Langan caught six passes for 57 yards, threw two passes for 21 yards and rushed six times for 20 yards.

The Scarlet Knights were outgained 452-275 and turned the ball over twice. Noah Vedral started the game but there were five Scarlet Knights to attempt a pass. Vedral finished 8-for-13 for 87 yards and an interception. Gavin Wimsatt made an appearance on multiple occasions finishing with 30 passing yards and an interception. He did lead RU in rushing with 33 yards on 4 carries.

This was a game that Rutgers was not supposed to be in. They learned last week that they had to travel to Jacksonville and take on the 17th-ranked team in the nation. This was the performance that was expected with two of their top weapons missing in the contest.

At the end of the day, the Scarlet Knights appeared in a bowl game during the 2021 season. Let that sink in. The team played hard and lots of younger players got valuable experience. Fans even got to see their starting quarterback of the future compete more than he had all season.

Onto the 2022 season.