Friday, 6:55pm — Rutgers and its crowd at SHI Stadium prepare for a matchup with Nebraska. A game that could change the course of the program and give a sliver of hope moving forward.
Fast forward to 10:45pm, not only did the Scarlet Knights suffer a one-point loss following a putrid offensive performance, but the impact of this loss feels like more than one loss.
Rutgers has now lost 21 consecutive Big Ten games on its home field. If the Scarlet Knights lose to Indiana, there is no end in sight — and right now, it is hard to imagine them beating anyone.
Let’s begin with Noah Vedral. The storyline was set up well for the Nebraska transfer and Wahoo native to take on his former team. Vedral ended up starting the game and completing six of 15 passes for 133 yards.
The return of Vedral was great for the drama leading up but it would not make a huge impact on the field. We have seen over the last two years that Vedral is more effective with his legs. He brings inconsistency throwing the ball and has no threat of a deep ball. This makes it even more surprising that he competed his first three passes for 110 yards. Take those away and Vedral finished 3-for-12 for 23 yards.
It was announced officially that Vedral was dealing with a hand injury. If Vedral was not healthy or did not have the stamina to compete just yet, he should not have been playing. The problem is, Rutgers does not have enough talent at the position to keep Vedral out. Even with him in, there is much to be desired.
This is the perfect transition into coaching. Sean Gleeson was relieved of his duties as offensive coordinator. When a team is going like this, changes have to be made and the offensive side of the ball was the clear choice for Rutgers. It currently ranks 13th in the Big Ten in total offense and passing yards per game. The Nebraska loss is the perfect example of the issues at hand.
First, the play calling has not fit into the offense. The creativity is not there and the Scarlet Knights were not using the skills that they have the right way. The speed of Aron Cruickshank and Joshua Youngblood has been contained. The quarterbacks are being put into positions that they are not ready to face.
Already having thrown two interceptions, Rutgers had Evan Simon drop back on second and 17 from its own 35-yard line — with the lead. Why? It ended in an interception and Nebraska was able to score what turned into the game-winning touchdown. In the fourth quarter, the Scarlet Knights could have run the ball there or thrown it into the first row twice. Punting and playing defense might have been enough to win this game.
Late in the second quarter, Simon took a sack that landed Rutgers out of field goal range and a chance to go up 16-0 heading into the break.
When Greg Schiano returned to Piscataway, there was hope that the program would be turned around. Yes, it takes time to build a team back up, especially in the Big Ten, but there is not much heading in the right direction to this point. The loss to Nebraska took this notion to the next level.
The Scarlet Knights will host Indiana coming out of their bye week. A win would not completely get rid of the poor taste in their mouth but it would avoid the walls completely caving in. If Rutgers does not defeat the Hoosiers, there might not be a Big Ten victory on the schedule.