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Rutgers Football: Five observations following loss at Minnesota

The Scarlet Knights have to clean up many areas following their loss to Minnesota.

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Minnesota Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports

It’s never too late to sit back and think about what happened over the weekend — especially when Rutgers was left scratching its head following a 31-0 loss to Minnesota on Saturday.

Coming off a win against Indiana, the first in Big Ten play, the Scarlet Knights had a chance to show some life against the Golden Gophers. This is not to say that they had to pull off the massive upset as a two-touchdown dog but at least compete.

It was clear from the early moments that the team was not going to compete. Now, it is likely that fans have seen the final victory of the 2022 season.

Minnesota went up by multiple scores early and this gave fans plenty of time to think about the current state of this team.

Honorable mention: Drops are inexcusable

Gavin Wimsatt did not play his best game but he did not get help on certain occasions. Rutgers’ receivers had three key drops that cost some points. Now, this wold not have changed the complexion of the game entirely but at least some points could have been put on the board.

The Scarlet Knights dropped two passes in the third quarter. One from Chris Long, who finished with two, on third down. Matt Alaimo also dropped a third-down pass that would have put Rutgers in field goal range.

“Drops are inexcusable at this level,” head coach Greg Schiano said. “Do they happen once in a while? Yeah. Not five of them. That’s all what goes into my evaluation. One of the things is he throws the ball hard. You better get your hands ready to catch it. It’s something we all have to get accustomed to. But yeah that’s not acceptable.”

1. Is Gavin Wimsatt ready?

This is the question that fans have been asking all season and will continue to ponder over the course of the offseason.

Wimsatt, a redshirt freshman who enrolled early at Rutgers, has struggled with injuries and inconsistencies this season. He has played in just four games and is 16-for-40 for 185 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.

On Saturday against Minnesota, Wimsatt finished 6-for-17 for 68 yards and an interception. In the fourth quarter, he left with an injury.

The question is, was Wimsatt thrown into the fire too soon?

As a highly-touted prospect, Wimsatt was expected to jump into the mix — especially with Rutgers being less than solid at the position. While Wimsatt has shown flashes, the 6-foot-3 quarterback from Owensboro has struggled mightily. He has trouble with accuracy and has turned the ball over this season.

Wimsatt is the quarterback of the future for Rutgers and that has been the plan. Unfortunately, the future did not come early this season. There is a sense to rush Wimsatt but there is no shame in admitting the truth. He will have to make some improvements this offseason.

2. The ground game might be in trouble without Samuel Brown

Prior to kickoff against Minnesota, Schiano announced that Samuel Brown would miss the remainder of the season with an injury. After Rutgers got 101 yards and 28 carries from Brown against Indiana, the Scarlet Knights struggled to run the ball against Minnesota.

The game became out of hand early on and the threat of the run game was not there. Rutgers rushed 21 times for 48 yards. Kyle Monangai was the lead back with 29 yards on seven carries. Moving forward, Monangai will likely be the lead back with Aaron Young working his way into the mix.

As a freshman, Brown made many strides in becoming an effective back. He gained hold of the starting job and will likely have it for years to come. Now, the Scarlet Knights might be without Brown for the foreseeable future.

“Sam, we really thought was okay,” Schiano said. “We thought he was going to be okay, and then each day, one test led to another test led to another test. These tests are kind of the way that it happens in the order to get to the conclusion that we have.”

It is likely that Brown’s recovery spills into training camp and the beginning of the 2023 season. At this point, it is important for Brown to get healthy and return to the field at 100% when he can.

3. Defense took a step back

Rutgers was dominated in time of possession on Saturday as Minnesota’s offense was on the field for 41:02. The defense looked worn down, especially up front. The Golden Gophers got comfortable, rushing for 253 yards.

This is a unit that entered the weekend allowing just 2.9 yards per carry. Mohamed Ibrahim logged 4.41 yards per carry, which was still more than a yard less than his season average. Ibrahim was given the ball 36 times and finished with 159 yards and three touchdowns.

The concern here is that Ibrahim is the best runner that the Scarlet Knights have faced this season and that was known coming in. He was still able to dominate despite being the focus of the unit.

The step might have been backward this week but it was not a big step. Defensive coordinator Joe Harasymiak has helped turn Rutgers into a strong unit in the Big Ten and nationally. Now, it is time to really take the defense up a notch.

4. Penalties remain an issue

Penalties have been an issue since Schiano took over in 2020. This season is no different.

Rutgers ranks 12th in the Big Ten with eight penalties per contest and penalty yards per game (67.1). Yes, the quarterback position doesn't help matters. A raw offensive line and some inexperience on both sides of the ball also plays a role. At some point, it comes down to coaching.

Rutgers made a change at offensive coordinator because of the lackluster offensive performances early on. Simply put, the staff as a whole needs to work together to improve the penalties issues because it is now three years in the making.

5. Adam Korsak is the best punter in the nation

Should he have won the Big Ten Punter of the Year ward in 2021? Yes. Should he have won the Ray Guy award? You can make a case for that as well.

During his career, Adam Korsak has been a bright spot that Rutgers can rally behind. Yes, he is the punter and it is upsetting to a point that this is what fans have to rely on. Regardless, Korsak has been an incredible leader on special teams and has turned in one of the best careers in college football.

Against Minnesota, Korsak logged units of 63 and 77 yards. This includes pinning the Gophers at the one-yard line. There are many question marks around Rutgers but Korsak is not one of them.