The Scarlet Knights matched up against the Wagner Seahawks on a hot, steamy September afternoon at Shi Stadium. Amazingly, the Knights and Seahawks had never met previously on the gridiron, despite this being Wagner’s 95th season of football.
After the Rutgers defense held the Seahawks to -2 yards on their first offensive series, Gavin Wimsatt and the Knights offense trotted out for their first series and were able to execute an 11-play, 62-yard drive without a pass, that culminated in a Kyle Monangai 2-yard touchdown run.
Wagner’s 2nd drive was less productive than their first, as they were held to -7 yards on 3 plays. Evan Simon, as expected, started Rutgers’s 2nd drive of the day. On the 3rd play, he found speedy receiver Aron Cruickshank for his first college career touchdown pass and a 14-0 Rutgers advantage.
A little over a minute later, speedy sophomore wideout Chris Long one-handed a Wimsatt pass out for a 41-yard touchdown completion. You could hear the gasp of the crowd as they watched the replay on the video board. One of the beneficiaries of Taj Harris’s unexpected departure from the football program this past week is Long, who saw increased playing time today and got a chance to show his game-breaking potential.
On their 4th drive of the quarter, Rutgers’s 3rd QB of the game, Johnny “Football” Langan, tossed a 43-yard pass to Isaiah Washington, who out-leaped his defender and hauled in the catch as the clock expired, for a commanding 28-0 lead.
Wagner finally started moving the chains on their first drive of the quarter, putting together an impressive 8-play, 75-yard drive that culminated with an 8-yard pass from QB Nick Kargman to Jayvin Little.
On the ensuing Rutgers possession, Wimsatt tossed an ill-advised pass across his body and the ball was picked off by Seahawks defender Christian Davis at midfield and Wagner finally had some momentum. Two plays later, that momentum would be fleeting as Rutgers defensive back Robert Longerbeam picked off Kargman for his 2nd interception on the young season. Jude McAtamney would kick a 49-yard field goal for a 31-7 RU advantage.
With less than three minutes remaining in the half, Coach Schiano entrusted Simon to run the two-minute offense. Simon would need less than a minute to cap the 1st-half scoring, throwing a 10 yard pass to Johnny Football for a 38-7 Rutgers lead.
The Rutgers defense held Wagner to -7 yards rushing for the half while the offense put up a respectable 134 yards on the ground.
The Knights would come out pounding the football, capping a 9-play, 65-yard drive on a Al-Shadee Salaam 25-yard scamper down the left sideline for a 45-7 lead, after which point, the offense and defense began wholesale substitutions.
With 9:38 left in the 3rd, punishing, physical freshman Samuel Brown V. would pound the ball in from 2 yards out and push the Knights’s lead to 52-7.
Rutgers took nine minutes off the clock on a 17-play, 78-yard drive capped by freshman back Rachad Rochelle’s first career college touchdown.
With a little over four minutes left in the game, Samuel Brown V. steamrolled 4 yards up the middle for his 2nd touchdown of the game. This would mercifully close out the scoring. Final Score: 66-7 RU.
Key Stat: Total Rushing Yards Wag 19 Rut 313
I realize there is skepticism in playing a lower division opponent in Wagner, but 19 total rushing yards in the game after wholesale substitutions in the 3rd quarter is impressive. This defensive line, that seems to run three deep at each position, should be able to stay fresh and has the potential to be dominant in B1G play.
A day of First’s
Evan Simon and Gavin Wimsatt’s 1st career TD passes
Johnny Langan and Chris Long’s 1st career TD receptions
Rashad Rochelle and Samuel Brown V’s 1st career rushing TDs
Jason McCourty’s 1st career game in the booth, providing color analysis, and how sweet it was. A shout-out to Jason for not being a homer and giving Wagner credit where it was due.
The three-headed QB: I’m sure this will be covered much more in-depth this week but I do not see Schiano naming a preferred starter anytime soon. Wimsatt brings the read-option with defenses wary of him pulling down the ball, and Simon has shown the ability to make quick reads and get the ball to receivers downfield in space (a skill which Wimsatt is still struggling with and Vedral lacks). Black-and-blue B1G play looms and the Knights must keep defenses guessing by continuing to mix up rotations during games.
A note on Wimsatt’s passing: He made key passes to extend drives on 3rd and 4th down in the 2nd half. He was notably calmer and more relaxed and it reminded me of his 4th down conversion against the Illini last season, albeit with the game not on the line. Maybe he does better under pressure, as evidenced during the game-winning 96-yard drive last week against Boston College. Give this kid a chance. He’ll be fine.
The speed on offense: Can someone remember the last time the Knights had so many speedy playmakers on offense? Cruickshank, Youngblood, Long, Salaam. Wimsatt. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few but you all get the point - Rutgers finally has speed in the plural. Not just one guy but a slew of them and I imagine OC Sean Gleeson will open up the kitchen sink to move the ball against Iowa.
Rutgers heads to Philadelphia to face Temple on Saturday, Sept. 17 at Lincoln Financial Field. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. ET with a broadcast on ESPN+. Four wins to bowl eligibility.