Do not turn the ball over and give a struggling offense a spark. Rutgers’ offense vs. an elite Iowa defense. Something has to give. Many things were said going into this matchup.
“The ball is the program” — words that we hear from Greg Schiano and the Rutgers football program.
On Saturday night, the program let them down. The Scarlet Knights turned the ball over three times in front of a sold-out crowd at SHI Stadium during a 27-10 loss to Iowa to open Big Ten play.
Rutgers came out with an impressive drive of 12 plays to get a field goal on the board against Iowa’s defense. The second drive of the game saw Evan Simon float one up while he was being hit. It landed in the hands of Cooper DeJean and eventually in the end zone.
Gavin Wimsatt and Noah Vedral were game-time decisions for this contest. They both dressed but did not get into the game. Simon finished 28-for-49 for 300 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
On their fifth possession, the Scarlet Knights turned it over once again. Simon hit Joshua Youngblood for a first down but the ball was fumbled and returned 30 yards for a Hawkeye touchdown. This was all Iowa needed.
Rutgers added a fourth quarter touchdown on a pass to Aron Cruickshank but the Hawkeyes had already built a 24-3 lead.
The Scarlet Knights totaled 361 yards against a defense that was ranked fourth in the nation allowing just 197.4 per game. The problem is, they did not turn it into points. Simon’s inconsistency and accuracy issues reared their heads once again.
Defensively, Rutgers remained strong. It allowed 13 points to the Iowa offense, which totaled 277 yards and was 1-for-9 on third down. Leshon Williams added a touchdown run for Iowa.
The Scarlet Knights have now lost 20 consecutive Big Ten home games. The last victory came on Nov. 4, 2017 when Rutgers defeated Maryland. It will have two more realistic chances to end that streak this season as both Nebraska and Indiana come to Piscataway.
There were many matchups to watch on Saturday night. Rutgers was prepared to play in front of a raucous crowd. Petras and his road performances have been strong or was it as simple as the defense of Iowa being too much.
In the end, the Scarlet Knights proved that there are still some questions to be answered on the offensive side of the ball. In this one, all questions were answered as two turnovers cost Rutgers the game early on.