There have been many lows for Rutgers Football over the last decade in the Big Ten. This season, some were forgotten when the Scarlet Knights got off to a 6-2 start but how much was actually changed?
Rutgers clinched a bowl game with a win at Indiana prior to its bye week and that also might be the last win that the team has this season. It hit a new low in 2023 with a 22-0 loss where the offense looked as bad as it has all season long. Following this performance, there was plenty of criticism — and rightfully so. Also, rightfully so, the Scarlet Knight head coach was quick to defend his team and the direction of the program.
Greg Schiano met the media on Monday and broke down the “developmental program” that is Rutgers. He gained the attention of many and the question remains, was he right? Before we dive into that, take a look at the full quote.
Here is what Greg Schiano said:
“The tough thing where we are right now is you know, if all of us were together on July 31, and we were hanging out talking and somebody said, okay, you’re going to the fourth quarter at Kinnick Stadium and it’s 6-0 Iowa, and by the way, you’re 6-3, would you take it, would you take it? Would you have taken it in July? I would have taken it in July. We are a developmental program. We are developing, for sure. We are going like this (indicating upward trajectory). But let’s realize who we are. That’s one of the biggest things I talk to our team about.
At Rutgers, and I think that meant a lot that have been here longer than I have. So I kind of know about this place. I might not know about every place but I know about this place. And at this place, you’ve really got to stay focused on who you are. See, the way we’ve played the game, has allowed us to be in every single game this year going into the fourth quarter with an opportunity to win. In the past, that wasn’t the case. To me, that’s an incremental improvement. I know we’d all love to go from 4-8 to 12-0, but it’s just not going to work that way at Rutgers. Maybe somewhere else but not here. Maybe if you go into free agency — I’m sorry, NIL, and get all these players in a swoop because you had a bankroll the size of Detroit, then maybe you would turn it (snapping fingers), but we don’t have that. So we know who we are. I know who we are. And the way we are playing the game right now might not necessarily be the way we play it two years from now when some of these younger players that we think are really promising now are developed, and playing at a different level, then we can play the game differently.
So everything we do right now, whether it’s right or wrong that, can be argued, that’s the beautiful thing about sports, right. That’s why you guys have jobs. You write stuff. It stirs it up. People want to talk about it. That’s why I have a job, because people want to come watch it. But we really think the way we are doing it gives us the best chance to win. It doesn’t guarantee us a win. We are not at that point. Hopefully down the road we’ll be at that point. That’s kind of how we do it. With your question, it’s particular how we’re going to read something out. I would never get into that. But I will say that I do agree with you, when he runs the ball, he’s been effective. Nothing was really effective Saturday after the first quarter. First quarter, you know, we’re moving the ball. We just shoot ourselves in the foot with those procedure penalties. It’s not going to be quiet this weekend, right. So it was really loud at Iowa and guess what, at Beaver Stadium, it gets pretty loud. We are going to have to get over that and figure out how to operate in the noise. Poise in the noise.”
There have been two major answers here, record and defense.
The fact that Rutgers is returning to a bowl game legitimately for the first time in nearly 10 years is very good. Bowl games should be the standard, especially in today’s game where there are unlimited options. The Scarlet Knights need to be getting to six wins yearly in order to recruit at a high level and continue its upward trajectory.
Of course, the defense has also been a plus. Since the beginning of the season, Rutgers has shown great improvements on that side of the ball with plenty of returning experience. The return of Mohamed Toure from injury added to a deep group in the middle. In Big Ten play, Rutgers is allowing 22.4 points per game, which is in the middle of the pack. They are also in the top half of the conference in passing yards allowed (174.1).
Schiano continues to get his recruits in the building and has improved the coaching staff as well. The arrow can continue to point up for Rutgers but Schiano made sure to get expectations back in check.
On Monday, Schiano was right when he said it would have accepted a 6-3 record with a 6-0 deficit at Iowa. The problem is, that was back in August. Now, there are many factors at play.
The offense. What else could we talk about here?
The offense for Rutgers has been one of the worst in the country this season. This has been shielded at times by some big-time performances by Kyle Monangai but as a whole, the offense has been terrible. The Scarlet Knights brought in Kirk Ciarrocca and is paying him a hefty salary but so far, not much has improved outside of the offensive line.
Gavin Wimsatt’s accuracy and consistency issues have also held back this offense. Rutgers currently ranks 12th in Big Ten play with 142.3 passing yards per game. Even on the ground, the Scarlet Knights are only eighth in the conference (131.3). Finally, in terms of scoring, Rutgers is averaging 16.9 points per conference game. Wimsatt ranks last in the nation in completion percentage among quarterbacks with 200 attempts at 48.2%.
Let’s face it, Rutgers benefited from an easy schedule early on. Big Ten opponents being Northwestern, Michigan State, and Indiana in the first half was very helpful. And the win against Michigan State was a miracle in its own right. Also, the non-conference was not exactly a gauntlet with Temple and Wagner. Once the has stiffened up, Rutgers has taken steps back, which brings us to our final point.
This was Saturday afternoon in Iowa City.
Schiano might be right in saying that 6-3 was acceptable back in August, and it still is now, but circumstances change over the course of the year. This includes a putrid performance against a team with an offense that might be even worse than your own.
The scoreboard read 22-0. If that was not bad enough, Rutgers had just seven first downs to Iowa’s 21. It committed seven penalties, many coming along the offensive line so it was not a case of refs taking over. The offense finished with just 127 total yards (93 passing, 34 rushing). Monangai was held in check with 39 yards on 13 carries while Wimsatt was 7-for-18 for 93 yards and an interception. Does this not warrant criticism?
Even the defense did not play up to its standard at times. Yes, the score was 6-0 into the fourth quarter and Wimsatt threw an interception late that set Iowa up inside the 10-yard line. Regardless, Rutgers made Brian Ferentz look like a competent offensive coordinator, and that is hard to do. The Hawkeyes finished with 402 total yards and 173 on the ground. They held the ball for over 38 minutes.
The road does not get any easier for Rutgers as it prepares to take on Penn State. Prepare for more criticism following this game if it is another no-show for the Scarlet Knights.
So yes, Schiano got Rutgers back to a bowl game and reached six wins for the first time since 2014. What comes with this is expectations and when the team lays a complete egg, there will be pushback.