Rutgers entered its bye week with a 6-2 record and clinched a bowl game.
For many, that would be enough to constitute a successful season but there were four games left on the schedule. For a different group, they wanted to see the team compete and maybe rack up another win or two. Realistically, the four games were never in doubt and Rutgers ended with a record of 6-6.
This gauntlet and schedule, which each Big Ten team faces, was brought up following the game.
“We ran out of gas,” Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano said following Saturday’s loss. “I thought we could maybe squeeze one more before the break. But we had too many guys, you know, some guys just didn’t play, couldn’t play, and then we had a lot of guys that were playing that, you know, maybe they were 70 percent. But they were gutting it out, and some of them couldn’t continue.”
“Some of them could. But at the end of the day, that’s part of our development, to build the depth. I keep talking about the pipeline, and to build the depth that when you lose people, you can still operate at or close to the same level. And we just, you know, as the season wore on and some of the opponents we were facing every week, it took its toll on us.”
The good news on Saturday was that Rutgers scored a touchdown for the first time in three weeks. The bad news, it fell behind 28-3 and allowed just under 500 total yards.
Gavin Wimsatt finished 13-for-34 and dropped his nation-low competition percentage to 47.8.
“What I think is he’s truly developed in a very big way,” Schiano said of his quarterback. “He is the quarterback of a team that’s going to a Bowl game. And as I said, you just go down the list of the guys that aren’t, and he’s the quarterback of that team. 18 touchdowns himself this year, you know, either throwing or running.”
“I mean, yeah, he’s not ready yet. Consistency comes last. But he’s done some really good stuff. Today weren’t his best day, but I can say that for a lot of guys. One guy does not a team make; it’s everybody playing together, everybody executing together, and we just need to continue to improve.”
Let’s call it how it is, this team looked bad over the final four weeks of the season. The Scarlet Knights took advantage of an easy schedule early on and made it to six wins by the skin of their teeth. Of course, the Michigan State game was handed to them. Also, the offense looked like one of the worst in the nation over the final month of the season. The defense was rock solid but had some bad moments as well.
Put all of this together and it is what should have been expected from the team and Schiano has discussed the path of the program on multiple occasions. At the end of the day, Rutgers will play in a bowl game and that is very good for the program, even if it is at Yankee Stadium.
“Well, you’re never where you want to be as a coach. You can always recruit a little better, you can always coach a little better, you can always develop a little bitter. But I keep going back to what I just said. It was one of those moments where I was giving (indicating patting himself on the back). Certainly not doing that. But I said, look at some of these programs that are not playing after tomorrow, or after yesterday, and we are playing. I’m excited about that. I am. We have a great chance to continue to develop. So if I use the words I used downstairs about today, you wouldn’t be able to write it. I mean, I feel that angry about today because I wanted so badly for those kids to go out. But when I look at it, moving forward, I can’t wait, I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow and layout the schedule and get ready to go attack this development, and the next time that we’re after a game, hopefully we’re celebrating a Bowl win. That would make me really happy to send these seniors out as a Bowl champion. That’s the goal.”
When looking at the Big Ten, Rutgers remains on the lower end of the middle of the pack. Ohio State and Michigan are the class of the conference followed by Penn State. Teams like Wisconsin, Iowa, and Maryland remain above the Scarlet Knights. Even Northwestern finished 7-5 with wins over the Badgers and Terps.
Now, the current standing of the Big Ten does not mean that Rutgers is trending downward — in fact, it is the other way around. This just means to reevaluate expectations until the Scarlet Knights find any semblance of consistency on the offensive side of the ball.
For now, Rutgers will prepare for a bowl game and that was the goal entering 2023. The Scarlet Knights will play one last game in December legitimately for the first time since 2014.