Rutgers quarterback Gavin Wimsatt had an interesting game against the Hokies last weekend. While he had his worst game of the season through the air, going just 7/16 for 46 yards and a touchdown, he ran the ball extremely effectively. Wimsatt carried the ball 11 times for 87 yards and another touchdown on the ground.
Wimsatt started the game off 2/5 for 9 yards on three straight 3-and-outs (obviously we’re not including the 1-play drive Monongai TD to start the game). He failed to get in rhythm early and it proved to hurt him as the game went on as he never really found any consistency in making throws.
While he did complete a 23-yard pass to Christian Dremel, that would be his only completion of over 7 yards on the day, with most of his passes falling incomplete or being short check-downs for minuscule gains. This may not be what you want to see from a starting quarterback in the Big Ten, but Wimsatt did do two very important things when dropping back to pass.
First and foremost he took care of the ball. Ball control is possibly the biggest key to Rutgers having a successful season, and even though Wimsatt didn’t sling it well on Saturday, he threw 0 interceptions for the third straight game. That is the most important thing to take away from the Rutgers passing attack so far, they haven’t given the ball to the defense. The Scarlet Knights must prevent turnovers if they’re going to go bowling this season, and Wimsatt did a good job of that again against Virginia Tech.
The other big positive in the passing game from Wimsatt? He didn’t take any sacks. The easiest way to kill a drive —other than INTs— is by taking a sack. It can lead to 3rd and long instead of an easy 3rd and short, or even knock you out of field goal range if you take a bad sack on 3rd down. Either way, the easiest way to gain yards is by not losing them. Wimsatt did a good job evading pressure and pulling the ball or throwing it away, something that we should continue to see even more of as he develops.
Michigan is the best defense Wimsatt will face this season and is arguably one of the best in the entire country. He will be forced to make a few plays with his arm, so keeping the ball out of Wolverine defenders' hands and minimizing negative plays will be huge for the competitiveness of Rutgers’ offense on Saturday.
Using his legs, Wimsatt showcased his biggest strength as a quarterback well against the Hokies. His ability as a dual-threat quarterback is undeniable, and allowing him to run freely is huge for the Scarlet Knights to have success moving the ball.
You have to give major props to offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarocca who made a great adjustment before halftime and ran the offense through Wimsatt’s legs. If the game plan can adjust to Wimsatt’s best playstyle on a given day, that’s a huge plus for Rutgers.
Wimsatt threw just 4 passes in the second half, and although the offense was a bit too conservative to start the third quarter, once Wimsatt started taking the ball on designed QB runs and zone reads, he excelled and Rutgers put the game out of reach for Virginia Tech. It helped that Kyle Monongai had an incredible second half, but Wimsatt himself made several solid runs to set up Monongai touchdowns.
Wimsatt wasn’t an amazing passer on Saturday, but the key is he didn’t have to be. He was extremely effective with his legs, and Kirk Ciarocca’s adjustments allowed him to continue doing what was working, rather than forcing him to try and throw the ball when it was clear he was having a bit of an off day.
Gavin is still a young talent, and he’ll excel more with good coaching like we saw last week against the Hokies. Overall, I’ve seen many positives from the quarterback over the first 3 weeks of the season, and now he faces a huge test against an incredible Michigan team. It’ll be interesting to see how Ciarocca and Schiano game plan the offense this week to set Wimsatt up best for their road visit to the Big House