After Week 1, Rutgers Football helped answer some questions that faced the team entering the 2023 season. With another dominant performance on Saturday night against Temple, Rutgers continued to paint a better picture for what fans can expect throughout the season.
For the third straight season, Rutgers is 3-0! This marks three years in a row with a win against the ACC (Syracuse in ‘21, BC in ‘22, VT in ‘23). While not a perfect game, Rutgers continued to show signs of improvement with another dominant performance against the Hokies this past Saturday. I truly believe the team has not shown its full hand on offense yet, however, fans definitely know how Rutgers will win games this season.
Let’s see what answers we got after Week 3. I will be using the same questions from previous weeks. Click here to see what answers we got after Week 2!
Answers to Questions after Week 3
Will Gavin improve as a QB? (Week 2 answer: Yes)
Yes, trust him! If you watched the game or just looked at the box score, you probably don’t feel great about Gavin’s passing performance. 7/16, 46 yards and a TD (from 2 yards out). Not great! But what’s most important? NO INTERCEPTIONS. Gavin missed on some easy throws, but he also didn’t throw any passes that could’ve been picked off. At some point this season (probably this week agains UM), Rutgers will need to win the game with Gavin’s arm. He has the talent. He’s shown development and maturation. He’s the leader of the football team. He’s a threat with his legs. Once he consistently starts hitting on throws, the sky is the limit!
Will 5 starters emerge for the offensive line? (Week 2 answer: As of right now, no)
Eventually! Kamar Missouri started at RT in place of the injured Tyler Needham, with Taj White rotating in during the game. Normally I’d like to see less rotation among the offensive line, but with the injury to Needham, this makes sense. Both played strong. I was a bit surprised when Bryan Felter rotated in to replace Curtis Dunlap at LG. The left side of the line has been stable this season, so it was interesting to see a new piece. Regardless, Schiano still isn’t sold on a starting five.
Will the offensive line improve? (Week 2 answer: Trending upwards, but questions remain.)
Yes. The unit continues to show improvement, but needs to solidify a starting five. Week 3 was the best performance from the offensive line. It’s important to remember that Pat Flaherty is coaching the offensive line. He is a proven NFL coach that fans should trust!
With another dominant rushing performance, the offensive line did an incredible job creating space for Kyle Monangai to rush for 143 yards and 3 TDs. In total, RU rushed for 256 yards. Also, the line did a great job keeping Gavin off the turf, not allowing a single sack against the best pass rush they have faced this season.
Will the passing game improve? Will there be a No. 1 WR? (Week 2 answer: Yes to both)
Yes, the passing game WILL improve. Gavin needs to improve his accuracy, but he has also done a great job NOT turning the ball over. That is improvement! This team is not going to pass for 300 yards each game with Kirk Ciarrocca as OC. It will be interesting to see what happens once Gavin faces adversity this season. A trip to Ann Arbor will be his first real test.
There is not a #1 WR on this team (yet). For the third straight game, Rutgers had a different leading WR. This week it was Christian Dremel. Eventually, the team is going to need to identify a No. 1 go-to option. I still think JaQuae Jackson will be THAT guy.
Spin zone... I think it’s encouraging that Rutgers is winning games in dominant fashion with multiple WR contributing in the passing game (albeit minimally). I’m curious when we will see tight ends used more than just as check downs in the flat.
Are the running backs the strongest unit on offense? (Week 2 answer: Without question)
Yes, next question.
Will the defense live up to the preseason hype? (Week 2 answer: B1G YES)
YEP! Quickly, I want to say that I do think defense showed weaknesses on Saturday. The secondary made some mistakes. Max Melton almost let up a big touchdown. There were some missed assignments in the passing game, one that led to a the Hokies’ first TD. And most importantly, in my opinion, the defense had some missed tackles, which was something we did not see in previous games. Desmond Igbinosun could have had a better game.
With that being said, the front seven has still played at a truly elite level. Look at the below stat!!! THREE of the top seven highest graded linebackers in the Big Ten are Scarlet Knights. In my opinion, all three linebackers have played at an All Big Ten caliber level. So excited to see how they play against better competition.
Also, Aaron Lewis had his best game of the season and possibly the best defensive play of the season. His shoestring tackle on Kyron Drones to spoil the Hokies’ two point try was incredible. He also recorded his first sack of the season. Lewis will get the chance to wreck havoc against the team he initially played for this Saturday. Revenge game?!
A look at the Aaron Lewis tackle that prevented a VT two-point conversion. Keeps up with Kyron Drones stride-for-stride, then sweeps his ankle. Big time play. pic.twitter.com/PKRtn225tl— Brian Fonseca (@briannnnf) September 17, 2023
Will Kirk Ciarrocca install an offense that works? (Week 2 answer: Yes)
Yes, but this game did not follow the normal game plan. The Ciarrocca formula is: control the clock, protect the ball, run the ball. This was the first game this season that Rutgers did not win the time of possession battle. There were different reasons for that, most notably scoring touchdowns from 34 and 55 yards out. Luckily, Rutgers had zero turnovers and certainly RAN THE DANG BALL!
Week 1: 14 car., 49 yards, 1 TD— Big Ten Football (@B1Gfootball) September 16, 2023
Week 2: 28 car., 165 yards, 1 TD
Week 3: 16 car., 143 yards, 3 TD@RFootball RB @kylemonangai is off to a great start in 2023.
Watch all 3 of his TD runs in today's 35-16 win over Virginia Tech. ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/4hIMRAY6fS
Maybe I’m out of hand here, but I think the Rutgers offense has, without question, shown immense improvement this season when compared to last year. We must give credit to Kirk Ciarrocca.
Will fans show up to games? (Week 2 answer: Yes)
YES. I’ve said this the past 2 weeks: KEEP WINNING AND FANS WILL SHOW UP! This game was definitely the best showing by the fans. The students again showed up and were great... in the first half. Unfortunately, with a 21-3 lead at halftime, the student section cleared out for the second half. I was once a student at RU, I know there are fun festivities waiting for you on College Ave, but students need to stick around a bit longer. Especially in a game where teams make a push to comeback. It would have been a tough look if VT pulled the comeback win and the student section was empty because they thought the game was already decided. Keep CHOPPIN’ students! We need you!
Can Rutgers beat Michigan in Ann Arbor? Would it be the B1GGEST win in program history? B1GGEST win in RU Athletics history?
I will keep this simple...YES. YES. YES!!!!
There’s a reason Rutgers is 3 score underdog: MICHIGAN IS GOOD. However, Rutgers defense is solid and if the offensive game plan is executed by design, the game can be a lot closer than Vegas predicts. JJ McCarthy will need to play another sloppy game and, similar to 2021, Rutgers will need to limit the Michigan rushing attack in order for Rutgers to upset the back to back Big Ten Champs.
If Rutgers wants to have offensive success, the offensive line will need to get a good push in the trenches, while keeping Gavin off the grass in the passing game. Can Gavin play a clean game? It will be difficult against a great defense like Michigan, especially on the road.
Should fans be disappointed if the team loses? No, but it depends. It would be discouraging if Rutgers reverts back to its 2022 form. Remember the Michigan and Penn State game last season? Rutgers battled in the first half, but eventually couldn’t keep up for the full 60 minutes and ended up getting blown out. They also turned the ball over multiple times and allowed the opposing defenses to score. These are the things the team must avoid in order to view this game as a success despite losing (possibly!).
Winning would be the greatest moment in Rutgers Athletics history. Rutgers Basketball fans try to relax for a second, okay? Yes, back to back wins vs #1 Purdue was incredible and historic. Is it better than a win against the #2 team on the road at the Big House? Not. Even. Close.
One more question...WHERE WERE YOU DURING THIS MOMENT IN RUTGERS HISTORY?!?!