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The Gavin Wimsatt Watch: Northwestern

The quarterback had a strong showing against the Wildcats; an encouraging sign for Rutgers fans.

Before Rutgers kicked off their season against Northwestern last Sunday, I wrote an article titled “Why Gavin Wimsatt has to be ‘That Guy’”, and he took a big step in the right direction against the Wildcats.

Wimsatt finished 17-29 for 163 yards, and a touchdown, as well as 33 yards and another score on the ground. For the most part, Wimsatt looked poised in the pocket and made good decisions with the football. He seemed to work through his reads better than in the past and also showed a willingness to use his feet when he needed to.

It was evident from the opening drive that Wimsatt took strides this offseason while working with new offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca. Wimsatt converted an extremely impressive 4th and 5 for the Scarlet Knights en route to a Rutgers touchdown on that drive and continued to play well throughout the game.

In the first half, Wimsatt made a number of great throws including a beautiful pass to freshman Ian Strong in the back corner of the endzone. Circus catch aside, it was a perfect toss into a tight window where only Strong could go up and get it. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen someone at Rutgers who can make those types of throws.

Later, in the second quarter, Gavin took it himself up the middle for a powerful touchdown, showcasing his dual threat ability. He held the ball long enough to freeze the linebacker which allowed Kyle Monangai to lay a block and give him a lane to score. His improvement on those QB runs and read options makes the Scarlet Knights offense much less predictable, and could lead to several big plays over the course of the season.

Kyle Monangai’s touchdown run in the second half probably went unnoticed by many in relation to Wimsatt, but, once again, the QB does a great job of forcing Northwestern’s linebacker to make the decision to go after him before handing the ball off to Monangai. It was a great read and in my opinion one of Wimsatt’s best plays of the day.

The most encouraging sign against the Wildcats was the positive decisions Wimsatt seemed to make on most plays, and for just the second time in his career, Wimsatt threw for at least a touchdown and zero interceptions. It’s worth noting that Northwestern is not very stiff competition, as I noticed a few passes that could’ve been potential turnovers against a better team, but Wimsatt was accurate and on time with most of his throws. He finished with a QBR of 81.9, good for 4th among Big Ten quarterbacks in week one.

Wimsatt allowed Rutgers to open up the playbook and gave the Scarlet Knights’ offense a true second dimension, but just because he excelled against Northwestern, doesn’t mean Wimsatt will fair as well against the stout defenses of Big Ten giants Michigan and Ohio State. Nevertheless, he’s a true threat both in the air and on the ground, and if he can build off this performance, we may just be in for the best season by a Rutgers quarterback in years.