Rutgers Offense Shows It Is Not Quite Ready For Elite Big Ten Play
Rutgers traveled to Madison on Saturday to take on Wisconsin in its third Big Ten game of the season.
The non-conference slate is officially over and the gauntlet within the conference is in full swing. The Scarlet Knights were takedown 24-13 by the Badgers — but the score was not that close.
Rutgers punted eight times in 12 possessions. The offense turned it over on downs, threw a pick six, and scored two touchdowns, one of which was off a Wisconsin turnover that got the Scarlet Knights in the backdoor.
Last season, Rutgers let go of Sean Gleeson midseason after a loss to Nebraska due to some questionable play-calling. Greg Schiano went out and got experience Big Ten OC Kirk Ciarrocca. The Scarlet Knights signed Ciarrocca to a hefty contract and to this point, it is not being held up.
The offense for Rutgers is scoring 27.8 points per game. Of course, this is inflated by a 52-point performance against Wagner. In three conference games, Rutgers is scoring just 14.6 points per game. Gavin Wimsatt has not yet developed throwing the football but looks like a capable runner due to his size and athleticism.
On Saturday, Wimsatt finished 16-for-35 for 181 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Rutgers averaged just under three yards per carry against Wisconsin. The identity that carried the offense through the non-conference schedule will be difficult to establish in conference play, which is the ground game.
This performance came after a seven-point outing against Michigan. The Scarlet Knights hit a long play from Wimsatt to Christian Dremel on their first possession of the game but that would be all the scoring done. On Saturday, the score was not indicative of the performance.
Wisconsin had full control of the game. There was no point where Rutgers was able to get any momentum that would make you think it was going to win the game. When there was the slightest bit, disaster struck.
Trailing 10-0 at the end of the second quarter, Rutgers put together a nine-play drive that got them within striking distance of the end zone. Wimsatt dropped back to pass, eyed his receiver the entire way, and Ricardo Hallman picked it off. He scampered 97 yards for a touchdown to put the final nail in the coffin.
There is not one person to place blame. Ciarrocca called a play that was used against Virginia Tech that resulted in a touchdown. Clearly, Wisconsin did its homework. Along with a poor play call, Wimsatt did not get off his receiver and allowed the defensive back to jump the route. That is a mistake that a young quarterback makes.
Rutgers currently sits at 4-2 and 1-2 in Big Ten play. Over the next two weeks, the Scarlet Knights have winnable games against Michigan State and Indiana. These are games that Rutgers expects to win but there was hope heading into Madison as well. Right now, fans need to tailor expectations to what is being put out on the field.
A bowl game is a realistic expectation for the Scarlet Knights this season. A win in Madison against a team that is a level up in competition, the team is not there just yet.
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