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Rutgers Football Week 1 Grades vs. Northwestern

Rutgers got the 2023 season off to a quick start with a 24-7 victory over Northwestern.

The Scarlet Knights were expected to win this game given the current state of the Wildcats and took care of business from the opening minutes. The team is now preparing to host Temple in Week 2 but we will look back once more and see how each position graded out during Week 1’s victory.

Quarterbacks: B

Gavin Wimsatt logged some time last season and was named as the full-time starter this year. Expectations were high for Wimsatt as a highly-touted recruit and impressed in his first game this season. Wimsatt continued to show flashes of inconsistency throwing the ball, which has been an issue, but he also showed a short memory and strong intangibles. He finished 17-for-29 with 163 yards and a touchdown. Wimsatt added nine rushes for 33 yards and a score. He ran the offense well and used his legs to make plays. The fact that he did not turn the ball over was a big plus.

Running Backs: B

The duo of running backs did not put up numbers to write home about but there were many factors at play. Kyle Monangai and Ja’Shon Benjamin combined for 95 yards on 34 carries and one score. As a true freshman, Benjamin led the team in carries with 20. The performance grade could have been higher for this group, which showed it had plenty of depth, and it will once healthy. Samuel Brown and Aaron Young were late scratches from the contest.

Wide Receivers: C+

Once again, Rutgers showed depth at a position with a big question mark. The concern was that the receivers could not create plays down the field and this was true to a point. On the other hand, six receivers caught a pass. Freshman Ian Strong made an incredible catch in the end zone to score the first touchdown of the season. Isaiah Washington led the way with four catches for 36 yards. Once again, these are not numbers to write home about but it could improve as offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca looks to get others involved, especially JaQuae Jackson.

Tight Ends: C

Johnny Langan is going to be on the field quite a bit for Rutgers given his ability as a pass catcher and blocker. He totaled four catches for 27 yards. The Scarlet Knights would like to see a bit more from the position moving forward.

Offensive Line: B-

Head coach Greg Schiano wanted to nail down five starters along the offensive line in training camp but that did not seem to happen. Hollin Pierce moved to left tackle and looks to be an anchor for Rutgers. There was a bit of a surprise as Gus Zilinskas made the start at center over Ireland Brown. The Scarlet Knights did not allow a sack in Week 1. The pass protection was strong but there were some struggles in the run game.

Front Seven: A

Rutgers struggled to get to the quarterback last season but that was not an issue against a depleted offensive line for Northwestern. The Scarlet Knights got pressure all afternoon and totaled five sacks from five different players. This includes Mohamed Toure, who returned from injury this season after leading Rutgers in sacks in 2020 and 2021. The front also held Northwestern to just 12 rushing yards on 22 carries.

Secondary: B+

The secondary has a chance to be special this season led by Max Melton, who logged an interception on Sunday. Robert Longerbeam added a pick of his own. There will be plenty of challenges for this secondary in the Big Ten but it played a strong game on Sunday in the opener.

Special Teams: C-

The special teams unit gets the lowest grade of the day. Punter Flynn Appleby was the bright spot, averaging 39.4 yards and landing four kicks inside the 20-yard line. Appleby is replacing Ray Guy award winner Adam Korsak. Sophomore Jai Patel made his first field goal of the year from 32 yards. His second kick was just wide. He made all three extra point attempts. Late in the fourth quarter, Rashad Rochelle muffed a punt that set up the only score of the afternoon for Northwestern.

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