Rutgers moves on from bitter loss to Penn State, begins prep for Navy game
Not even 36 hours removed from a 13-10 loss Saturday night to Penn State that head coach Kyle Flood called “devastating,” the Rutgers football team had already moved on by Monday morning.
It wasn’t the ideal Big Ten first impression the Scarlet Knights hoped for, and considering they led with less than two minutes left in the game, it wasn’t easy to cope with in the immediate aftermath.
But Rutgers also expected some adversity coming into a more competitive league this season.
“You’ve sort of got to roll with the punches,” said junior defensive tackle Darius Hamilton. “We know what we plan on accomplishing this year and to do that, we’ve just got to start looking forward. It’s not very often you go through life without any bumps or bruises.”
Senior fullback Michael Burton, one of five team captains along with Hamilton, had a message for the younger Knights who haven’t been through as many missed opportunities.
“You’ve got to just flush it,” Burton said. “But you don’t just forget about it. You’ve got to learn from it, it’s got to be a learning tape. We left a lot of things out on the field, but as long as guys can just take those mistakes, look at them and make sure they don’t happen again, that’s the most important thing.”
Much of that needs to start up front on offense, where the Knights struggled to run the ball efficiently against the Nittany Lions — particularly in the second half. That kept Rutgers from being able to sustain drives at critical junctures.
Since averaging 5 yards per carry on 43 attempts against Washington State, the Knights have lagged in that department each of the last two games, running the ball 69 times for only 211 yards.
Now preparing for a Navy team that averages 6.6 yards per carry, Rutgers is looking to fine-tune the basics of its pro-style offense in order to control the tempo this Saturday.
“I think that we will run the ball effectively, and it starts with practice throughout the week,” Burton said. “We just need to be more consistent as a whole. There were some plays where we had a few good runs, and there were some ones where there were [tackles-for-loss]. At the same time, Penn State has a good defensive front, so you’ve got to give them credit there ... but as long as we just go back to our fundamentals and be consistent, we’ll be fine.”
Sophomore Justin Goodwin didn’t see a snap against Penn State despite being listed as probable, but Flood said his absence wasn’t because of the game plan.
Citing that Goodwin is now 100 percent after being limited in practice last week, Rutgers’ head coach expects him to play at running back against Navy. Goodwin is currently listed as a co-backup on Rutgers’ two-deep depth chart.
Flood remains noncommittal on keeping the sophomore on offense, who worked reps at cornerback the first two weeks before switching to running back, where Goodwin played as a true freshman.
“I don’t know that anything is permanent beyond a onegame season,” Flood said. “Right now everything we’re doing in our planning from depth chart to game plan is all based on trying to be 10 this week. After the game, we’ll evaluate it and go forward.”
True freshman safety Kiy Hester, who officially transferred to Rutgers from Miami (Florida) last Thursday, began practicing Sunday night with the scout team.
The former four-star recruit from Wayne, New Jersey, verbally committed to Rutgers last year and de-committed in November. According to multiple reports, Hester wanted to return closer to home to be with his ailing mother.
Hester is ineligible to play until next season, when he figures to compete for a starting safety job with the impending graduations of Lorenzo Waters and Johnathan Aiken.
“It’s great to have him on the team,” Flood said. “We look forward to now progressing him through our program.”
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