Inconsistency continues to plague Rutgers quarterbacks in spring game
The Rutgers football team culminated all the work it’s put in over the spring in its 15th meeting of the season Saturday night.
But instead of practicing in front of recruits and high school coaches inside the Rutgers Indoor Practice and Conditioning Facility or outside on turf at the F3 practice field, the Scarlet Knights showcased what they’ve put together in the past month in front of 14,177 at High Point Solutions Stadium in the Scarlet and White spring game.
Despite the attendance being lower than last season’s total of 15,782, head coach Chris Ash was appreciative of the fans who came out to support the first spring game of his time on the Banks.
“It ended up being a great evening, and I’m really appreciative of the fans that showed up to support the football team,” he said. “Like a lot of the events that we have, we’re looking to make each event each year bigger and better, and we’ll do the same for the spring game, but I thought it was a great turnout for our first spring game.”
The White team, consisting of the second string and select fourth stringers, began the game with 17-point cushion in order for the game to be more competitive.
It was unable to surmount the talent gap, however, as it was outscored 33-3 by the Scarlet side, which consisted of the first string and select third stringers, once the clock began running, leading to the final score of 33-20.
Playing under the lights for the first time in the spring, the Knights got a taste of what they’ll see in the fall as they prepare to compete in the no-huddle spread offense for the first time.
“The spring game is as close it gets to a game in the offseason, and I felt really comfortable with the offensive line and the offensive unit out there in the no-huddle offense,” said senior center Derrick Nelson. “I think there’s still more improvements that we need to do but all in all, I think we looked pretty well and we were a little productive out there.”
Ash didn’t name a starting quarterback prior to the contest, citing the inconsistency both have shown throughout the spring as a reason the competition will run into training camp.
The lack of consistency in the offense was evident to those who tuned into the Big Ten Network Saturday night.
Juniors quarterbacks Chris Laviano and Hayden Rettig split the reps for the Scarlet squad.
While Laviano struggled in his first three series, going 8-for-18 for 73 yards and no touchdowns in the first quarter, Rettig demonstrated the potential seen in him that spurred cries from fans to give him an opportunity throughout last season.
The Los Angeles, California, native went 4-for-6 in his first two drives, throwing for 76 yards, including a 55-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Carlton Agudosi, who never broke stride in the process.
Results were flipped in the second half as Laviano came out on fire to start the third quarter.
The Glen Head, New York, native started the half with his first touchdown drive of the game, going a perfect 4-for-4 on the 66 yard march downfield. He and senior receiver Andre Patton combined for a 41 yard pass before senior running back Robert Martin charged into the endzone on a 6 yard run.
Laviano continued his solid half two drives later, when he and Janarion Grant connected on a bubble screen before the senior wide receiver went 37 yards to the house, evading a pair of defenders on the way to giving the Scarlet team a 26-20 lead.
On his final drive, Laviano showed an improvement in one of his issues from last year. In the play of the game, he scrambled out of the pocket and threw a 49 yard bomb across his body off his back foot to Grant, who was on the opposite side of the field.
Meanwhile, Rettig went 7-for-11 in the fourth quarter, completing seven straight passes before throwing his last three incomplete.
In order to fix the problem that’s holding both quarterbacks from taking a firm grasp on the starting spot, Rettig will put his head down and get to work in the offseason.
"Just keep working hard, I guess,” he said of the solution. “Keep doing what you’re doing and actually put more hours in. We gotta be better.”
Both quarterbacks received a boost from Grant, who had the standout performance of the night. The Trilby, Florida, native gave a sneak peak at how his skillset will be crucial in Rutgers' new offense as he led the team with 140 yards and a touchdown on 11 catches, most of which came on bubble screens in the backfield.
"(Janarion's) very quick, he's elusive, he can make people miss in space, he can line up in the slot, he can motion, he can line up in the backfield. He can do a number of things offensively and we're gonna utilize his skillsets to do that," Ash said. "I think he's a perfect fit for what we do offensively. You'll see him in a lot of different positions in the fall."
The Knights will get a day off Sunday following the game and then will attend individual meetings with position coaches throughout the next week in order to receive assessments of where they’re at following the spring," Ash said.
From there, the players will be back in the weight room in order to prepare for the season that lies ahead.
With the quarterback competition at the top of the list of things to sort out from now until the season kicks off Sep. 3 in Seattle against Washington, Rettig is looking at nothing but how he could improve individually.
“I know everyone gets worried about competition stuff, but you gotta embrace it. You gotta love it,” Rettig said. “You gotta worry about yourself. You really have to worry about what you’re doing to get better every day. Everyone’s good, so you just gotta be better.”