Rutgers suffers hefty 48-13 loss to No. 14 Washington in season opener
SEATTLE, Wash. —— Chris Ash came to Piscataway with a vision of changing the Rutgers football team in just about every way he could.
The first-year head coach modified the ambiance of the Hale Center, expanded the resources his team had available and even rearranged the seating arrangements on the team plane during away trips.
Unfortunately for him, he also changed a tradition he surely liked to have kept intact.
Ash became just the second head coach to lose on his debut with the Scarlet Knights since 1924, suffering a heavy 48-13 loss to No. 14 Washington.
“Obviously that wasn’t the outcome that we wanted,” Ash said. “Coming out here to Washington, playing a very good football team, we knew we were going to have to play a good football game, play fairly mistake free, did not do that, obviously, in a lot of areas, got a lot of work to do.”
Both teams had initial drives that lasted less than two minutes, but for very different reasons.
The Knights, operating in their newly implemented no-huddle offense, ran three handoffs to senior running back Justin Goodwin in one minute. The first two resulted in 9 yards of gain but the third came with nothing. Goodwin was stuffed after calling a timeout and after calling a timeout due to a “headset malfunction,” according to Ash, Rutgers punted for the first of many times throughout the evening.
The Huskies picked up the ball on the Knights’ 49 and took three plays to reach the endzone, with sophomore quarterback Jake Browning finding classmate Chico McClatcher down the right sideline for a 43-yard touchdown pass.
McClatcher was motioned to the sideline, matching up with and torching senior Andre Hunt, a safety-turned-linebacker, for the score, the first of a long list of Rutgers’ defensive backs to be beat on the afternoon.
Junior Isaiah Wharton was the next victim up, watching Washington junior wide receiver John Ross race past him for a 38-yard touchdown catch two drives later.
Junior free safety Saquan Hampton came late to help Wharton against Ross and was late when defending Ross on the next drive as the Long Beach, California, native breezed past him on a 50-yard touchdown play to extend the Huskies lead to 24-0 to end the first quarter.
In all, the first 15 minutes saw the Knights give up 202 yards of total offense, 154 of which through the air as Browning completed 6 of his 8 attempts.
"They put a wideout in the backfield, motioned him out. We had our nickel linebacker in the game and he got beat on a vertical route. A couple of other isolation routes where they just got behind people on one-on-one coverage and then one time they split two safeties on a zone, and all those pass plays came in the first quarter," said defensive coordinator Jay Niemann. "So didn't do job in staying on top of routes and being in the position we were supposed to be in."
The second quarter saw a better start from Rutgers on both sides of the ball. The first two drives on defense ended in recovering the ball on downs in their red zone after an aggressive attempt from Washington and then a missed field goal attempt.
The Knights mirrored their opponents on their first two drives on offense, surrendering the ball on downs in their first drive, going for it twice on fourth down after the initial attempt that saw senior quarterback Chris Laviano get sacked was turned back for a false start.
Though it ended without points, the drive showed positive signs for Rutgers, which were continued on the next drive. The sun came out as the Knights began their second drive of the second quarter and it appeared their offense was coming out with it.
They strung together three straight first downs, first from a run from Goodwin, then on a reception from junior tight end Matt Flanagan and then finally on a designed run from Laviano. But just as it had been all morning, it eventually stalled, this time deep enough into enemy territory that junior kicker David Bonagura got his first ever field goal attempt.
Bonagura’s attempt had just enough on it to get through the uprights, giving Rutgers its first 3 points and some hope as it reduced the deficit to 24-3.
The comeback attempt was soon crushed by Ross, who added to his two receiving touchdowns with a 92-yard kick-off return.
Washington hit a field goal as time expired in the second quarter to take a 34-3 lead into the half, but it wasn’t done scoring — not even close.
The Huskies piled on in the third quarter, scoring in nearly every way possible. After three receiving touchdowns, a kick-off return and a pair of field goals, the home side returned the fifth of junior Michael Cintron’s punts of the day 68 yards for a score.
Both teams traded punts before Washington scored again, with Laviano throwing his first interception of the game, a sure pick-six if not for senior wide receiver Janarion Grant tracking back and making a tackle four yards outside the endzone.
Washington left Browning on the bench after his 18-for-27, 287 yard, three touchdown, one interception performance and put back-up quarterback K.J. Carta Samuels. He threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Andre Baccelia on his first play of the game to extend the lead to 48-3.
One of the few positives on a day full of negatives for Rutgers was the resilience it showed despite the insurmountable deficit it faced. Ash said he saw a team that quit in the face of adversity last season and put his team in tons of it during the offseason to prepare them for moments like today.
The Knights didn’t pack it in following the Huskies sixth touchdown, pushing forward on offense and entering the redzone twice in two drives. The first concluded in Bonagura’s second field goal of the game, while the second saw them score their first touchdown. Grant concluded a 65-yard drive with a 10-yard run into the endzone out of the wildcat after making a 29-yard reception two plays earlier.
The touchdown score didn’t change the result, but it made a statement.
“Even after a big play, big play, big play, we continued to stick through it and just lined-up and played,” senior safety Anthony Cioffi, who had an interception and pass breakup, said. “We just have to go to the office tomorrow and correct some of the things we made mistakes on and just go on the field. We’re not going to quit for anyone and even if we’re getting blown out by 100, 200 points, we’re not going to stop.”