Dorian Miller, Chris Ash and Jay Niemann help Rutgers shift attention to Morgan State
It's easy for the Rutgers football team to constantly replay its 16-13 loss to Eastern Michigan, as it marks one of the worst losses in recent history for the program. But head coach Chris Ash knows it is his responsibility to get his team back on track and shift all of its focus towards Saturday's opponent, Morgan State.
After playing then-No. 8 Washington hard for 60 minutes in the season opener, the Scarlet Knights (0-2) failed to find a rhythm against the Eagles.
Ash noted he was both surprised and disappointed in the team's ability to find an identity and consistently move the ball against a team that should have been overmatched by Rutgers.
"We have to get better. I mean, that's what it is," Ash said. "We looked at that after game one and unfortunately we didn't do it in all phases but we have to get that done this week and next Saturday against Morgan State."
On the last drive of the game, down 16-13, it looked like the Knights' offense had some rhythm, as it was moving the ball up the field quickly and efficiently. But that momentum was halted by a 15-yard penalty on senior right guard Dorian Miller. That knocked the Rutgers out of field-goal range and set the stage for a sack to end the game.
A captain and one of the most vocal players on the team, Miller was quick to take responsibility for his error, but also quick to get his teammates ready to focus on Morgan State.
"We just gotta get back on schedule," Miller said. "Focus on building off of two weeks ago."
Two weeks ago, of course, was the game against the Huskies, which led fans and the national media to praise the Knights for showing great improvement from a year ago.
Miller knows what both the offensive line and the team is capable of and said that it is key for them to make a statement on Saturday.
"Very important to come out and make sure we get back on track," he said.
On the other side of the ball, defensive coordinator Jay Niemann said that his unit needs to improve its consistency.
While giving up just one touchdown to an offense trained by Brogan Roback, led by a fifth-year senior, is not a nightmare performance for a defense, there were many plays there for the defense to make that it simply did not.
Most importantly, the team did not get a win and that is what most will remember about that game.
"Consistency I think is the big thing overall (we need to improve)," Niemann said. "We've done a good job defending the run ... We've turned what could be great performances into good performances instead of the other way around."
Ash was more direct in what he said he wanted to see improvement in, saying that his team lacked pride and consistency against Eastern Michigan and he needs to see that this week.
"Every coach's mystery is how do you get your team to perform, take pride in that performance and do it consistently every snap, every game, regardless who you play, where you play them, what the situation is. We did not do that last week," Ash said. "Our focus is we have to get that done this week."
While a loss to the Bears, an FCS team, would be rock bottom for sure, Ash noted that he treats every team the same and said that Rutgers won't slight them.
Miller said the team will be motivated for other reasons. The players aren't happy with their performance against the Eagles and relish a fresh start, an aspect of sports that Miller said he embraces.
He knows that Eastern Michigan is in the rearview and the team will need to rebound in a big way.
"You get to go out there with a fresh start every week," he said. "There's certain things you gotta get over quick."