Rutgers @ Nebraska: Stock up, stock down
LINCOLN, Neb. -- Hoping to build off of a 65-0 victory over Morgan State a week ago, the Rutgers football team took the field away from New Jersey for the first time this year in its Big Ten opener at Nebraska.
While the Scarlet Knights (1-3, 0-1) started strong, they faded fast in the second half and were ultimately defeated by the Huskers (2-2, 1-0) by a score of 27-17.
These players performed well and improved their stock.
The Rutgers corners and safeties were able to take advantage of Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee's struggles, picking him off twice on Saturday.
Junior cornerback Blessuan Austin had an interception in the first half that led to a field goal, while junior safety Kiy Hester intercepted a Lee pass on the first drive of the third quarter and returned it for a touchdown to give Rutgers the lead at that point in the game.
All in all, the secondary was able to limit the big plays and did not get beat on any deep balls.
The freshman kickoff specialist was once again a star for the Knights. He consistently had high and far kickoffs that either went for touchbacks or landed right at the goal line and forced returns.
A good kickoff specialist is such an underrated weapon for football teams, as being able to have an advantage in the field position battle can lead to victories.
Right now, Morris looks like a completely different player than a year ago.
Although he showed signs of wear toward the end of the game like most of the defense Saturday, he lit up the stat sheet for the most part. He had 13 tackles, three of which were for losses.
The Knights were inconsistent stopping the run, but penetrated the Nebraska backfield plenty of times to stop running plays before they could begin and Morris was a big reason why.
These players or coaches did not perform well and need to show improvement.
The Rutgers head coach once again had several bad decisions in this game.
In the fourth quarter, down 27-17 with under 6 minutes remaining, he elected to punt on 4th-and-10. That choice all but sealed the loss. Giving the Huskers the ball with a 10-point lead that late in the game was the nail in the coffin, especially with the way they had been running the ball in the second half. But when the defense made a stop and forced a Nebraska punt, Ash did not call a punt block play, which led to poor field position and an impossible task for Kyle Bolin and the offense.
Simply put, he needs to do better.
During the first drive of the game, the wide receivers and tight ends were consistently open and down the field. Jerome Washington made an incredible circus catch on third down and Bolin did not have to make too many difficult throws.
After that, though, Bolin had no one to throw to. Janarion Grant was out with an injury and true freshman Bo Melton was kept off the field for reasons unknown, as he was healthy and dressed. Without those two, there were no deep threats and there was hardly any separation.
It's easy to blame Bolin for having a poor game, but his receivers did not make plays for him and dropped way too many passes.
Graduate transfer punter Ryan Anderson has been a big-time addition for Rutgers. Unfortunately, his coverage has not always been there to back him up.
Late in the second quarter, Anderson appeared to flip the field with a 46-yard punt that had Nebraska return man De'Mornay Pierson-El catching it facing the wrong way. The Knights had two men right there when he caught it, but neither made the play and Pierson-El returned it all the way to the Rutgers 4-yard line. The Huskers only needed one play to score a touchdown and take a 14-10 lead, and they did just that on the following play.