Bye week comes at perfect time for Rutgers football team
The bad news for the Rutgers football team? It was just embarrassed at home by No. 11 Ohio State to the tune of 56-0. The good news? It can't do worse this week.
After losing four of their first five games of the season, the Scarlet Knights (2-4, 0-2) are met with a week off — one that will be crucial to the outcome of the season.
Against the Buckeyes, starting safeties Saquan Hampton and Kiy Hester both left the game with injuries and did not return. Backup quarterback Johnathan Lewis, who is widely regarded as the future of the team, also left with an injury in the second half. Fifth-year senior do-it-all star Janarion Grant did not play for the second straight week after not being medically cleared. Starting tight end Jerome Washington hobbled off the field with an injury in the second half. The list goes on and on.
The bottom line: this team is more than banged up and needs to recover and rest up in preparation for a very winnable game against Illinois on Oct. 14.
In a very tense and brief postgame press conference, Ash had little to say of his team's play, but did expand on the importance of taking a step back and re-evaluating the status of his team.
"We've got a week off here this next week. Right now everything is going to be on the table," he said. "We've got to look at our personnel. We've got to evaluate injuries, we've got to evaluate what we're doing, and we'll take this next week to do that."
And when referencing personnel, he was specifically talking about the quarterback position. Graduate transfer Kyle Bolin started the game, but was just 5-14 for 56 yards and no touchdowns.
Lewis was not better, going 3-10 for 21 yards with two interceptions. Drops hindered Lewis' stat-line, but he also did not look comfortable playing against a high-level defense like Ohio State's.
Fifth-year senior and captain Darnell Davis was candid when speaking about the game, noting how poor of a performance the Knights had and how a mental break to go along with the physical break of a bye week will be important to the team.
"We gotta get better man. It was a terrible loss. We gotta clean up our mistakes," he said. "We saw what we did wrong and we gotta get better cause the road doesn't get easier from here ... Mentally, we need a break. We really do."
The first step for Rutgers will be making sure all injured players are properly evaluated and fully healed. The team is potentially in a really bad place if Hampton and Hester's injuries are serious, so Ash and company will have to look at potential replacements.
Sophomore safety KJ Gray stepped in and played a big role against the Buckeyes, but when Hester went down, converted wide receiver Rashad Blunt came in to play safety — something that is not ideal.
"The bye week is extremely helpful. Halfway through the season is perfect for us. We got injuries going on so hopefully those guys can get back, hopefully it's nothing brutal or vital," Davis said.
One of the issues that plagued the Knights was the play of the wide receivers. Bolin did not throw them under the bus, but was visually upset with the overall play of the offense.
The hope is that someone in that room can step up as a reliable target for Bolin and offensive coordinator Jerry Kill can figure out creative ways for the offense to move the ball against an Big Ten opponent.
"It allows (us) to get rest, get guys back healthy, evaluate where were at and where we wanna go and then be able to re-start the second half of the season," Bolin said.
Continuing the trend of captains speaking to the media after a tough loss, fifth-year senior Dorian Miller was once again upfront and honest about the status of the team. He noted that while he may not need to "flip tables" to ignite some energy into the team, something needs to change.
Fortunately, the bye week is the perfect time to do so and for Rutgers, it couldn't come at a better time.
"A bye week is definitely a time where we're able to get young guys reps and guys that may have to step into positions they may haven't been playing," Miller said.