Rutgers drops out of bowl eligibility with humiliating 41-0 loss to Indiana
Knights give up 503 yards of total offense in defeat to last-place Hoosiers
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — It's not 2015 anymore, and maybe that was the issue for the Rutgers football team.
As soon as Indiana recorded its 3rd touchdown of the game and the rain came pouring in, the fans made way for the exits and it was as good as done. Not even an hour and a half weather delay could have set the visitors back on the right track.
There was no comeback like the Scarlet Knights' 25-point storming back in this venue two years ago.
Instead, the Hoosiers kept piling on the points, as Rutgers (4-7, 3-5) was embarrassed away from home by Indiana (5-6, 2-6) in a 41-0 shutout.
"This was kind of out of character in this type of game," said fifth-year senior left guard Dorian Miller. "The effort was there, but at the same time, execution-wise we gotta do things better."
On par with their 56-0 loss to Ohio State, the Knights failed to put up any points against the last-place team in the Big Ten East, dropping out of bowl contention, barring a miracle.
Though losses are certainly not at a premium for Rutgers, it came about in backward fashion for the Knights Saturday.
Rutgers has made a season out of starting strong and limping toward the finish, but the game in Bloomington could not have kicked off any worse for the Knights.
To make driving against 20 miles per hour winds worse, an unsportsmanlike conduct and a false start killed any would-be drive for the visitors before it could even start.
Following an Indiana three-and-out, freshman Hunter Hayek muffed a punt only for the home side to recover at the six-yard line, leading to an easy touchdown for Morgan Ellison on the next play.
Three minutes later, an unmarked Ian Thomas slipped into the middle of the field and recorded a 57-yard touchdown to put the Hoosiers up 14-0 only seven minutes into the game.
Of course, in other respects, the game felt typically "Rutgers."
The conservative play style of head coach Chris Ash and the offense once again found its way into the game.
Down 17-0, the team elected to punt while in Hoosier territory with strong winds in its favor in what could only be considered a questionable decision on behalf of Ash.
The offense needed all the help it could get against Indiana. After picking up its first two first downs of the game, a punt was the last thing it needed.
Rutgers would continue to struggle in the first-down game, as the Hoosiers more-than doubled their count, 23 to 11.
But if the Knights can take any consolation from Saturday, it is the passing game finally starting to come together, thanks in large part to a young receiving corps in the front seat.
With fifth-year senior Janarion Grant and graduate transfer Damon Mitchell absent from the game, freshmen Everett Wormley, Bo Melton, Mohamed Jabbie and even tight end Travis Vokolek all got on the board, collecting 60 of Rutgers' 103 total receiving yards.
Ash noted midweek the struggles in improving the Knights' passing prowess from last year with the loss of key seniors, the ongoing Grant injury saga and the quarterback shuffle at the beginning of the season.
The growing pains of the youth movement at wide receiver have been well-documented for Rutgers this season, but it slowly started to gain traction against Indiana.
Helping along that unit was junior quarterback Giovanni Rescigno, who went 8-14 for 67 yards, despite still lacking in finding his receivers and getting the ball away in time. Usually an above-average scrambler — and he did have 34 gained rushing yards — his hesitance to throw to manned receivers, along with a flimsy offensive line, left him on the end of four sacks. In total, he ran for two yards, with 32 yards for loss, paving the way for freshman Johnathan Lewis to fill in at the position.
"I'll prepare like I'm the starter even if I'm not," Rescigno said, on moving onto the next game week. "That's how I've been doing it the whole year, even when I wasn't starting. It's just the same mentality I have to have."
On the other hand, the Knights secondary could not solve quarterback Richard Lagow, who threw for 236 yards and 2 scores on a 17-28 line.
With Lagow usually sharing duties with Peyton Ramsey, Rutgers' preparation for both must not have accounted for Lagow's performance from the pocket, who threw a 57-yard touchdown to Ian Thomas and a 20-yard touchdown to Luke Timian.
Indiana put together 503 yards of total offense, as opposed to the Knights' 186, a disparity expected out of a matchup against an Ohio State or a Penn State, not Indiana.
If Rutgers plans to escape its reputation as the bottom of the Big Ten East, beating the actual bottom of the Big Ten East should be a prerequisite.
"We're better than this," Ash said, on his message to the team after the game. "We've been better than this, we've played better than this, we've come too far to play a game like this. ... It's on me. Gotta coach better, gotta find a way to coach better."
For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.