Rutgers vs. Indiana: Stock Up, Stock Down
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- To call Saturday's performance against Indiana embarrassing for the Rutgers football team would be the understatement of the century.
The Hoosiers (5-6, 2-6) made a mockery of the Scarlet Knights (4-7, 3-5), dominating them from start to finish and coming away with the 41-0 victory.
The graduate transfer was the only player that looked like he wanted to be on the field, turning in his best performance of the season. His first punt of the game was a 56-yarder into winds of about 20 miles per hour. He ripped off another 50-plus yard boot in the same conditions. Of course that was all before a casual 70-yard bomb in the third quarter that was nearly downed at the 1-yard line, but bounced into the end zone. While it is great to see Anderson push for the Rutgers single-season punting average record, it is discouraging when he is the only player on the team that shows up for a game with postseason implications.
Where do we even start here? Ash completely failed to prepare his team for arguably the biggest game of the season, as Rutgers needed to win out to clinch a bowl berth. Instead, his team came out flat and was dominated by a Hoosier group that was in the same exact position — 4-6 and having to win its final two games to earn a bowl invitation. It was pretty darn clear who wanted it more.
In the first half, with his team already down 17-0, he faced a 4th-and-3 at the Indiana 40-yard line. With the game still close enough where his team had a chance to come back, he made a horrible decision to punt the ball. There is no reason to play the field position when you are down 17 points in a must-win game. This is not the first time that Ash has failed to be aggressive enough and that is becoming a consistent issue with his coaching style.
The defensive backs got torched, as Indiana quarterback Richard Lagow had a field day in his two-plus quarters of play. A breakdown in coverage led to an easy 57-yard touchdown pass to tight end Ian Thomas in the first quarter. Throughout the whole game, the secondary was horrific on third down. The Hoosiers were converting 3rd-and-long opportunities with ease and had complete control of the game. The secondary was also very weak in tackling, as Indiana receivers were gaining tons of yards on short crossing routes due to the Knights' inability to tackle.
What had been the team's most consistent unit was anything but that on Saturday, as it had its worst game of the season, considering the talent of Indiana's front seven compared to that of Michigan, the only other team to have a strong performance against Rutgers' offensive line. For the entire game, it gave up 4 sacks and 7 tackles for loss, giving quarterback Giovanni Rescigno no time to throw the ball. It was also not good enough to help the Knights establish a running game.
Anyone who attempted a tackle
Boy, was that ugly. The defense looked like it would have had trouble tackling a 100-pound Pop Warner player on Saturday. It was without a doubt the worst tackling job of the year by Rutgers. As mentioned previously, Hoosier receivers were constantly turning 3 and 4-yard crossing routes into double-digit gains. Late in the third quarter, Indiana running back Morgan Ellison had a 45 yard run where he was bouncing off tacklers and dragging defenders before going down at the 1-yard line. The film review of defense won't be pretty, to say the least.
The Scarlet Knights return to action next Saturday at High Point Solutions Stadium, Nov. 25 against No. 17 Michigan State, in their final game of the season. The game will be broadcast nationally on Fox and is set for a 4 p.m. kickoff.