Takeaways from Rutgers' 42-13 loss to Buffalo over the weekend
Another week, another rough loss for the Rutgers football team. The Scarlet Knights (1-3, 0-1) suffered their third straight blowout loss on Saturday, this time at the hands of Buffalo (4-0) and its stacked offensive unit.
Rutgers scored first and secured an interception on the Bulls’ second drive of the game, so things certainly looked up for the Knights early on. But Buffalo began to pour on the depleted Rutgers defense and eventually ran away with the game.
Here are four takeaways from the Knights’ 42-13 loss over the weekend:
After week long speculations over who would start Saturday’s game as quarterback for Rutgers, head coach Chris Ash put confidence back into his preseason starter in true freshman Artur Sitkowski, by keeping him in at the top of the depth chart for the game. Sitkowski was coming off the worst game of his short college career at Kansas, where he threw three interceptions and 37 percent on his throws.
It seems like the game plan for the offense was to play extremely conservative and make no attempts at long plays. Offensive coordinator John McNulty must’ve drawn up plays to keep the ball away from the opposing defenders as much as possible. And it worked, as Sitkowski didn’t give up the ball a single time … in his quarter and a half of play that is, before being benched for fifth-year senior Giovanni Rescigno.
This was surprising, though, because it seemed like Sitkowski hadn’t done anything drastic to deserve being subbed out. Yes, he had only gone 6-13 for 39 yards up to that point, but again, the team was playing it safe. The Knights needed a spark to potentially change up the way the game was going, Ash said. Rescigno finished out the remaining two and a half quarters and went 12-24 for 129 yards, but no touchdowns. It will be interesting to see where Ash goes from here and for the remainder of the season.
Stuffed up front
Turnovers weren’t the only spot that Rutgers improved on from last weekend. After giving up a whopping 400 rushing yards last weekend, the Knights sured things up on Saturday, slicing more than half of that from the stat sheet. The defensive line did a solid job standing pat against the run, giving up a much improved 182 yards on the ground.
But, the line could be seeing a shakeup in its future after redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Elorm Lumor went down with an injury in the fourth quarter and needed to be helped off the field by two trainers.
Rutgers has been hurting in the secondary ever since senior cornerback Blessuan Austin went down with a knee injury after intercepting a pass in the first game of the season. Austin had surgery on Sept. 21 to potentially repair the same ACL that he injured last season. Freshman cornerback Avery Young has been filling in for Austin this season.
Sophomore cornerback Tre Avery made his long awaited collegiate debut for the Knights against the Bulls and also recorded his first tackle in the game. Rutgers had been waiting for Avery to take the field for the first time for a couple of years now. Freshman wide receiver Zihir Lacewell and junior linebacker Izaia Bullock made their collegiate debuts as well on Saturday, with Lacewell being put in on defense and assisting on a tackle.
Sophomore running back Raheem Blackshear is starting to separate himself from the rest of the offense as being the best player on the unit. He put up another 69 yards on the ground and added the team’s lone touchdown of the day. Blackshear also caught three passes and has been a nice option in the passing game overall, still having the team’s lone passing touchdown of the season under his belt.
On the season, the Warminster, Pa. native has 264 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns, while also catching 15 balls for 76 yards and a touchdown. Not half bad for a second year kid who was an Honorable Mention on the All-Big Ten Freshman team last season.