Rutgers' secondary struggles in 2nd half after stopping plays in 1st

This past weekend, the Rutgers football team came into its game against No. 17 Minnesota with a desire to flip the script on the season in terms of defensive production. The team had been outscored by 145 points in their previous six games, and the Scarlet Knights’ (1-6,0-5) defensive unit sought to limit the damage in what would have to be another tough-fought battle against their opponent. 

The Golden Gophers (7-0, 4-0) were currently in the midst of an undefeated season with six straight wins against their opponents heading into the matchup with Rutgers.

For most of the first half, it looked like defensive coordinator Andy Buh and his players were actually translating that desire into some sort of production on the field. Although Minnesota scored twice in the first two quarters that were played, it is important to note exactly what had transpired for the Knights leading up to those scores. 

As a result of the pressure that the Rutgers secondary was putting on the Gophers receiving core, it was troublesome for Minnesota to generate any sort of momentum with a big play down the field. 

Pass after pass was broken up by the Knights in the first two quarters. With the only two touchdowns coming from a short 3-yard rush and 13-yard pass from the Gophers’ Rodney Smith and Rashod Bateman, respectively, it looked as if this defensive unit was going to keep their team in the game much longer than anyone had expected.

Redshirt freshman strong safety Christian Izien was a big reason why, as his two broken up passes and nine total tackles on the day were one of the main reasons why Rutgers felt they even had an opportunity to upset Minnesota on Saturday.

“I think we had a good chance of winning the game”, Izien said. “We came out playing really well so I think we gave ourselves a really good opportunity to do that.”

That was certainly true — but only for the first half.

Once another Rodney Smith rush translated into a 16-yard touchdown in the third quarter for the Gophers, it seemed as though the game was starting to slip away for the Knights as the quality of the defensive unit began to merge back into their old form that has shown itself so often this season. 

The score was now 21-0, and with the offensive front certainly not providing any help, it looked as though the pressure of the situation got to the best of interim head coach Nunzio Campanile’s players. 

The commencement of the fourth quarter gave way to a rushing touchdown, pick-six and 56-yard pass to a Minnesota's Tyler Johnson to bring the score to 42-0 Gophers. 

It was starting to look bad for Rutgers — and not just for this game.

With this loss to Minnesota, the Knights have now been outscored by 180 points this season. In order for that statistic to change, this defense needs to start playing the rest of the year like it did in the first half of Saturday’s contest. 

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