Running game shines in win over Liberty
One of the key assets of the Rutgers football team’s offense the past several years, independent of its sub -.500 records, was the strength of the running game. And this showed time and time again this past Saturday.
The Scarlet Knights (2-6, 0-5) have undergone changes to their offense since they lost 52-0 to Michigan at the end of September. Former head coach Chris Ash was relieved of his duties, as was John McNulty, the team’s offensive coordinator since last season.
But, with interim head coach Nunzio Campanile making his ascension from the tight ends coaches position to his new role, the offense has resembled a run-pass-option (RPOs) style, similar to how he operated his offense back at powerhouse New Jersey high school Bergen Catholic, where he garnered the first state title since 2004.
When Campanile first instilled the new offense into his players, Rutgers lost to Maryland 48-7, the Knights only ran for 151 yards and threw for 163 passing yards. In that game alone, Rutgers lost 36 yards on the ground.
Fast forward to this weekend, Campanile’s fourth game as the head coach. The offense seemed to be gelling under the third different quarterback to take snaps under junior center Michael Maietti.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Langan was tapped in as the starter in the Knights’ loss against the Terrapins along with Campanile. But, the play call chemistry was working this past weekend.
Langan, an honorary member of Rutgers’ backfield, had his best career day passing and running, combining for 310 yards. For this feat, he was named the Knights’ first Big Ten Freshman of the Week (along with Penn State defensive end and Howell, New Jersey, native Jayson Oweh) since 2017.
Langan’s stats included his first career passing and second career rushing touchdowns. True freshman wide receiver Isaiah Washington shared in the game of firsts by hauling in a 51-yarder from Langan and taking it to the house.
Langan compiled 118 yards on the ground while only losing 5 yards the entire 60 minutes, his lowest number all season, with his longest run of the game a 17-yarder. He also threw for 192 yards and no interceptions.
Sophomore running back Isaih Pacheco scored two touchdowns on 107 yards, his first scores since he amassed four touchdowns against UMass on Aug. 30.
“Looks like there’s some growth, and hopefully we can keep doing that,” Campanile said. “There’s been much better balance in who is -— the ball distribution, who is really important. I thought that we had the type of balance that we would look for in the run pass.”
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