For Rutgers fans, the Big Ten opener against Iowa State is a good test of your level of optimism. You can sum up the loss pretty accurately by stating that if the Scarlet Knights didn’t score 14 points for the Hawkeyes, they would have a chance to win.
Or, if you want, you can focus on, you know, The whole Hawkeyes scored 14 points thing.
Final score: Iowa 27, Rutgers 10.
Actual score: Rutgers 14, Iowa 13, Rutgers 10.
Guys, it’s not that complicated. Rutgers is not a program that can make any mistakes against a Big Ten program like Iowa and expect to win. Two mistakes end up in their own finish zone? Forget it.
This is a major missed opportunity for the Scarlet Knight. The night started with an announcement of 53,117 people in attendance, with most fans in their seats when FS1 turned on the cameras to a national audience. It ended with a predictably empty stadium and some die-hard Iowa fans — any other kind? – chanted “Let’s go to the Eagles!” as the visiting team celebrated yet another ugly win.
Rutgers still can’t get out of the woods on offense. Fans might blame offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson for turning into a message board pinata, but execution was the bigger issue in this game. Rutgers is 8-0 since 2020 with no turnovers, which may be why head coach Greg Schiano was so conservative in wins over Boston College and Temple College.
But with a chance at a 4-0 win against a better opponent, playing near the vest just won’t work. Rutgers led 3-0 when Evan Simon’s pass was intercepted by Iowa State linebacker Cooper Djang and returned for a 44-yard touchdown. Then, in the second quarter, Iowa State safety Kaevon Merriweather hit back at Joshua Youngblood’s fumble for a 14-3 lead.
This is what Iowa needs. Rutgers’ result was a Big Ten record with its 20th consecutive home loss in a league game, and it’s doubtful how the team will compete this season as the Big Ten meat grinder begins. If it keeps scoring itself, it certainly won’t beat anyone.
Here are five observations from Rutgers-Iowa University:
1. Simon’s Rock Day
The numbers are pretty good. Evan Simon completed a career-high 28 of 49 for 300 yards, and a week later the Scarlet Cavaliers had just 59 in their 16-14 win over Temple, a big improvement .
But those numbers, mostly accumulated late in the game against Iowa’s second team, don’t tell a story. Simon, the only available scholarship quarterback for the game, threw two deadly interceptions — including one that returned for a touchdown — and missed a couple of throws early in the game that could change the outcome.
Schiano would not give an injury timeline for any of his players. However, vision tests on injured quarterbacks Noah Vedral and Gavin Wimsatt during the warm-up suggest the pair will be back sooner or later. Maybe even at Ohio State next week. They all need to be back soon.
2. A positive “D” pays off
Twitter account @CFBFilmRoom had a fascinating stat this week. Rutgers leads the top 10 in blitz rate against FBS opponents — and it’s not particularly close — led by first-year defensive coordinator Joe Harasymiak. According to the site, Rutgers shines in 41.8 percent of its plays, well ahead of Purdue’s 34.9 percent.
That aggression really worked against Iowa in the second quarter. Somewhat inexplicably, when the Hawkeyes have the ball effectively, they call it a pass. Before quarterback Spencer Petras pitched, Rutgers defensive back Christian Izien knocked him down on a well-timed blitz for a deadly 8-yard run sack.
When Iowa ran the ball, D also launched the offense. Wesley Bailey, a sophomore defensive lineman, crossed Iowa’s defense in the opening round to beat Gavin Williams for six yards. The defense wasn’t perfect, but it held its own on a night when Rutgers’ offense kept scoring.
3. Fourth and go
Rutgers trailed 24-3 and the Scarlet Cavaliers couldn’t get over it for a month, let alone a quarter. Still, as he did when he returned to Piscataway, Schiano set the tone by refusing to accept a seemingly certain outcome. Remember that crazy sideways game that lost to Indiana in 2020? Like that, just less dramatic.
In the second half, he kept the offense three times in his fourth game inside Iowa State. The first two games, the Scarlet Knights moved the chain — including a nice 10-yard pass from Simon to receiver Shamin Jones. It was the clutch moment of an 82-yard drive that, predictably, didn’t go as they had hoped for Game 4 of the game.
This time, in the Iowa 7’s fourth and fourth games, the Hawkeyes put pressure on Simon and the quarterback passed the ball into the end zone without the reds. Iowa State took over the trough. However, on the next drive, Rutgers finally broke through and scored a touchdown.
4. Piscataway’s Punt
College football rarely receives national attention for the quality of its bettors, if not close to unprecedented. Adam Kosack vs. Tory Taylor is Rutgers vs. Rutgers’ main bill. Iowa, somehow, it managed to live up to the hype.
For Rutgers, Kossack is as good as ever. He locked Iowa within 20 twice in the first half, including a knockout at the 6. If Rutgers’ turnover didn’t give Iowa 14 points, Kossack would be the main reason the Scarlet Knights kept that score close.
For Iowa, though, Taylor is just as good. He nailed Rutgers at Nos. 4 and 7 and somehow avoided disaster when Rutgers cornerback Max Melton’s first-quarter throw went untouched and deflected . Taylor looked for the ball behind him, but it rolled to Rutgers 37.
So who won the punt battle? Call it a draw.
5. Ferris wheel, huge recruitment day and a nice tribute
Here are some other thoughts on Rutgers-Iowa University, Big Ten, and more:
One. Ferris wheel! If the boardwalk has a log sink for the next home game, I’ll hop on airbnb and book a place for next summer.
b. Schiano got out of the car for the Scarlet Walk and immediately hugged three-star linebacker Abram Wright from Florida. It’s been a huge recruiting weekend for Rutgers — not just for the football team. 11 different teams took advantage of the nightly games to arrange official visits.
C. Rutgers held a moment of silence for Xavier McClain, a sophomore at Linden High School who died of a head injury during a Sept. 9 game. 9, and Rahway High player Ali Muhammad, who died in his sleep the day before. It’s an elegant gesture that demonstrates the connection between programs at New Jersey’s top colleges and the high school level.
d. Travel around the top ten enough and you’ll find that most conference schools have a great presence at the nearest major airport – be it shops, or shows, or whatever. That’s why Rutgers University placed a giant Scarlet R at Newark Airport last week.
e. Scarlet Knight’s Good News Bad News Score This Week? Minnesota easily defeated Michigan State 34-7. Oct. 29 A trip to Minneapolis looked like it would be a tall order as the Gophers have the ability to win a Big Ten Western Conference title, but a trip to East Lansing two weeks later slipped into the Scarlet Knights list of “winnable games”.
F. The kickoff was great, the student area was packed and the new light show greeted prime-time TV audiences. Sadly, however, Rutgers didn’t give that group a reason to stay in the second half. Rutgers cut the lead to 24-10 in the fourth quarter. Will crowds matter then? Probably not, but it’s long gone.
G. In the press box this week: Giants general manager Joe Schoen and director of player personnel Tim McDonald. Something tells me they took the name Cooper Dejean in their notebooks after seeing the Iowa linebacker return for an unconventional interception for a first-quarter touchdown.
H. Pre-game light show: very cool. Game day packages continue to improve.
A generation. Rutgers’ offense wasn’t good enough to survive the many missed opportunities. Three drops in the first two drives – including two on the normally safe Langan – were fatal.
j. If Aaron Judge doesn’t hit his 61st home run soon, can Rutgers give him some minutes as a tight end?
More from Steve Politi:
Kicking Picasso: How Adam Kosack Became a Rutgers Star
How a former Rutgers athlete ended up being charged with murder in Tijuana
Finding Luther Wright, Once New Jersey’s Greatest Basketball Talent
Masters: Augusta’s Bathroom Secrets
Why Tiny St. Peter Is the Best Cinderella in March Madness History
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Steve Politi can be contacted at email@example.com.