The Rutgers football team lost a close game at home on Saturday, falling to Illinois 23-20.
The Scarlet Knights (1-3, 1-3) got off to a fast start, going 75 yards in less than 2 minutes on their first drive, ending with a 29-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Noah Vedral to senior wide receiver Bo Melton.
A fumble forced by senior defensive end Mike Tverdov led to a field goal from junior kicker Valentino Ambrosio, which extended Rutgers' lead to 10-0 after the first quarter. This was Ambrosio’s first game as a member of the football team, as he spent his first year on the Banks as a member of the men's soccer team.
The Fighting Illini (1-3, 1-3) answered early in the second quarter, with Isaiah Williams scoring on a 3-yard touchdown run. Then, Ambrosio added a field goal for the Knights, who held a 13-7 lead going into halftime.
Illinois added a field goal on its opening drive in the third quarter before Vedral answered with a 66-yard touchdown pass to Melton.
On the following drive, the Fighting Illini cut Rutgers' lead to three with a one-yard touchdown run from Mike Epstein.
The first of Vedral’s three second-half interceptions led to a field goal, tying the game at 20 early in the fourth quarter.
Then, Illinois missed 54-yard and 46-yard field goals in back-to-back drives.
The Knights could not capitalize. Another Vedral interception led to a game-winning 47-yard field goal from the Fighting Illini's James McCourt.
“I want the expectations to be higher, that’s what they should be,” said head football coach Greg Schiano, according to the Asbury Park Press. “We go up 10-0 early but you know, if you’ve been doing it as long as I have, you know this one is coming down to the final whistle and essentially it did.”
Vedral finished 21-of-34 with 256 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.
Melton finished with five receptions, 150 yards and two touchdowns.
Junior running back Isaih Pacheco took most of the carries for Rutgers and finished with 134 yards on 20 carries.
Illinois took a run-heavy approach to get a victory, as it tallied 338 rushing yards with only 104 passing yards.
Williams used an option heavy offense to have a big game, rushing for 192 yards and a touchdown and adding to the Fighting Illini’s 104 passing yards.
Chase Brown rushed for 131 yards.
“We’ve got to get all that stuff fixed and that is part of building this thing, building this program," Schiano said, according to the Asbury Park Press. "We have to, have to, have to understand what it takes to win in this league. If we don’t it will be that roller coaster, some good, some bad. We need to learn that it is all in, it is everything, otherwise, this league is too hard to win in.”
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