At the halfway point of the season, the Rutgers football team is sitting in a familiar place by being winless in the Big Ten. The Daily Targum sports desk weighs in on the Scarlet Knights' (3-3, 0-3) progress so far and what they hope to see from the rest of the season.
Laney Ortiz, Head sports editor
Rutgers does what every single one of my favorite teams does. They start strong, get me excited and then start to let me down. I was so hopeful after the Michigan game, even though it ended in a loss but all of that hope for this season left me after the Ohio State game.
I try to remind myself that this program is still rebuilding and that Rome was not built in a day. Hopefully, this team can scratch out another couple of wins and have a great recruiting class and get a bowl game for my senior year.
Dylan McCoy, Associate sports editor
After a very successful start to the season, the Knights came back down to Earth after losing to three of the best teams in the Big Ten. While the Michigan game can be looked at as a "moral victory," the last two weeks have seen the program suffer blowouts, much like we saw during the Chris Ash era.
The schedule gets easier with Northwestern and Illinois up next, and the Knights still have a path to reaching a bowl game. Senior quarterback Noah Vedral has been a dividing figure among the fanbase, with many wishing for the debut of freshman quarterback Gavin Wimsatt after watching Vedral miss his fair share of throws, including what would have been a walk-in touchdown for junior wide receiver Aron Cruickshank last weekend.
Rutgers has also been bitten by the injury bug, and it needs to get back to full health soon in order to compete for the rest of the season. I will be happy if the Knights are able to make a bowl game, and the continued recruiting of head football coach Greg Schiano should provide for better results in the future.
Edward Kalegi, Contributing writer
It has certainly been a unique year of Rutgers football. Unlike past seasons that have been marred by disappointing performances in non-conference tilts, the Knights showed up in full force against Temple, Syracuse and Delaware. Their offense did its job, while the defense was suffocating.
Everyone knew that difficulties would arise the moment they entered a front-loaded Big Ten schedule, but there was optimism that they could seriously compete in a stacked Eastern Division. That semi-false hope remained after a stellar performance in Ann Arbor, Michigan keeping pace with a talented Michigan team. These past two weeks have brought Rutgers back to reality.
The annual blowout loss to Ohio State, paired with a disappointing homecoming performance against Michigan State see the Knights sitting at 3-3 halfway through the season. While this is certainly an improvement from past years, the frustration from these two brutal home losses is understandable. A now injury-plagued offense is yet to eclipse 17 points against a Power Five opponent, while the defense is continuing to be exposed for its weaknesses.
All hope is not lost though — these next two games against Northwestern and Illinois, two other struggling Big Ten teams, are critical. If Rutgers, even with a battered receiving core and fatigued defense, can squeeze out just one road win in their next two contests, fans can breathe a sigh of relief. Fortunately for the Knights, 3 of their 4 most difficult opponents are already in the rearview mirror, so hopes of returning to a bowl game are certainly not lost.
Jack Bisaha, Correspondent
It's obvious that Big Ten play has not gotten off to the best start for the program after a promising 3-0 start to the season. Despite this, fans should remember that Rutgers is a rebuilding program, and when a rebuilding program plays against three teams now ranked inside the Associated Press Top 25 in consecutive weeks, results like this should be expected.
The bad news for the program is that the injury bug has made its presence known. Namely, senior wide receiver Bo Melton and junior wide receiver Cruickshank are both dealing with shoulder injuries, leaving the Knights without their top two receiving targets while junior offensive lineman Raiqwon O'Neal is dealing with a leg injury.
The good news is that Vedral and junior defensive back Christian Izien, both of whom were injured last week's loss to Michigan State, are expected to play this weekend. Rutgers has a much more favorable stretch of games ahead, and it starts with a trip to Northwestern to try and regain momentum and get back on track to a possible bowl game berth.