On a beautiful fall day, the Rutgers football team played its best football of October, beating Indiana 24-17.
After watching the team lose three Big Ten games in a row, the fanbase was electric in the stands. The Scarlet Knights (4-3, 1-3) course-corrected themselves after dropping 14-0 before the first quarter ended. The Hoosiers (3-5, 1-4) could not find their footing and lost all momentum in the second quarter.
In light of the big win, here are three thoughts from yesterday’s game.
Revamped Rutgers offense fails to respond after an opening kick return
On the opening kickoff, Indiana’s Jaylin Lucas returned it for a 93-yard touchdown, setting the tone for the game. How would the Knights offense respond? Nothing to be proud of.
The frustrating part for fans is that it’s the same offense fans have seen for weeks. Head coach Greg Schiano let go of former offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson, hoping it would jump-start the offense, but after a few good runs from starting freshman running back Samuel Brown V, the drive stalled.
After having two weeks to get prepared for this game, the opening drive was expected to be better than that. Schiano talked about how interim coordinator Nunzio Campanile would be more creative. Unfortunately, it was just more of the same to start the game.
Momentum shifts to Rutgers' favor in the second quarter
After the Knights were backed up against the wall to start the game, the whole team responded well. The second quarter against Indiana might have been the best quarter of the team football since the Wagner game.
The Hoosiers’ up-tempo offense started to move into the red zone looking to take a larger lead, but the Rutgers defense was able to hold and ultimately keep Indiana off the scoreboard.
The Knights offense needed to respond not only with 7 points but also a long drive to allow their defense to catch their breaths, and they did just that. At the start of the second quarter, senior quarterback Noah Vedral threw a 28-yard pass to senior wide receiver Sean Ryan, giving life to the offense.
After getting down to the Hoosier 17-yard line, Schiano was forced to make a call on 4th and 1. He decided to go for it, and Brown got the first down the team needed. On the next play, Vedral threw a fade to the left corner of the end zone to Ryan for a 15-yard touchdown.
From there, the Rutgers defense clamped down on Indiana’s offense and allowed the team to score again before halftime. From offense to defense and even special teams, with senior punter Adam Korsak pinning Indiana back with 1 minute to go, it was one of the better quarters that the program has put together this season.
Vedral, Brown and the defense should carry the load
This game provided the clearest answer to date for all the questions surrounding the quarterbacks coming into the season.
Sophomore quarterback Evan Simon was put in a difficult position in previous weeks with Vedral and fellow sophomore quarterback Gavin Wimsatt out with injuries. If Rutgers wants to win now, Vedral is the guy.
In his first full start of the season, Vedral completed 12 of 24 passes for 113 yards and one touchdown. He will not blow up any box scores, but the Wahoo, Nebraska, native does not turn the ball over, something that the younger quarterbacks have struggled with.
In close games like today and against Nebraska, not turning the ball over can mean the difference between a win and a loss.
Vedral was not the only offensive standout yesterday. Brown had a career game, rushing 28 times for 101 yards and a touchdown. Campanile made a concerted effort to keep riding the hot hand, and that was rewarded with Brown’s third touchdown of the season.
The final nail in the Hoosier offense was the Knights' defense. Sophomore defensive lineman Aaron Lewis and senior defensive back Christian Braswell, whose pick-six gave Rutgers a 24-14 lead in the fourth quarter, were all over the field. After Indiana quarterback Connor Bazelak rushed for a touchdown in the first quarter, the Knights defense allowed just 3 points the rest of the way.
If Schiano and the team have any hopes of making a bowl game this season, they must carry this momentum into next week’s game at Minnesota. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. with the game being broadcasted on the Big Ten Network and 88.7 WRSU-FM.
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