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Three takeaways from Rutgers football's loss against Michigan

Sophomore defensive back Max Melton and the Rutgers football team's upset bid over No. 3 Michigan went up in flames in the second half of last night's game. – Photo by Rutgers Men’s Football / Twitter

On a November day that was anything but ordinary, including the weather, the Rutgers football team made it a competitive game to start but ended up losing to Michigan 52-17

After putting up no points against Minnesota a week ago, the Scarlet Knights (4-5, 1-5) were ahead after the first half of the game, but the No. 3 Wolverines (9-0, 6-0) looked like one of the best teams in the country after halftime, outscoring Rutgers 38-0.

Here are three thoughts from yesterday’s game.

A first half to remember

After the Knights let the Michigan offense march down the field on their opening drive, three goal line stands would force them to go for it on fourth and goal. Even though the Wolverines scored, it felt like this wouldn’t be a beating like it was advertised.

After sophomore quarterback Gavin Wimsatt and the offense went three-and-out on their first drive, special teams turned the momentum in the game.

Sophomore defensive back Max Melton circled around the pressure on Michigan’s punt and hit the gas pedal to block the kick. The ball rolled toward the end zone and was picked up by fellow sophomore defensive back Timmy Ward for the touchdown. The scoop and score tied the game at 7.

After that point, Rutgers and the Wolverines traded scores to make it 14-10. Once Jake Moody missed his first field goal attempt, the momentum shifted.

Wimsatt and the offense moved down the field quickly thanks to a 48-yard completion over the middle to sophomore wide receiver Chris Long. With fourth and three on the Michigan 11-yard line, head coach Greg Schiano was forced to make a decision.

He trusted his young signal caller, who converted an 8-yard pass to senior wide receiver Aron Cruickshank for a first down. On the very next play, Wimsatt threw a touchdown to senior receiver Sean Ryan and took a 17-14 lead.

The stadium was rocking after Moody missed his second field goal before halftime and kept the lead for the Knights.

A second half to forget

Schiano decided to defer at the coin toss at the start of the game. Coming out of half time, it looked like the right decision as the Knights offense would be back on the field with everything going its way.

After the Wolverines scored on their first possession of the half, Wimsatt made a critical mistake, throwing an interception in his own red zone. Michigan capitalized and quickly made the score 28-17.

From that point on, nothing went in Wimsatt’s favor. He threw two more interceptions, one being a pick-six. The rushing attack for the Rutgers offense never seemed to get going, collecting just 14 yards on 19 attempts while the offense only had 57 yards the rest of the game.

Hope for the future

For the first half of the game yesterday, SHI Stadium on Busch campus felt electric. After the Wolverines missed their second field goal attempt to end the first half, the fans on the Knights sideline looked like they believed it could be possible to win.

Rutgers has faced major disappointments this season. Losing to teams like Nebraska and Iowa at home was backbreaking, especially when they were beatable opponents. Schiano mentioned after the Iowa game that he let the fanbase down and promised he would be better. 

It’s hard to look at the scoreboard and feel optimism, but that’s what fans should feel. Schiano and Wimsatt showed that the moment wasn’t too big for them and gave the fanbase a first-half performance that could catapult the program's future.

For more updates on the Rutgers football team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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