Yesterday, the Rutgers football team fell short to Michigan State, losing 27-21. A late touchdown saw the Scarlet Knights (4-6, 1-6) make it a one-possession game, but a failed onside kick attempt doomed their chances. Here are three takeaways from Saturday’s game.
The offense comes alive
In the previous two games, the Rutgers offense was anemic. The team was shut out by Minnesota and gained just 14 rushing yards against Michigan. The Spartans (5-5, 3-4) represented a step down in competition and the Knights took advantage.
The team registered 460 yards of total offense, with 224 coming on the ground and 236 passing yards. Sophomore running back Kyle Monangai had a historic day, with his 162 rushing yards setting a program record for a Big Ten game.
Sophomore quarterback Gavin Wimsatt had the best performance of his young career, completing 20 of his 34 pass attempts for 236 yards and two touchdowns. His completions, yards and touchdown are all career highs for the promising young quarterback.
While Rutgers did not register a victory, the offense had one of the best performances of the year, and that is promising when looking ahead to the final two games of the season and beyond.
Crucial mistake on special teams
In the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Knights were driving and got themselves in a position to kick a field goal. Junior kicker Jude McAtamney lined up for the 39-yard attempt but saw his kick get blocked and returned to the Michigan State 44-yard line.
The good field position allowed the Spartans to kick a field goal of their own, making it a 10-point game and giving them extra breathing room.
Usually, Rutgers has the special teams advantage with one of the best punters in the nation and a knack for blocking kicks. This change from the norm helped Michigan State seal its victory.
With 1:49 remaining in the first half, the Knights got the ball back after letting up a touchdown.
They started their drive at their own 12-yard line with all three timeouts, and head coach Greg Schiano decided to keep the ball on the ground and avoid the chance of a turnover that would put the Spartans in prime scoring positions.
Michigan State used timeouts after the first two plays. On third down, Rutgers gained a first down, and one play later, the team was at the 34-yard line. Schiano decided not to use his timeouts in favor of letting the clock run to the half.
He used his first timeout with 17 seconds left and his second one a play later. The Knights got to midfield with one second left, but a false start made the coach choose to take a knee rather than go for a Hail Mary.
While hindsight is 20/20, Schiano wasted more than a minute for an offense that was running through the Spartan defense with relative ease. Considering the final score, a touchdown on that drive could have changed the result of the ballgame.
What’s done is done, and now Rutgers will have to win two extremely difficult games to qualify for a bowl game when the program had a chance to get one of those wins in East Lansing, Michigan.
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