The Rutgers football team defeated Virginia Tech by a score of 35-16 on Saturday at SHI Stadium on Busch campus. The Scarlet Knights (3-0, 1-0) are now 3-0 to start the season for a third straight year. Here are three takeaways from Rutgers' third consecutive victory in 2023.
Kyle Monangai has another great day
After the Knights' defense recovered a loose fumble on the Hokies' (1-2, 0-0) second play on offense, Rutgers immediately struck first. Junior running back Kyle Monangai's patience was a virtue as he slipped his way up and through the left side of the Virginia Tech defense and trotted in for a 19-yard touchdown.
"Right to start the game, (and) the defense got a great takeaway. Put us in a great field position, and it was just an early spark," Monangai said.
By the end of the first half, the Knights had a 21-3 lead. But the Hokies were not going down without a fight as they scored 12 unanswered points to trail by just 5 points in the fourth quarter.
Momentum was shifting, but Monangai would not let Virginia Tech get the edge. At the 10:41 mark of the fourth quarter, Monangai broke loose for a 55-yard touchdown. It was his second touchdown of the game. The score gave Rutgers some breathing room, and it was the Knights' longest rush since former running back Isiah Pacheco galloped for a 66-yard gain against Ohio State in 2020.
"(I) made one cut, and then it was just me and the safety," Monangai said of his 55-yard score. "Gotta outrun him."
Monangai would add another touchdown to his total with more than 3 minutes to go in the game. It was an excellent day for the team as it accumulated 256 yards on the ground. Monangai totaled 143 yards on 16 carries, his second 100-yard performance in as many games.
"He's running very, very hard, running smart (and) running determined," head coach Greg Schiano said of Monangai's performance to start the year. "Thank goodness, right, because he's helped us win games."
Gavin Wimsatt excels on the ground
Junior quarterback Gavin Wimsatt let his legs do a lot of the work in yesterday's win over the Hokies. He rushed for a career-high 87 yards and added on a spectacular 34-yard rushing touchdown to extend Rutgers' lead to 14-3 at the 7:50 mark of the second quarter.
"(Monangai) and (senior tight end Johnny Langan) made a great block, and I just saw green grass. It's just run to daylight, really," Wimsatt said of his second collegiate touchdown run.
Wimsatt was quiet in the passing game, with only 46 yards on 7 of 16 completions and one touchdown. Nonetheless, the Knights got the win, and Wimsatt did not seem bothered by his lack of pass yards.
"It was a tough Virginia Tech defense," Wimsatt said. "They were very aggressive, and I think whatever we need to do to win, I'm fine with it."
The walk-on comes through
Senior wide receiver Christian Dremel walked on to the Rutgers football program in 2019 and has worked his way up through the team, both in leadership and his on-field abilities. Yesterday against the Hokies, Dremel scored a four-yard touchdown on an out route with 4 seconds to go in the first half to put the Knights up 21-3. It was Dremel's first collegiate touchdown and ultimately won the game for Rutgers.
"It was really exciting, but obviously, it's all credit to my o-line, my quarterback and coaches putting me in the best position to make that play," Dremel said of his score. "We got the look we wanted, and we were able to just go out there and execute it."
Dremel is a guy who shows up to practice and games and puts in the necessary work for the team to win. His toughness is something that his head coach is well aware of.
"I have the utmost respect for (Dremel)," Schiano said. "He's an incredibly hard worker. He is a team guy. He's tough. He's been bumped up. We don't talk about it, but he has toughed it out. I think our whole team has a lot of respect for that young man."
The Knights will now turn their focus to their first road game of the season. Rutgers will travel to Ann Arbor, Michigan, for its next game at noon on Saturday. For Schiano and his players, it's just about one step at a time to beat Michigan.
"You got to stay right here and chop the moment, and that's what our guys did," Schiano said. "Because sometimes the moment wasn't great. You swing the axe, and it does nothing. It hits and bounces off the tree. What do you do, quit? No, you keep swinging it because, eventually, it'll do it. We're really learning how to do that. You have to. We play in the best league in college football. We have to learn how to do that to have a chance."
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