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Two biggest takeaways from Rutgers football's season-opening win against Northwestern

Junior quarterback Gavin Wimsatt threw for 163 yards and no interceptions to help lead the Rutgers football team to an opening day victory. – Photo by Hamza Azeem

The Rutgers football team started off its 2023 season with a commanding 24-7 win over Northwestern today at SHI Stadium on Busch campus.

With fresh faces trying to make an impact and no quarterback controversies, the Scarlet Knights (1-0, 1-0) played a more relaxed and focused game of football. Here are the two biggest takeaways from Rutgers' big win over the Wildcats.

Gavin Wimsatt looked efficient

The Knights started off strong on offense as junior quarterback Gavin Wimsatt was able to get different wide receivers involved and converted multiple first downs, two of which came on fourth-down plays.

Approximately 8 minutes into the first quarter, Wimsatt lofted a beautiful pass into the back right corner of the endzone to freshman wide receiver Ian Strong who, with two defensive backs on him, secured the catch. Strong was able to get one foot down in the endzone, and, after initially being called incomplete, the officials ruled it a touchdown. Strong's first career collegiate catch was a big one.

Rutgers gained possession on offense again after a strong opening defensive stand. Once again, patience was a virtue for Wimsatt, as he finished off the drive with a six-yard scamper up the middle for his first collegiate rushing touchdown.

Late in the second quarter, sophomore placekicker Jai Patel converted his first collegiate field goal to put the Knights up 17-0. Wimsatt was able to lead Rutgers to three straight scoring possessions to start the game.

Late in the third quarter, Wimsatt conducted another nice drive that was capped by junior running back Kyle Monangai strolling in for a 15-yard rushing touchdown, after a nice juke move, to make the score 24-0.

"He played a really clean game," head coach Greg Schiano said about Wimsatt after the game. "He played relaxed, confident because of his preparation. I thought he was very decisive. The other thing he did that stood out to me was he let the bad plays die. You saw him throw a few away. You saw him tuck and run. That, to me, is a sign of maturation."

Wimsatt credits his teammates for his growth as a player.

"It makes me more confident when I know the guys in front of me and beside me, they all have my back," Wimsatt said. "We were just going to take each play, one play at a time. Just having that mentality with the group, it makes you more confident."

Pure football dominance

Since the Knights joined the Big Ten in 2014, it's been hard for them to look dominant over a conference foe. But in every facet against Northwestern this afternoon, Rutgers was in the driver’s seat.

The Knights controlled the game clock with an astounding 37:56-22:04 advantage. On the team's first touchdown drive, Rutgers went down the field in less than 7 minutes. The Knights topped themselves on their second touchdown drive with a total drive time of more than 8 minutes.

Rutgers also led in total yards 285-201, first downs 20-13 and rushing yards 122-12.

The Knights' defense continued to make a name for itself with two interceptions, five sacks, eight tackles for loss and two forced fumbles.

Junior defensive back Max Melton recorded two tackles and one of the defense's two picks. He spoke about the defense being a tight-knit group.

"Whenever you just look around the field and see your brothers out there who you put in work with, it gives you a boost," Melton said. "So, when we put that into the focus of our gameplan, along with family, I don’t want to say we’re unstoppable, but it’s that 'Dark Side defense.'"

Next week, Rutgers will stay in Piscataway for a 7:30 p.m. face off against Temple. It will look to become 2-0 in back-to-back-to-back years.

"Obviously, can't focus on this game too much because we have a short week this week," Wimsatt said. "We have Temple (on) Saturday ... I think we have to know that and take today and celebrate, and then we know tomorrow we have to get right back on Temple."

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

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