SHI Stadium—-What a difference makes a year later. With the right coaches and fully believing in your student-athletes, you can definitely change the culture in your program.
Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano in his fourth year at the helm is slowly turning things around the Raritan Bay community. It all started with quarterback Gavin Wimsatt.
Coming off a 4-8 season that included a 1-8 record in the Big Ten Conference, Schiano said his team played a clean game. But they also played with confidence and discipline, thats the key in winning football games.
Wimsatt threw for a touchdown and ran for one which was his first rushing touchdown of his collegiate career. The Scarlet Knights controlled the ball for almost 38 minutes and moved the ball at will. Rutgers went back to the old days when they played smashed mouth football with Ray Rice and Brian Leonard in the backfield.
Three yards and a cloud of dust seems to be their mindset but they will sprinkle in some play action and RPO stuff with Wimsatt looking more comfortable this year as the signal caller.
RU stifled the Wildcats to 22 yards rushing and 201 yards in total offense — the least they have allowed in a Big Ten contest.
Despite losing to Rutgers 24-7, Interim coach David Braun said, “I’ll be honest with you, this is the lightest I have been since I took over.”
“At this point, we’re just playing football,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to look around with these guys. They have been working so hard to get to this point. There’s plenty of things I have to work on, but in terms of the heaviness of it, it was a relief to get a game.”
Braun has been appointed to the helm of Northwestern football since the hazing scandal which led to investigations and lawsuits. He was replaced by longtime coach Pat Fitzgerald, who was first suspended and then released from his duties as the point man after allegations of hazing arisen in the summer time.
With the loss, it was Northwestern’s 12th straight dating back to last year.
The Wildcats which finished last season 1-11, had few proud moments in the game — scoring with 20 seconds to play on a 1-yard pass by backup quarterback Brendan Sullivan to Caleb Komolafe. Starting quarterback Ben Bryant finished 20-of-35 passing for 169 yards and two picks. He was sacked five times and was under duress all game long.
“There was certainly frustration, it’s coming from a competitive standpoint, this team came out here to win a football game and they are frustrated that they didn’t, they fell short. We fell well short,” Braun said.
Northwestern linebacker Bryce Gallagher was a tackling machine led the way with 19 tackles, said no one was hanging their heads after the game.
“It was very relieving to get out there and just do what we do best, which is play football,” Gallagher said. “So it’s a great experience to get out there and be able to play.”
Rutgers jumped on the Wildcats early going up 17-0, many of the Northwestern (0-1, 0-1) fans were a little dejected in the stands hoping their team could be competitive.
RU (1-0, 1-0 Big Ten) scored on their first two possession with Wimsatt (17 of 29 for 163) hitting array of receivers. He hooked up with Ian Strong for a 11-yard touchdown for the first score and he ran it in from six yards for the second. Kicker Jai Patel kicked a 32-yard field goal on the third drive after Braun gambled on a fake punt and failed. Running back Kyle Monangai jump cutted up the field for a 15-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
The Scarlet Knights controlled the game from start to finish and was able to control the pace of the game from their first snap of the contest.
The story of the game was quarterback Gavin Wimsatt, he looked very poised and deliberate, he was very decisive in his reads and his confidence oozed all over the field. It helped that the big guys up front kept the pocket clean around him so he could go through his progression.
On defense Rutgers had two interceptions by the secondary, one by Robert Longerbeam and Max Melton. Linebacker Deion Jennings led the way with 9 tackles.
The game wasn’t perfect for the Scarlet Knights but I assure you coach Schiano has a lot to smile about with the victory.
Northwestern: Hosts UTEP in home opener on Saturday.
Rutgers: Hosts Temple on Saturday night.