PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Rutgers football did not show up on Saturday night, dropping a 27-10 loss to Iowa in the Big Ten opener for both teams.
With the loss, Rutgers is now 3-1 (0-1 Big Ten). Iowa improved to 3-1 (1-0 Big Ten) has now won consecutive games.
It was a dispiriting performance after Rutgers’ undefeated start through three out-of-conference games. But the Scarlet Knights simply made two many mistakes including three turnovers and were physically pushed around by an Iowa team that simply is bigger and stronger.
Rutgers will need to get better in a hurry. Next Saturday they play at No. 3 Ohio State.
Five things we learned from Saturday’s loss to Iowa.
The opening drive showed promise then...nothing much after that
Rutgers was efficient in taking the first points of the game, going 66 yards on 12 plays in 4:46. Evan Simon, who got the start at quarterback, had a 33-yard connection with senior wide receiver Shameen Jones and then had a 14-yard run on the next play to get the ball down to the 11-yard line.
Jude McAtamney’s 27-yard field goal gave Rutgers a 3-0 lead early in the first quarter.
After the struggles last week where Rutgers had a hard time moving the ball at Temple, it was encouraging.
The defense followed that up by forcing Iowa into a punt. It seemed promising for Rutgers, but then the offense stalled and never found the end zone for a second straight game.
The offense moved the ball in spurts but three turnovers killed any chance to stay in this game.
The offense struggles yet again
To piggyback on the previous point because it deserves some extra attention.
An Evan Simon interception in the first quarter and then a Kaevon Merriweather 30-yard touchdown off a fumble staked Iowa to a 14-3 lead midway through the second quarter. Two turnovers directly led to Iowa’s first two touchdowns.
In other words, the Rutgers defense pitched a shutout until there were 22 seconds left in the first half when Drew Stevens made a 25-yard field goal for Iowa to extend their lead to 17-3.
If the offense could move the ball, this team could be good. If they could simply not self-destruct, they could be competitive.
It is clear that against a team like Iowa that has true Big Ten size, Rutgers is going to struggle in the trenches.
Christian Izien's big statement
— Rutgers On BTN (@RutgersOnBTN) September 25, 2022
In a game where there were a lot of scouts in attendance (Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers along with the New York Giants and the New York Jets), Christian Izien certainly made a statement.
The Rutgers defensive back had 16 total tackles including a tackle of a loss, a sack and a pass breakup.
Rutgers is 3-1 now
The realistic outlook during the preseason was that Rutgers, after four weeks, would be 2-2. The projections had a season-opening loss at Boston College and then a loss in this game against Iowa (who were ranked in preseason).
So for a little reality check, the season isn’t over. Far from it. In fact, Rutgers is ahead of the expected pace and needs three wins for bowl eligibility. They weren’t supposed to beat Boston College and yet, here they are.
Now does Saturday night derail things a bit? It sure does. And the season doesn’t feel as good as it did during a sun-splashed tailgate. But this team is 3-1 going into what is going to be a tough game against Ohio State. All is not lost.
The punting war
It didn’t quite turn out to be the punting battle that everyone predicted but when Tony Taylor and Adam Korsak got on the field, it was fun.
Taylor had four of his five punts land inside the 20-yard line with an average of 42.6 yards per punt. Korsak was his usual stellar self with four punts for an average of 42 yards with two landing inside the 20-yard line.
It was a strong showing from both Australian punters.