Home Edison Sentinel Edison Sports

Rutgers’ football team trying to remain competitive

By Jimmy Allinder

Either Rutgers University head football coach Chris Ash is an eternal optimist or he knows how to put on a good front in the face of the adversity his team is going through.

The Scarlet Knights are 0-6 in the Big Ten Conference and 2-7 overall, and that is an accurate reflection of the program at this point in time.

“A lot of people think we’re a long way off [from being competitive in the Big Ten]. We’re not,” Ash said a statement during a press conference immediately following a disheartening 33-27 defeat to Indiana University at High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway Nov. 5.

Despite this sanguinity, the first-year coach must have been churning inside as he watched his team squander a third quarter lead of 24-13 with home-field momentum squarely in the Scarlet Knights’ corner.

What transpired on the field shows conclusively that Rutgers — in its third season as Big Ten members — will not be competitive until it puts players on the field with skill sets similar to those of its opponents. The way the Indiana game played out proved this point.

The Hoosiers showcased a superior passing attack that totaled 420 yards, although Rutgers managed to forge to a 17-13 lead at halftime thanks to an opportunistic defense that forced three turnovers, including one that resulted in a touchdown when lineman Darnell Davis scooped up a fumble and romped 75 yards to the end zone.

Rutgers extended its lead to 24-13 after it recovered an Indiana fumble on the second-half kickoff at the Hoosiers’ 21-yard-line and cashed in four plays later.

Ash knows from being an assistant at quality programs — most recently Ohio State University (ranked sixth nationally) — that winning teams sever an opponent’s jugular vein at this juncture. Instead, Rutgers reverted to an all too familiar scenario of allowing a lead to disintegrate and showing an inability to win a close game.

Indiana showed that it could. The Hoosiers scored on a 40-yard pass at the 6:32 mark of the third quarter to narrow the lead to 24-20. That was followed four minutes later by another touchdown that gave Indiana a 26-24 lead and a 10-yard scoring pass with five minutes left in the game made the score 33-24.

Rutgers converted a 20-yard field goal with 13 seconds on the clock but after a failed on-sides kick, the game ended.

Rutgers is the bottom dweller in the Big Ten’s Eastern Division, joining Michigan State University, which owns the same conference and overall record. The Knights are so desperate for a positive to emerge from this season that they have even chosen to rally around a last second 34-32 loss to the University of Minnesota Oct. 22. There was also the promise of better things to come after sophomore quarterback, Gio Risciglio, provided a much-needed offensive spark against the Gophers.

Risciglio started well, heaving a 68-yard touchdown pass to Andre Patton to tie the score shortly after the Hoosiers took the opening kickoff and raced down the field for a 7-0 lead. The defense, except for a secondary that, as Ash pointed out in his Indiana press conference, lost most of the one-on-one battles when Indiana chose to pass, kept things interesting until the Hoosiers mounted their comeback.

Rutgers is on the road Nov. 12 when it meets the aforementioned Michigan State. The following week, Penn State University (5-1 conference, 7-2 overall) visits Piscataway with its legion of supporters who threaten to turn the stadium into a snowless white-out. The season concludes Nov. 26 when Rutgers travels to the University of Maryland (2-4 conference, 5-4 overall).

“If we play a complete game, the wins will take care of themselves,” Ash said.

This offseason will be important since it is the coach’s first opportunity to entice the kind of recruits that can stand toe-to-toe with the opposition to come to Rutgers. Until that happens, the jury may still be out about Rutgers having a coach who can lead them to winning in the Big Ten.

Boys’ soccer

Headed into the NJSIAA boys’ state tournament semifinals, Saint Joseph High School of Metuchen remained the only area team still alive, as the fifth-seeded Falcons (12-7-2) visited top-seeded Christian Brothers Academy (CBA) Nov. 7.

St. Joe’s advanced by defeating fourth-seeded Bishop Eustace Preparatory School, 3-1, Nov. 3, with senior Antonio Oliveira and juniors Nick Cruz and Dan DiSarro scoring goals.

Head coach Brian Jenkins was optimistic about his team’s chances before meeting the Colts (21-1).

“We recognize CBA has had a very good season, but we feel we have the talent to play with any team,” he said. “Our biggest issue has been organization and focus, so we’ve stressed those elements in practice.

Oliveira (22 goals, 10 assists) and Nick Cruz (13 goals, 14 assists) have led the offensive production, and contributions have come from others.

Junior defenders Matt Pinho and Ryan Brede have been important to the team’s success, while junior goalkeeper Christian Owens has stepped up to replace senior Gurjivan Kalkat, who was injured in the preseason.

Junior midfielder Tour’e Reaves has been a key player in the middle, while sophomores Matt Nunziata and Matt Cruz have provided quality minutes in the midfield and on the wing, respectively.

Exit mobile version