As a Rutgers alum, I always look forward to the homecoming game and the festivities that surround it. But this year's celebration was short lived, as the Rutgers Scarlet Knights suffered a stunning loss to the Kent State Golden Flashes, 35-23.
Rutgers entered the game a perfect 7-0 on the season, and just when it looked like maybe, just maybe, they would escape the inevitable clunker that plagues them year after year, Kent State caught them completely off guard in a game that had "trap" written all over it from the get-go.
Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova, who's been nothing short of brilliant for the Scarlet Knights this season, threw a career high six interceptions, including two that were returned for touchdowns. Dropped passes and missed tackles by Rutgers also helped the Golden Flashes, from the Mid-American Conference, earn their first ever victory against a ranked opponent.
As easy as it would be to blame the loss on our own shortcomings, you have to give credit where credit is due. Rutgers and Kent State both entered today's game tied for third in the nation with plus-14 turnover differentials. Only one team on the field lived up to that reputation today.
Golden Flashes' running back Trayion Durham absolutely manhandled the Scarlet Knights defenders as he made one of the best run defenses in the country look like thin cut swiss cheese. Rutgers, meanwhile, was held to just 96 total yards on the ground.
Today's loss stung big time, but there's a huge silver lining that can't be overlooked by any Rutgers fan. The Scarlet Knights are still tied for first with Louisville in the Big East, and control their own destiny from here on out. This loss looks bad on paper and most likely bounces Rutgers from the top 25 this week, but in the scheme of things, the implications are not far reaching. Rutgers has three more Big East games scheduled this season, including a showdown with Louisville on November 29. Win those and we are still looking at a Big East championship and, more importantly, a BCS bid.
October 27, 2012 was certainly not a Rutgers homecoming to remember. The true test now will be one that any good team eventually faces: forget the past and look to the future. Come season's end, this game may not be forgotten, but it can certainly be forgiven.
Joe is a graduate of Rutgers University, and longtime fan of Scarlet Knights athletics.
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