Week 1 for Rutgers football’s 2022 season is officially in the books, and the final chapter was riveting.
In a game that was sloppy from both teams at times and on both sides of the ball, the Scarlet Knights were able to hang with the Eagles after a rough first half and secured the road victory, 22-21, to start the year 1-0.
Both of these programs are in the midst of rebuilds and it showed early.
The Knights came into this one on an 11 game losing streak against their former Big East conference mates. With so much uncertainty already coming into the game, Rutgers received some rough news in the hours leading up to kickoff. USA TODAY Network – New Jersey’s Chris Iseman reported prior to the game that starting quarterback Noah Vedral, starting running back Aaron Young, and tight end Matt Alaimo would all be out for Week 1 and are considered week-to-week.
Can confirm that RB Aaron Young and TE Matt Alaimo are both OUT today against Boston College. Greg Schiano said earlier this week that Young's status was uncertain.
— Chris Iseman (@ChrisIseman) September 3, 2022
Week 1 will not make or break the season for Rutgers, but a focus in practice this week will have to be to find clear roles for everyone on the offense once the injuries are figured out, and cleaning up the sloppy play and penalties. But they will also be able to celebrate the play of the offensive line and the running game.
Let’s check out the keys to Saturday’s exciting one-point victory at Boston College.
QB rotation is not the way forward
Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports
Greg Schiano has said all week that he would not name a starting quarterback and they planned to go with a rotation under center. With the late news that expected starter Noah Vedral would not be able to go, there was hope amongst fans that the coaching staff may limit the rotation.
Instead, we saw a rotating cast of characters. Wimsatt, Simon, and every Johnny Langan in the wildcat all saw time at QB. Not only could they not get into a rhythm, but it made things more difficult on the offensive line and the receivers since each player moves and throws differently. Luckily, the run game and offensive line were able to bail the quarterbacks out in the second half.
The saying goes that if you have two quarterbacks, you have none. I wonder what people say about three or four. This is something Schiano will have to figure out and fast if they want to be competitive once Big Ten play begins.
New look Offensive line looked strong
Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports
The Scarlet Knight offensive line was completely rebuilt in the offseason. Athletes who have played line know that you need time as a unit to properly learn the system/schemes and properly protect the quarterback. Four starters were brought in via the transfer portal for this season.
Rutgers had the running game working all game, but especially on the late fourth-quarter drive and a big reason was the consistency of the line. They went 12 plays, 96 yards in just over 5 minutes and all 96 of those yards were gained on the ground.
Boston College’s defense was reeling with their hands on their hips and the line and the backs just kept chopping. The offensive line struggled in the first half but came out of the locker room ready to turn the page and it showed in the final result.
Rutgers lived in the BC backfield
A lot of the talk in previews when looking at this game was that the youth and size of Rutgers defensive line could be a spot for Boston College to truly take advantage of. Instead, the Scarlet Knights were in the backfield constantly.
Rutgers had hurried Boston College QB Phil Jurkovec all afternoon, finishing with seven tackles for loss, and four sacks. They held the Eagle rushing attack to just 29 yards on 28 attempts.
Penalties and efficiency a problem
Rutgers had a rough day when it came to their discipline. They recorded a whopping eight penalties in the first half to Boston College’s one. Schiano prided himself on his team limiting penalties last year, but this was not a good start for the 2022 squad. They finished with 10 penalties for 77 yards.
Third down efficiency was a big problem as well. The offense struggled to keep drives going for the majority of the afternoon. The Scarlet Knights went 4/14 on third down. This is a major reason they were behind until very late in the game. Their first conversion of the game came in the first quarter but they did not convert again until 5:36 left in the game.
Rutgers punted in a goal-to-go situation in the 1st quarter.
There has been exactly 1 punt on a goal-to-go situation by an FBS team in each of the last 4 seasons. The only other Big Ten team to punt on a 4th-and-goal in the last decade was Illinois in 2020 against Minnesota. pic.twitter.com/IxcOqzowWW
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 3, 2022
The team did have an impressive drive late, going 3/3 on 3rd down, but it would not have been as close had they started converting a bit earlier in the game.
Scarlet Knight run game was dominant
Despite the third down struggles, the run game for Rutgers was strong all day as five players ran for 20+ yards.
Starter Kyle Monangai carried it 19 times for 78 yards (4.1 ypc) and a touchdown. Sophomore Al-Shadee Salaam ran for 53 yards on five carries (10.6 ypc) and a touchdown. Wimsatt rushed for 40, receiver Cruickshank added 27 yards and a touchdown on three carries, and Johnny Langan added 21 yards out of the wildcat position.
Overall, the offensive line rose to the occasion and helped the Scarlet Knights eek this one out. The running game totaled 216 yards, average 5.3 yards per carry and scored all of the team’s touchdowns.