For Rutgers football, the promise from Saturday’s loss outshines growing pains

In the present, Rutgers football dropped a disappointing and frustrating 27-21 loss at Michigan State on Saturday afternoon. But these are the types of games that point towards Rutgers building their program back up, albeit a painfully slow rebuild.

Rutgers battled and fought, from the opening kickoff to the final whistle. That they ultimately fell short shouldn’t mask what took place during four quarters in East Lansing.

With the loss, Rutgers is now 4-6 (1-6 Big Ten).

Rutgers didn’t just battle and fight, they showed in both flashes and sustained moments the DNA that can turn a rebuilding team into one that has arrived. For four quarters against a solid Michigan State team, Rutgers answered the ball repeatedly until the clock finally ran out.

For fans of this team, their ulcers may not be able to take another losing season. But with two games left and Rutgers at 4-6 (1-5), this might well be the season where the program turns the corner.

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The defense struggled and there was nothing much special about special teams. And yet these growing pains are coming closer and closer to a maturing team.

“Look, we’re getting better. I know it’s not fast enough. It’s not fast enough for me either,” Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano told reporters after the game.

“It’s very frustrating to go look at those kids – I pain for them. Because they’re given us everything they got and they have to have that result. But you know, we understand – I think they’re a mature group. We keep talking to him about how we have to just keep doing what we do. And eventually, as long as you don’t turn around, it’s going to turn and I believe that. I do. I think we’re getting closer. Unfortunately, you know, we have to put it together in all three phases yet and I thought maybe today would be that day.”

Gavin Wimsatt, who struggled last weekend against No. 5 Michigan, didn’t turn the ball over once. The 19-year-old quarterback finished 20-of-34 for 236 passing yards with two touchdowns.

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If Rutgers is going to take that next step and become a bowl-eligible team that consistently wins games like this one, then it will be because of Wimsatt’s maturing over the course of the year.

With three interceptions in the third quarter of last week’s Michigan game, that showing now seems like a distant memory after this Saturday’s performance at Michigan State.

 

It wasn’t pristine from Wimsatt, but a player who should be a true freshman showed significant growth over the course of a week. On Wednesday, Schiano talked about what he has seen from his young quarterback on and off the field.

On Saturday, Schiano got to see Wimsatt throw two touchdown passes and very nearly orchestrate a comeback win on the road.

“It’s a big step forward. The biggest step is zero turnovers, right? He read out every play,” Schiano said.

“Not every one was perfect, but he read it out and that to me is the key that takes great mental discipline…and mental toughness, to force yourself to read it out. He gave us a chance to win today.”

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Rutgers football loses at Michigan State: Five things we learned

Rutgers football looked good in a loss at Michigan State.
Rutgers football looked good in a loss at Michigan State.

Story originally appeared on Rutgers Wire