Following Mohamed Sanu's school-record 91-yard run on the second play of the game, Rutgers' offense managed one score the rest of the way against Conference USA opponent Tulane as penalties and missed passes sabotaged the unit.
With starting quarterback Tom Savage on the bench with injured ribs, freshman Chas Dodd tried to rally the Scarlet Knights, but a pair of fourth-down passes fell incomplete in the final minutes and fell 17-14 to Tulane in front of 47,963 Saturday at Rutgers Stadium.
"It's on me," Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said. "I was unable to get our team ready to go, unable to get over a tough loss, I guess, against North Carolina, unable to get our team to realize how hard this game would be. So as the head coach, everything, that falls on me."
It is Rutgers' second straight loss, both at home, and the Scarlet Knights (2-2) offense continued to struggle.
Compounding the issue is starting quarterback Tom Savage injured his right hand in the second quarter and did not return.
After the game, he had his index and middle fingers taped together, and although he said tests didn't show any initial damage, his status for Friday's Big East opener against Connecticut is in question.
In Savage's place, freshman Chas Dodd completed 13 of 29 passes for 176 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown pass to Mohamed Sanu late in the third quarter.
However, it was one of the few opportunities the sloppy Scarlet Knights converted.
Joe Lefeged's kick return for a score was called back because of hold, Jeremy Deering had a big run called back because of a penalty and Kordell Young's hold negated a first-down pass to Mark Harrison late in the fourth quarter that could have put the Scarlet Knights in contention for a game-tying field goal attempt.
"What we didn't do is we didn't execute well enough," Schiano said. "We didn't coach well enough, and we didn't play with enough detail of execution to make the plays we had to make, and they did. We didn't get any takeaways, they did.
"For two weeks, the second week in a row, we had penalties which we don't normally have. We've got a lot of work to do, but I wouldn't count us out, either."
Also, Rutgers' defense was victimized by a halfback throw off a sweep, and also a 24-yard touchdown catch by quarterback Joe Kemp on a throw-back by running back D.J. Banks that put Tulane (2-2) ahead 17-7 less than six minutes into the second half.
"I think, personally, people think that Tulane is a pushover and they're going to wipe us all over the field," Tulane linebacker Trent Mackey said. "For us to come all the way to New Jersey and play a Big East team – a great school in a big conference – it was a great win."
Sanu ran 91 yards out of the "Wildcat" on the game's second play to give Rutgers a 7-0 lead after 29 seconds, but the running game produced 57 yards on 32 carries the rest of the way.
Tulane also sacked Dodd and Savage, who was 2 of 5 for 29 yards, four times and took advantage of poor punting by Teddy Dellaganna, who averaged 32.2 yards on nine kicks.
"There's no doubt that that loss hurt last week, and I don't know why," Schiano said. " I will get to the bottom of it. I'm going to find out. I thought we learned our lesson in previous experiences, but we didn't, and I didn't, because again, I didn't get it done. So we'll go on and grow from it, but we'll be back."