Rutgers Aims to Avoid Slow Start in Lincoln

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Rutgers cannot afford another slow start in the eyes of the coaching staff and players when it comes to playing Saturday at Nebraska. Seeing what an early deficit means last week against a top-tier Big Ten team, Rutgers coach Kyle Flood and players addressed the importance of not repeating it.

Rutgers did not shift into drive fast enough against Ohio State, and the result was a two-score deficit before had time to sip their beverages.

After the touchback that started action at 3:36 p.m. and two sluggish drives for Gary Nova’s Rutgers offense, the Buckeyes J.T. Barrett built a two-score lead before the clock struck 4 p.m.

Rutgers never recovered.

“It’s something that I’ve put an emphasis on,” said coach Kyle Flood on the need to start faster. “I don’t know that it’s something we just want to do next week. It’s something we want to do every game. You’d like to start the game clean. This week, I think because last week we didn’t do it, we’ve talked about it a little more with the players.”

Start faster and start better – a theme among Rutgers players throughout the week.

“We can’t get down early,” said junior left tackle Keith Lumpkin. “When you get down early, it’s hard to fight back. If everything is not working for you at that time, you just have to keep fighting and fighting and fighting. I think we learned that, no matter what, we’ve got to keep fighting whatever the circumstances are.”

Rutgers (5-2, 1-2) bounced back offensively against Ohio State with a touchdown on its third possession, but the game quickly become out of hand.

“We got in the flow at times, but we need to be more efficient coming out,” said quarterback Gary Nova, who makes his 36th career start Saturday. “That’s on me to do a better job.”

Defensively, the focus comes to stopping the run and limiting big plays early. Rutgers must also improve when it comes to a consistent effort, said senior Kenneth Kirksey.

“We have to be even stronger at the end of the game than we are [at the beginning],” said the nose tackle. “We have to dominate the line of scrimmage for 60 minutes. They have a great running back (Ameer Abdullah). The defensive line can’t let him get past us.”

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