1. X-Factor – Hayden Rettig g was always a guy that had to grow into a starting role, but he showed the flashes of why he was the better of the two quarterbacks in training camp. Yes, there were mistakes – a should be interception to a linebacker among them – but Rettig was confident in the pocket. He made plays with his feet, and the bullet to Janarion Grant called back showed exactly how dangerous his arm can be.
2. Head Scratcher – It’s clear that Chris Laviano would have been the guy if not for his suspension. After an excellent first half from Rettig, coach Kyle Flood instantly went to Laviano in the second half. Laviano completed a touchdown bomb on his first play, but only because Leonte Carroo bailed out an underthrown pass. Credit Laviano with a stellar statistical game, however, and lock him in as the leader to start against Washington State.
3. Welcome to College, Kid – Red-shirt freshman safety Saquan Hampton had a rough start to his college career after he earned a most improved defensive player award in spring camp. Hampton entered in the nickel package and twice fell victim to big passing plays in the ugly first defensive series against Norfolk State.
4. Center Stage – It was a hot and cold start at center for Derrick Nelson, but he gets the credit for Rettig’s fancy footwork on a rushing touchdown. After the play-action bootleg yielded no open receivers, Rettig scrambled for the score but only because of an alert backfield block from Nelson.
5. Third and Oops – Coordinator Ben McDaniels’ passing offense on third down left more to be desired. Receivers cut off routes behind the first-down marker, which is why Rutgers saw so many fourth-and-short options in the first half.
7. Veteran Miscues – Jitters are the expectation for younger players, but the discipline was not where it needed to be for seasoned starters. Senior Djwany Mera helped Norfolk State’s second touchdown after a roughing the passer penalty and senior Keith Lumpkin cost Rutgers yardage with a false start that led to a punt.
8. Kickoff Fixes – Rutgers turned to graduate transfer Chris Gough for kickoffs in the season opener, and he impressed with clear improvement in leg strength from last season’s options. Kickoff also signaled the debut of freshman linebacker Deonte Roberts.
9. Solidarity – Rutgers stood strongly with Flood throughout the day. Flood led the team out of the tunnel arm in arm with injured captain Darius Hamilton and also enjoyed the presence of former star lineman Anthony Davis on the sidelines.
10. Shutting Down – Rutgers was one of the last schools at Division I level with an NFL-style open locker room policy after games. That ended Saturday with the locker room now closed to the media after games.