Rutgers coach Kyle Flood gave his team a final message Friday before he had to watch the busses leave without him en route to Penn State.
Flood, suspended for three games by the university, wished his players luck before he formally passed over the reins to associate head coach Norries Wilson.
“He wished he could be over here with us,” said team captain Darius Hamilton. “He trusted in us to go out and get the job done, and we didn’t do that today.”
Rutgers lost 28-3 to Penn State Saturday night before the return home to Piscataway. Flood resumes command Sunday, and will be in charge all week until game day against Kansas arrives.
“It was tough,” said captain Quentin Gause on parting ways with Flood Friday. “I could tell it was tough for him. He told us to go out there and focus on what we do. Lock in. I know he wished he could be here for us.”
The players maintained that Flood’s absence had no impact on the result of the game, but admittedly missed his presence.
“It doesn’t matter who coaches,” said senior left tackle Keith Lumpkin. “We have a job to do. If coach Flood is there or not, we know we have one job and that’s to play the game and win. The team morale is still high. There’s no reason to be down. You’re playing football.”
Rutgers (1-2, 0-1) closed down all media availability before Flood’s suspension. The players, however, are not immune to the criticism on social media and on campus.
“It’s very frustrating but you know [Flood] is a good guy,” Lumpkin said. “He’s one of my favorite coaches I’ve ever played for throughout my career of playing football. It’s life, but you’ve just got to move forward.”
The third captain in action Saturday, running back Paul James, would not use Flood's absense or recent player dismissals as an excuse for the poor showing by his team.
"It doesn’t feel different," James said. "Everything that has happened, we’re not worried about that. It feels like the same old Rutgers as I’ve been here for the last four years. It feels the same. … If you came to Rutgers and you see who we are, you know that [the distractions] are not us."