The eyes of Julian Pinnix-Odrick told the story before he opened his mouth late Saturday night in the bowels of Beaver Stadium.
The 28-3 loss, an embarrassing showing, to Penn State is not the end. Rutgers took a shot to the kidney after a rough week of jabs.
But don’t start the 10-count yet.
“We’re going to be better,” said Pinnix-Odrick, who logged five tackles in a game that included 330 rushing yards for Penn State. “We’re not going away. That’s the nature of the game. That’s what we do. We’re more than just football players. We’re Rutgers football players. We bounce back. We’ve battled all of our lives. We’ve been taught to live through it and we will.”
Rutgers (1-2, 0-1) has plenty going against it.
Coach Kyle Flood remains suspended for two more games. Quarterback Chris Laviano spent more time dodging the pass rush than he did in the huddle and the already-thin Rutgers defense continues to struggle through injuries.
So, does Rutgers clean up against Kansas or does the stain spread?
“We’re going to find out this week,” Pinnix-Odrick said. “We’re going to practice because we want this. How do you respond to adversity? How do you respond when things don’t go your way? It sounds like something out of a movie, but it really makes a man. You’ve got to play better, and we’re going to find out.
“We’ve got to play harder. We’re better than this. There’s nothing else to say. We lost.”
Linebacker Quentin Gause left his emotions inside the visitors’ locker room and spoke like a fifth-year senior captain with his eyes ahead on Kansas.
“All you can do is wash it out of your system,” Gause said. “Yeah, we say that a lot and this one may be harder to wash out of your system. But you have to just do it and move on. It’s a tough loss, a really tough loss.”
Rutgers insisted that distractions were not an issue against Penn State (2-1, 1-0), but the return to relative normalcy this week, barring any new setbacks, will be welcome.
“There was nothing distracting us,” Gause said. “Those are excuses. We came into Penn State focused. At Rutgers football, we’re family. That’s what we’re all about. … We’re all about family. We’re all about preparing the right away. Block out distractions and focus on this season.”
Rutgers does not have Flood Saturday, but keeps the game week as normal as possible. Flood runs the practices with the same game-planning sessions by coordinators. Interim coach Norries Wilson returns to the running back room until game day.