The sense of optimism around the Ash Era dissipated as quickly as it began.
Overmatched in all facets of the game, Rutgers stood no chance against No. 14 Washington in a 48-13 beatdown in front of 58,640 at Husky Stadium in Seattle.
Things got out of hand quickly for the Scarlet Knights (0-1) in their season opener.
An inability to move the ball downfield plagued Rutgers from the jump, as the offense opened up with consecutive three-and-outs. The running game was unable to find a spark. Senior Justin Goodwin got the start, but failed to do much with 49 yards on 15 carries.
Junior Josh Hicks led with a game-high 70 yards on 14 attempts.
The struggles started up front. Against a meaty Huskies defensive line, the Scarlet Knights lost the battle in the trenches as Washington (1-0) blew up the line of scrimmage and racked up three sacks — all in the first half.
The inconsistency trickled over to the pass game, where Chris Laviano became rattled.
The junior quarterback was turnover-prone. He had a fumble on his second drive of the game and threw an interception in the fourth quarter.
Both turnovers resulted in Washington touchdowns.
As the rest of the quarterbacks looked on from the sideline, Rutgers kept Laviano in the whole game. He threw for 168 yards and 24-of-40 passing.
The lone touchdown of the day came in mop-up on a 10-yard keeper from Janarion Grant. The senior’s contributions came on the ground in six carries for 28 yards out of the wildcat formation.
As for the Rutgers defense, Jake Browning made the secondary pay. The sophomore cocked back and exposed the Knights for three long touchdown passes — all in the first quarter — and 287 yards on 18-of-27 passing. Senior safety Anthony Cioffi intercepted Browning in the third quarter.
Browning led the way for a 24-0 onslaught by the end of the first quarter. The first casualty came at the expense of Andre Hunt when the junior outside linebacker followed Chico McClatcher in motion before Hunt was burned for a 43-yard touchdown pass.
Beyond linebacker coverage in the secondary, Rutgers didn’t fare any better as it experimented its press-man coverage philosophy for the first time. Deep touchdowns came at the hands of Saquan Hampton and Isaiah Wharton on Washington’s way to the early burial.
The dagger for Rutgers, meanwhile, didn’t come on the defensive side of the ball.
Right before the end of the half, special teams put the nail in Rutgers’ coffin with a 92-yard kick return for a touchdown by John Ross and the second field goal of the day from Cameron Van Winkle at 42 yards out as time expired.
The final straw on special teams came on a 68-yard punt return from Dante Pettis late in the third quarter.