Offense and defense were problematic enough for Rutgers in its 48-13 loss at No. 14 Washington last Saturday, but special teams left a sour taste in coach Chris Ash’s mouth.
The Scarlet Knights (0-1) surrendered two touchdowns on special teams. One came on a 92-yard kickoff return to John Ross before the end of the first half. The other was a 68-yard punt return in the third quarter.
“Well, anytime you give up a punt return and a kickoff return for a touchdown, those things just don’t happen very often,” Ash said. “And when you’ve got two of them in one game, it’s very disappointing. It’s gut wrenching. And the fact that we have spent an insane amount of time on special teams — I’m involved in coaching special teams. And you thought that we would go out and perform better than that, and we didn’t.
“And watching the tape, wasn’t any happier after watching the tape. So it’s an area we’ve got to continue to improve in. We’ve got to continue to get great effort. But we’ve got to do our responsibilities and execute what we’re trying to do better on Saturdays, too.”
The work to correct those mishaps began not even 24 hours after the game. Ash studied the film and Rutgers went back to work in its practice routines on Sunday and Tuesday.
“We sit, we evaluate the video tape from Sunday,” he said. “We look at the goods, the bads, the areas of concern that we need to practice and get better at. We look at the personnel, we look at what we’re asking the personnel to do and then we go through our practice routine through Sunday through Friday just like we do with offense or defense. We have a system of working certain units on Sundays, certain units on Tuesdays, certain units on Wednesday, all of them on Thursday and then we clean them up on Friday.
“But that’s no different than what we do on offense or defense. But it just gets back to just like you do with anything else — watch video tape, evaluate kind of the goods and the bads, have a plan to get it fixed and make sure you’re dong it with the right people and you’re asking people out there to do things you can do.”
Rutgers returns to High Point Solutions Stadium for the first time this fall for its home opener against Howard (0-1). Ash places the focus on a sharper game-day product.
The result comes from a combination of corrections from the Washington game and an intensive preparation for what the Howard bring to the table.
“We get on the next opponent right away on Sunday after we evaluate our own film,” Ash said. “Howard’s a well-coached football team. They look like they’re playing with more confidence this year. In the first game, I know the score wasn’t what they wanted to be. But they looked like they understood their offense and defensive schemes better than they did last year.
“They’re well coached, they look like they play hard, they’ve got some good players and a quarterback and receiver that can make plays. So it’s not a team that we can take lightly at all. They’re going to be able to make some plays and put some points on that board.”