After a strong first half and ideal start to the third quarter, Rutgers hit a wall when the game mattered most. The Scarlet Knights (2-6, 0-6) suffered a 33-27 loss Saturday against Indiana at High Point Solutions Stadium.
Rutgers dropped its sixth game in a row. It forced the Hoosiers (5-4, 3-3) into four turnovers and added two blocked kicks, but it couldn’t capitalize.
Indiana rattled off 20 points in the second half before Rutgers scored a late field goal to make it 33-27. The onside kick failed with 12 seconds left.
“Obviously, we left some plays out there that we don’t want to give up,” said sophomore safety Saquan Hampton, who had an interception and six tackles. “So we have to come back and just watch the film and correct those plays, and then it’ll be a better turnout.”
Rutgers ran out to a 17-13 lead at halftime and extended the cushion to 11 points shortly after the second half got underway.
Jawuan Harris forced a fumble on the kickoff to open the third quarter and K.J. Gray recovered it at the 21. Moments later, sophomore quarterback Giovanni Rescigno plunged into the end zone for the one-yard touchdown to put Rutgers up 24-13.
“We didn’t change anything,” said offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer. “… But again, if you don’t execute, it doesn’t matter.”
It was all Indiana the rest of the way. The Hoosiers scored two touchdowns in four minutes on a 40-yard pass from Richard Lagow to Camion Patrick and a 34-yard run by Devine Redding.
“(The defense) was hot and cold,” said defensive coordinator Jay Niemann. “There were a lot of good things that happened and some not so good. Our challenge is correcting problems, accentuate the things that are good, build on the positives at this point. We need go back and look at the film and see where those things are.”
The Rutgers offense sputtered from that point on. Rescigno was 19-for-36 with 258 yards, and 81 of those yards came on the final drive of the game.
He had a 68-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Andre Patton early in the first quarter, but Rutgers was unable to sustain drives all game.
“We have to communicate better,” said Rescigno, who was limited with a hamstring injury. “We have to be better on the offensive side of the ball in terms of what we’re doing each play, what our job is each play, especially with for my end. So miscommunicating is a big thing, big deal for us. So going forward, we have to get better at that.”
Indiana held Rutgers to 93 yards on the ground. Senior running back Justin Goodwin had a team-high 82 yards on 19 carries and added three catches for 48 yards.
Rutgers kept Indiana’s run game in check for most of the game, but the real damage was done through the air. Richard Lagow overcame back-to-back interceptions in the first half to torch Rutgers for 394 yards and three touchdowns on 28-of-40 passing.
Despite the turnovers forced by the defense, the unit allowed 567 yards of total offense.
“It’s a tough pill, but the thing about it is we’re getting better,” said junior defensive end Darnell Davis. “We’re doing things better. Yeah, we still have things to clean up. But our goal is really just to win and to win, you can’t make mistakes at all, especially when you’re playing great teams.
“So we just got to clean that up and get the win. That’s all I want. I’m sure that’s what everyone on my team wants.”