Last Saturday, Rutgers defeated the Illinois Fighting Illini by a score of 20-14, picking up their first win since September 18th against Delaware. The Knights played a solid game all around, as they had many key contributors on both sides of the ball. Most notably, Noah Vedral threw for 138 yards and rushed for 56 more and a touchdown. Vedral went down early in the first quarter with what appeared to be an injury to the neck/head region. He was out for two drives before returning with something to prove. While his stats aren’t too noteworthy, it was his fight and toughness that helped Rutgers come out on top.
Rutgers accumulated 230 yards rushing, including a season high for Kyle Monangai, who rushed for 77 yards and a touchdown. Isaih Pacheco added 91 yards rushing for his second highest total this season. Moving the ball on the ground has been a struggle for the Scarlet Knights as of late. Incorporating a solid rushing attack into the offense is key to taking some of the load off of Noah Vedral. Hopefully, we see more of this going forward.
Defensively, the Knights only allowed 10 first downs. Olakunle Fatukasi led the squad with 8 tackles, including 5 solo tackles and 1.5 tackles for a loss. They looked strong all game, very similar to what we saw early in the season. A big day for a unit that has struggled recently should be an important confidence boost going forward.
However, what Scarlet Knights fans were most excited about from Saturday was a 13 yard pass thrown by freshman quarterback Gavin Wimsatt. Wimsatt was a 4-star recruit in the class of 2022, but decided to graduate high school early to join the Knights this fall. While he likely will redshirt this season, fans wanted to get a glimpse of what the future of the program looked like. Fans’ wish came true as Wimsatt entered the game late in the third quarter to complete a pass across the field to Bo Melton for a first down.
This Saturday, Rutgers will take on the Wisconsin Badgers for their first home game in nearly a month. The Badgers are coming off back-to-back ranked wins including a 27-7 win last week over #9 Iowa. Wisconsin has flown under the radar this season, sitting at 5-3 with all 3 losses coming against ranked teams.
The Badgers have had arguably the top defense in the nation to date, sitting at the top of the FBS in total yards allowed and rush yards allowed. Teams have been accumulating an average of 49.6 yards on the ground per game vs Wisconsin, and with Rutgers’ subpar run game, it would not be surprising to see the Knights come short of that number this weekend.
A win for the Knights could truly change the complexion of this season. Right now, Rutgers sits at 4-4, needing to finish with a record of 6-6 or better to qualify for a bowl game. While Indiana and Maryland are both winnable games for Rutgers, fans, coaches, and players would prefer not to be 5-6 going into the Maryland game. Ending this weekend a win away from bowl criteria would be huge for a team that has struggled mightily lately.
I don’t see the Rutgers offense putting much together with the way the Badgers defense has played this season. If the Knights defense can play at the level they did early in the season, they may give themselves a chance to win this game. If Rutgers wins this game, the score will be low, but I don’t see it happening. I predict a Wisconsin victory by a score of 34-10. I’d love to be proved wrong, but I just don’t think it’ll happen with all the great things Wisconsin has been doing.
Tune into Big Ten Network at 3:30 on Saturday 11/6 to watch the Rutgers Scarlet Knights take on the Wisconsin Badgers at SHI Stadium.