The Scarlet Knights faced off with the #17 Indiana Hoosiers in their home opener at SHI Stadium last Saturday. Rutgers struck first, jumping out to a 7-0 lead on a touchdown pass from Noah Vedral to Bo Melton halfway through the first quarter. The Rutgers defense subsequently held the Hoosiers to two field goals, maintaining a 7-6 lead late into the second quarter. Turnovers would doom the Knights, as they relinquished their lead after two Vedral interceptions led to Hoosier touchdowns. Down 20-7, the Knights would never regain the lead, falling 37-21.
The Knights offense did, however, produce one of the wildest plays of the season to this point. On 4th and 32 with 1:31 remaining in the fourth quarter and down 16, the Rutgers offense resorted to a hook and ladder play in order to keep the hopes of a comeback alive. There were eight laterals on the chaotic play that appeared to result in a Bo Melton touchdown and cut the Indiana lead to nine. It would have given the Knights the opportunity to attempt a 2-point conversion and an onside kick. However, the referees reviewed the play, seemingly searching for a penalty, and determined that one of the laterals was an illegal forward lateral, nullifying the play and resulting in a loss of down. To the majority of viewers, the lateral did not appear forward and should have counted. Unfortunately, the referees took away this amazing play that, if legal, could have gone down as one of the wildest touchdowns in college football history.
The Rutgers defense was again led by Olakunle Fatukasi, who had 14 tackles, 2.5 of which were for loss. The Knights had only one sack in the game, executed by defensive lineman CJ Onyechi. The secondary was beaten by the fast Indiana offense at times, including a 63 yard reception by WR Whop Philyor. The Rutgers defense was effective against the run, however. They allowed just 2.7 yards per carry to the Hoosiers. If the Knights can maintain this stout run defense, they will continue to be competitive throughout the season.
The Rutgers offense looked as if it would continue its successes from last week at Michigan State against Indiana after an early touchdown. However, the offense quickly stalled. In limited work, running back Kay’Ron Adams was most effective against the Hoosier defense, rushing for 63 yards and a touchdown on 5 attempts. Noah Vedral was 21/34 for 130 yards and 2 touchdowns, but his 3 interceptions would doom the Knights.
Rutgers will face #3 Ohio State on Saturday, November 7th at 7:30 PM. It will be difficult for the Knights to pull off the victory against one of the best teams in the nation, but if their run defense can perform as it has so far this season, the Knights will have a fighting chance.