Three Thoughts on Rutgers Football's loss to Illinois
Rutgers let this one fall through their fingers as Illinois kicker James McCourt overcame two misses and nailed a game-winning 47-yard field goal with three seconds left to give the Fighting Illini the 23-20 win and sink the Scarlet Knights to 1-3.
Here are three thoughts after the game:
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A POORLY COACHES GAME ON BOTH SIDES
Following Rutgers’ first three weeks where Head Coach Greg Schiano and company did a good job of working around the team’s weaknesses, those weak spots were on full display today as Noah Vedral threw three costly interceptions while the defense allowed Illinois freshman quarterback Isaiah Williams to rush for 192 yards.
“That was a tough one that’s for sure,” Schiano said in his postgame press conference. “A lot of things went into it but we ended up on the wrong end of the stick.”
Perhaps the most excruciating part for a Scarlet Knights fan was despite Isaih Pacheco finishing the day with 20 carries for 134 yards, Offensive Coordinator Sean Gleeson seemed content with Vedral throwing the ball downfield which has not been the strength for the Wahoo, Nebraska native through the team’s first few games.
A QUARTERBACK CONTROVERSY ON THE HORIZON
As a program that is no stranger to quarterback controversies (remember Free Rettig?), another one looks to be brewing on the banks following this mistake-ladened game from Vedral. Despite his three interceptions, Rutgers could have eeked this one out but his last INT following a 16-yard run from Pacheco late in the fourth quarter was a backbreaker.
“I thought it was a little bit of ups and downs, a little bit of inconsistency,” Schiano said. “But we made some big throws too and that’s the hard thing, we are making some plays and giving some up. If you sum it up then that’s the game, we did not play consistently well enough to win that game.”
While a pro-style QB like Artur Sitkwoski might not be an ideal fit for an up-tempo offense that Gleeson likes to run, the case to continue with Vedral is getting harder by the week considering Sitkowski likely has more of a future with Rutgers than the grad transfer.
A HISTORIC PERFORMANCE FROM ISAIAH WILLIAMS
With Illinois’ usual starting QB Brandon Peters being sidelined due to COVID-19, Williams stepped in and did his best impression of Kyler Murray as the Scarlet Knights had a tough time containing and tackling him the entire game.
“This is a different kind of run defense," Schiano said. “Our run defense has actually been pretty decent up until this game. This is option football with a very elusive option quarterback and he did a great job.”
Not only did Williams finish the day as the all-time single-game rushing QB leader in Illinois history, but due to his evasiveness, along with the speed of Chase Brown and the power of Mike Epstein, the Fighting Illini were able to flip the script on a Rutgers team who prides themselves on their rushing ability.
Rutgers will look to bounce back when they welcome Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines to SHI Stadium next Saturday at 7:30 p.m. (ET) on BTN.