Days after Rutgers’ struggled mightily in a win over Temple thanks in part to a run-heavy gameplan, Greg Schiano insinuated there could be some changes coming this week.
The head coach said Wednesday that he thinks the Scarlet Knights (3-0) will “open (the offense) up some” in their Big Ten opener against Iowa, adding that they’ve “been playing it a little close to the vest” through the first three games of the season.
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Asked about any adjustments they plan to make in the passing game against the Hawkeyes (2-1), the head coach said they’ll “throw it a little bit more, hopefully, and we’ll complete some of them.”
“That would be a good way to go,” Schiano said. “We’re getting into the Big Ten season, so hopefully we have some things we can utilize.”
The numbers from Rutgers’ offense during its 16-14 victory over the Owls are jarring: 201 yards of total offense, 59 passing yards, zero touchdowns, four three-and-outs, two red-zone field goals, eight tackles for loss allowed . The Scarlet Knights ran the ball on 19 of their 21 first downs, ran the ball 41 times in 58 plays (70.7%) while utilizing play-action just four times, completing three of the four passes they threw out of that action, per ProFootball Focus.
There were multiple reasons for the struggles.
Rutgers was down two scholarship quarterbacks, with veteran Noah Vedral injured since training camp and redshirt freshman Gavin Wimsatt getting hurt during the first quarter in Philadelphia. Third-year sophomore Evan Simon took the majority of the snaps for the final three quarters, where he struggled, throwing for 52 yards while completing 9 of his 15 attempts.
With Vedral and Wimsatt both listed as game-time decisions for Saturday, per Schiano, it is plausible that Simon sees significant action once again.
He’ll hope he gets more help from his offensive line, which allowed him to get sacked twice and gave up eight tackles for loss against Temple. Schiano admits that Saturday was not the offensive line’s best outing, but said the unit is improving based on what he sees in practice and in the first two games against Boston College and Wagner.
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Much of the ire from the outside about the offensive struggles were directed at offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson. Schiano defended his top assistant in a press conference Monday, saying his confidence in him is “as high as it could be” and that Rutgers has “the right guy to be our offensive coordinator.”
“We all know we have to improve,” Schiano said, “but I think that improvement will come.”
And the Scarlet Knights know it better come quick.
On Saturday, the offense as a whole will face arguably its biggest test of the season. The Hawkeyes rank second nationally in scoring defense (4.3 PPG) and fourth in total defense (197.4 YPG), holding South Dakota State, Iowa State and Nevada to a combined 17 points.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Schiano said. “Should be a good opportunity for our offense. (Iowa) is really good, so we’re going to get a chance to measure ourself against, quite honestly, one of the best defenses in America. We’ll see where we land.”
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Brian Fonseca may be reached at email@example.com.