There may be nothing that can be done to make this season end on a positive note for Rutgers. Losers of four straight games by a minimum of 17 points, and in a season that has seen a share of suspensions, off-field concerns and the head coach suspended for three games, it has been a rough season for Rutgers that cannot end soon enough. In the little time that remains though, Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood has a job to do and his decision-making will continue to be questioned along the way.
In a post published on NJ.com today by Dan Duggan, Flood’s decision to stand pat with starting quarterback Chris Laviano is labeled as “inexplicable.”
“But college football is a bottom-line business. And the bottom line has been abysmal recently for Laviano, who has completed 38-of-87 passes (43.7 percent) for 410 yards, no touchdowns and five interceptions during the losing streak.
Despite those struggles, Flood steadfastly has stood behind his first-year starter. Meanwhile, the calls for a quarterback change grow louder each week from the segment of the fan base that hasn’t completely checked out on this season.”
As mentioned, Laviano’s line in the weekly box scores has not been pretty. Four games, four losses, zero touchdown passes and five interceptions. Laviano has thrown 12 touchdown passes this season, with 11 interceptions as well. Changing quarterbacks and going with Hayden Rettig will not instantly turn things around to the point where Rutgers fans can look at this season as a success, but it might be worth the opportunity to allow him some mroe playing time in these final two weeks of the season to see what he can do if only because Laviano has struggled over the past month.
Rutgers plays on the road against Army this week and wraps up the 2015 season at home against Maryland. Last weekend’s loss to Nebraska officially eliminated the Scarlet Knights from postseason eligibility after making the postseason in their first year as a Big Ten member.
For a second season in a row, Washington State (1-1) and Rutgers (1-1) put together a wild and crazy fourth quarter in non-conference competition between the Big Ten and Pac-12. This year, the road team once again prevailed as Washington State wiggled its way out of New Jersey with a 37-34 victory.
Let’s just fast forward to the fourth quarter fireworks between Washington State and Rutgers, because it was pretty much a snooze fest before that. The two teams combined for 39 fourth-quarter points and 411 yards on scoring drives alone.
Rutgers struck first in the fourth quarter when Chris Laviano completed a pass to Matt Flanagan for a short touchdown pass to tie the game. The touchdown was the final play of a six-play, 68-yard drive by the Scarlet Knights. Washington State reclaimed the lead, 23-20, a couple of minutes later off the leg of kicker Erick Powell from 37 yards out. The lead was as short-lived as it could be, because Rutgers returner Janarion Grant returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a 27-213 lead.
That put Washington State right back on the field with the offense, and the Cougars took advantage of having the Rutgers defense back on the field. Washington State capped an eight-play drive that spanned 82 yards with Luke Falk completing a touchdown pass to Gabe Marks for a 23-yard score. Following the Washington State score, it looked as though the Cougars defense would do its part to seal a victory. Rutgers fumbled away the football on its fourth play, but the Cougars turned the ball over on downs at the Rutgers 39-yard line. After the teams exchanged punts, Washington State was once again forced to punt the ball back to Rutgers. For the second time of the quarter, Rutgers special teams came through when Grant returned a Washington State punt 55 yards for a score. With 1:31 to play though, that was more than enough time for Mike Leach and his offense to get the last laugh. They had to earn it though.
Falk guided the Washington State offense on a 10-play, 90-yard drive in just under 80 seconds. It ended with Falk finding River Cracraft in the back of the end zone for the go-ahead and game-winning touchdown.
Falk ended the game with 47 completed passes (out of 66 attempts) for 478 yards and four touchdowns. Both Marks and Cracraft hit triple digits with 146 yards and 121 yards, respectively.
Washington State now has a chance to put together an early winning record with a home game against Wyoming next week. Rutgers will hit the road for the first time this season to open Big Ten play at Penn State. Rutgers lost a tight one against the Nittany Lions last season in New Jersey. Rutgers has not won at Penn State since 1988.
Washington State lost at home to Portland State last week to open the season on a losing note. Rutgers put up 63 points in its season opener last week. After one half of play between these two programs, you may have never guessed these were the same two teams from a week ago. Washington State is actually playing some defense and Rutgers cannot get much of anything going on offense as the Cougars take a 13-6 lead to halftime.
The Cougars opened the scoring with a seven-yard touchdown pass from Luke Falk to Dom Williams on the game’s opening drive. The drive covered 75 yards. Washington State kicker Erik Powell has tacked on a pair of field goals to help pad the lead. Falk has completed 24 of 29 pass attempts against Rutgers’ depleted pass defense (thanks to recent dismissals). Those 24 completions have gone for 201 yards to lead the pass-heavy offense. Washington State has attempted just four rushes (for 16 yards).
Washington State’s defense has been a pleasant surprise though. Washington State has allowed just the two field goals, forced a turnover and continues to bring pressure on Rutgers quarterback Chris Laviano. Laviano got away with one potential turnover in the end zone when he lobbed a pass up for grabs to a spot on the field with only two Washington State defenders in the area to make a play., Fortunately for Laviano, the two defenders got in each other’s way of a possible interception. Rutgers scored three points on the drive for and added three more on the final possession of the half.
Washington State was 117th in the nation in scoring defense a year ago.
By default we already know who the starting quarterback will be for Rutgers in the season opener against Norfolk State. Hayden Rettig has already been reported to be the starting quarterback for the Scarlet Knights in the first game of the season while Chris Laviano sits out the first half of the game. Laviano was suspended by the program for a violation of team rules in late August, but he — along with wide receiver Leonte Carroo — will be eligible to return to the game in the second half.
This is when Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood is expected to announce his quarterback decision for the 2015 season.
“Hayden Rettig is the starting quarterback,” Flood said, according to NJ.com. “We’re going to evaluate the first half and we’ll make a decision at halftime as to how we’re going to proceed.”
Rettig and Laviano had been competing for the starting job as Rutgers looks to replace Gary Nova. There had been no real separation in the competition out of the spring and over the course of the summer, and it would seem the first-half suspension has not put much jeopardy in Laviano’s chances to claim the starting job. Opening against an FCS program is always a good opportunity to play multiple quarterbacks if there is still a question to be answered at the position, and Rutgers has some time to work through the situation before entering Big Ten play.
It might be good for Flood if he can get it figured out a little bit earlier though as Washington State is scheduled to pay a visit in Week 2. The Cougars are known to move the ball through the air with Mike Leach at the helm, and Washington State is looking to avenge last season’s wild season-opening loss at home to Rutgers. Rutgers visits Penn State in Week 3 to open the Big Ten schedule.
You have to love half-game suspensions against FCS opponents. That is what Rutgers has handed to quarterback Chris Laviano and star wide receiver Leonte Carroo. Laviano and Carroo will each serve a half-game suspension when Rutgers takes the field next week in the season opener against Norfolk State. Both will be eligible to return in the second half, and Rutgers hopes to avoid needing either to have an impact in the second half when they do. A curfew violation reportedly is what led to the mild suspensions.
In addition to the suspensions of Laviano and Carroo, linebacker Kevin Marquez, punter Tim Gleeson and cornerback Ruhann Peele will also serve half-game suspensions.
The loss of Carroo is the most notable, as he is one of the best wide receivers in the Big Ten. He believes he is the best. Fortunately, the half-game suspension will be served against the weakest opponent on the schedule for Rutgers, so the impact of his loss will be minimal given the circumstances.
With Laviano now out of the quarterback mix at Rutgers, for a half at least, Joe Schad of EPSN.com reports Hayden Rettig will assume command of the offense. The two had been competing for the right to replace Gary Nova. Rettig is a transfer from LSU who sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules.
In the meantime, Rutgers could have other problems on its hands with head coach Kyle Flood reportedly under investigation for allegedly contacting an academic instructor directly using his personal email account.