Record: 2-10 (0-9 in B1G)
High point of the season: Uhhhh…..the New Mexico win?
You could probably convince me that there were moments in the Minnesota loss that were better than the New Mexico win. But the September victory gets the edge for a few reasons. That was a game in which the Scarlet Knights were down 21 points. By coming back and winning (improving to 2-1!), they showed some rare offensive firepower.
Part of the reason that happened was because of Janarion Grant, who scored the go-ahead touchdown on a punt return. That was also the last full game he stayed healthy and thus, the last game that Rutgers had an offense.
A high point, it was.
Low point of the season: The Michigan debacle
Few things are worse than an ugly home loss. Getting beat 78-0 at home, under the lights and against the team stealing all of the local talent is about as low as it gets. A game in which a team is out-gained 600-39 usually isn’t good, nor is being held to just two first downs (those were tough to get, too).
Perhaps most humiliating was the fact that Michigan called off the dogs after the first possession of the second half. The Wolverines weren’t even close to running up the score and Rutgers still looked like a J.V. team.
That was the Knights’ premiere home game of the year. Recruits had official visits that weekend, and all they saw was a team that shouldn’t have been on the same field as Michigan.
Most meaningful play: Damon Hayes’ 55-yard interception return vs. Minnesota
Down 24-17 in the third quarter, Hayes picked off Mitch Leidner and scored what should’ve been the game-tying touchdown. For a brief moment, Rutgers looked like not only would it rally back from a 21-3 deficit, but it might knock off a B1G team on the road.
Keep in mind that heading into the day, Rutgers was outscored 174-14 in B1G play. The Knights were supposed to get rolled by the Gophers. In that moment, Hayes finally gave Chris Ash and his team a reason to believe in something.
But then Rutgers missed the extra point and Minnesota returned the ensuing kick for a touchdown. Minnesota did have to kick a go-ahead field goal to win it as time expired, but it was Hayes’ interception that Ash could point to as a reason to buy into his process.
Team MVP: Julian Pinnix-Odrick, DE
The senior captain was one of the few bright spots for the Knights. He was by far Rutgers’ best pass-rusher, as shown by his team-high 10 tackles for loss and five sacks. Pinnix-Odrick was one of just four Rutgers defensive players to start every game.
He also served as the unofficial team spokesman the Knights needed after a 2015 season in which the program’s public image was anything but positive.
Overall grade: D-
On the field, it was an ‘F’ season. But Rutgers doesn’t get an overall ‘F’ because it didn’t have a dozen players getting arrested, suspended or kicked off the team like the year before. If you give Ash credit for anything in his first year in Piscataway, it should be for at least keeping the off-the-field woes to a minimum.
Now all he has to do is figure out a way to do the same on the field.