As Rutgers hits rock bottom, Ash can start building his program
I can’t imagine the atmosphere in Piscataway last night.
Check that, actually, I can. Keeping an eye on the score and the yardage discrepancy after changing to more tolerable programming, the same thought kept popping into my mind. That this scene probably summed up the feelings of those that stuck around High Point Solutions Stadium to watch the 78-0 drubbing:
Except this wasn’t a movie. There weren’t any feel-good moments. The only positive was that none of the team’s 16 incompletions turned into interceptions.
What we witnessed last night was a team falling face first and slamming into rock bottom. If the score – Rutgers’ worst loss since 1888 – wasn’t enough evidence of just how bad things were, you could look at the final stats. The Scarlet Knights finished with 39 total yards and two first downs. They completed just 2-of-18 passes and the longest play of the game went for 12 yards. Meanwhile, Michigan piled up over 600 yards of offense and scored 11 touchdowns.
It’s no surprise that Chris Ash immediately opened the floor for questions in his postgame press conference because there was “not a whole lot to say about the game.”
The “Birthplace of College Football” was a witness to the annihilation of a program. For Rutgers – or any college program for that matter – this is as bad as it gets. In the last two weeks, it has been outscored 136-0 by Ohio State and Michigan. That’s not a good look for a program trying to compete in one of the toughest divisions in the sport.
Rutgers can’t sink any lower than it was on Saturday night. Maybe that’s why there should be a pebble-sized ounce of hope for the program. Now everyone knows this isn’t a quick fix. The problems with Rutgers require more than a new coaching staff arriving on campus and making a few tweaks here and there.
Ash knew that coming in to the situation.
“Nothing surprised me.,” Ash told the media after the loss. “Nobody said it was going to be easy. I never came here and promised any wins. Never said we couldn’t win games, either.”
“[We] Came in with the process and a plan, and we’re going to stick to that plan and we’re going to keep going. We’re going to recruit; we’re going to develop; we’re going to keep coaching, just like we did when we first got here.”
The Scarlet Knights have a proven commodity as their head coach. He was a defensive coordinator for two B1g championships at Wisconsin and another conference title and national crown at Ohio State. When a 78-0 thumping doesn’t surprise a man with that background, it can be a pretty telling statement.
Still, Ash never passed the buck, never made an excuse and didn’t pass the blame.
“The whole thing’s on me. I’ve got to do a better job of getting the team ready. Simple as that,” he said.
Everyone knew that Rutgers wasn’t on the same level as a Michigan or an Ohio State. We just didn’t know that it was stuck at the bottom of the mountain still trying to get its footing. Saturday’s loss was an indication of how far down this program sits.
It can’t get any worse. Ash knew what he inherited when he took control. After Saturday, the rest of the world knows, too. The loss to Michigan was embarrassing, but it marks the end of a period surrounded by off-the-field issues and on-field mediocrity. The new coaching staff can begin building from the ground up.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Rutgers won’t flourish after a season. But Ash can start making his mark on the future of this program.
Soon, it won’t look anything like it did on Saturday night.