Ugly numbers: Rutgers may somehow be even worse than its 1-3 record suggests
Chris Ash had some explaining to do. When the Rutgers head coach stepped up to the podium for his weekly press conference following another embarrassing loss, he knew people expected some answers.
First, Ash addressed the fans, saying he understood their frustration, and that he was frustrated too. Then, he pointed to “mistakes” as reasons behind the Scarlet Knights’ blowout losses the past two weeks. He assured everyone that his team hasn’t given up.
One reporter even had the guts to ask whether or not Rutgers players had quit on the staff.
“No, absolutely not,” Ash said. “If we would have quit, we wouldn’t have went from giving up 376 yards in the first half to 69 in the second half (against Buffalo). I watched the tape, the effort is there. We’re making too many mistakes. There’s not an effort issue, we’re making too many mistakes.”
Oh, if only that were true. Ash can sugarcoat this horrendous 1-3 start all he wants, but Rutgers is just a bad football team right now.
Mistakes cost you a close game here or there, or they can be responsible for a bad outing or a sloppy performance a few times per season. Mistakes don’t lead to a 41-point loss to Kansas or a four-touchdown defeat to Buffalo. Mistakes don’t have you staring a 1-11 season in the eye.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand there’s a process to building a program. But by this time, Year 3, you should begin to see some resemblance of progress. And after a 4-8 finish a season ago — when it looked like the Scarlet Knights might actually be taking a step in the right direction — it appears Rutgers has taken a giant leap backwards.
To disprove the theory that mistakes are the reason behind Rutgers’ 1-3 start, I’ve discovered a few telling and very, very ugly numbers that shine some light on just how awful things have been in Piscataway.
Rutgers fans, it’s OK to look away if you want.
60% of Rutgers’ offensive possessions end in a three-and-out or turnover
It’s not just that the Scarlet Knights are struggling to find the end zone, they can’t even pick up 10 yards. Out of 55 possessions this season, Rutgers has ended a drive with a three-and-out or a turnover 33 times. No wonder that defense is so tired.
Rutgers has more turnovers (12) than scoring drives (11)
Such an ugly stat. Those 11 scoring drives include their three field goals, by the way. If that wasn’t bad enough, let me put it another way: if you’re attending a Rutgers game, you’re 33 percent more likely to see the Scarlet Knights commit a turnover than reach the end zone. The -7 turnover differential is also tied for the worst mark in college football. But hey, Rutgers was turnover-free against Buffalo, so there’s something.
The Scarlet Knights offense is averaging 12.8 points per game, which ranks 128th nationally
Just so you know, there are 130 teams playing football at the FBS level, so ranking 128th is not very good. This stat goes hand-in-hand with the turnovers. But essentially having the worst offense in college football really needs its own headline. It’s hard to believe the offense isn’t even averaging two touchdowns per game.
Rutgers is the only team in CFB not to have an offensive play result in 30+ yards
Think you might catch one of Rutgers’ playmakers bust free for a big gain? Think again. The Scarlet Knights are the only team in college football without a play of 30 or more yards this season. Basically, there’s no big-play threat in the lineup. And remember, they couldn’t net a big play against the likes of Texas State, Kansas and Buffalo. Yeesh.
The defense has surrendered 10 plays of 40+ yards, second-most in CFB
Positive news if you’re the fan of the team playing Rutgers, or if you just enjoy seeing fun things happen on the football field. There’s a good chance the opponent makes a few big plays throughout the game. Six of those 10 plays resulted in gains of 50+ yards, in case you were wondering. Did I mention Texas State, Kansas and Buffalo were on the schedule?
Rutgers has scored 7 points or fewer in 15 of 16 quarters
In four games, the Scarlet Knights have mustered multiple scoring drives in just one quarter of action this season. That second quarter against Texas State in the season opener sure was something, dropping 14 points on the Bobcats. Right now, it looks like that 15-minute stretch may be the high point of the season.
Opponents have outscored Rutgers 149-30 in the last three games, or an average score of 49.7-10
Let’s give Rutgers some credit here. Nobody expected the Knights to compete with Ohio State. While a 52-3 final is still an ugly outcome, it’s at least understandable. But a 55-14 loss to Kansas and 42-13 loss to Buffalo are really difficult to explain. There’s really no excuse for it. At least Ash can say he scored on the Buckeyes this year after being shutout the previous two seasons.