2016 season review: Growing pains littered Rutgers' 2-10 campaign
Chris Ash’s debut season was filled with rough patches, beginning with a season-opening 48-13 loss at Washington. But, hey, the guy has the job for a reason. Rutgers needs to be fixed. And Ash is trying to clean up the mess left by the previous staff.
The 2016 season was filled with growing pains, as the Scarlet Knights struggled in just about every phase of the game. And it didn’t help that RU’s best player—Janarion Grant—suffered a season-ending injury in September vs. Iowa. Then after the season, offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer left to join the Texas staff.
The good news: Ash tabbed former Minnesota coach Jerry Kill to be OC. But that was soon followed by a Notice of Allegations letter from the NCAA, taking things from bad to worse for RU.
How bad was it for the Scarlet Knights on the field in 2016? No Big Ten school scored fewer points (188) and only one allowed more than RU’s 450 points (Purdue at 459). Rutgers was outscored 360-86 during its season-ending nine-game losing skid, losing by an average score of 40-10. Inconsistent quarterback play was one of many big issues that hurt the attack, as Giovanni Rescigno emerged over Chris Laviano. (RU also played Zach Allen and Tylin Oden.) And the defense is the worst in the Big Ten vs. the run, allowing 264.2 ypg. But, things have to get better, right?
Record: 2-10 overall; 0-9 Big Ten/7th East
High point: There aren’t many in a two-win season. But Rutgers did win two games in a row, beating FCS Howard (52-14) and New Mexico (37-28), in September. But after a 2-1 start, things went downhill quickly, as the Scarlet Knights finished the season with nine losses in a row. And Rutgers was shut out four times during the losing streak, scored only seven points on two other occasions and 13 in another. The Scarlet Knights did come close to winning at Minnesota on Oct. 22, but the Gophers booted a game-winning field goal with 10 seconds left to take a 34-32 win. (Sigh.)
Low point: A season-ending nine-game losing skid was a major bummer. And Rutgers was blown out in many of the games, losing 58-0 at Ohio State and 78-0 vs. Michigan in back-to-back games in October, and 49-0 and 39-0 in consecutive losses at Michigan State and vs. Penn State in November.
Offensive MVP: Hmmm, this is a tough one. Let’s go with RB Robert Martin, who ran 121 times for a team-high 625 yards with two TDs. The 5-11, 210-pound junior was one of the few consistent weapons for the anemic Rutgers’ attack. Tip of the hat to guard Tariq Cole, an honorable mention All-Big Ten pick by the coaches. And RU has a bright young WR in Jawuan Harris, a freshman who led the team with 39 catches for 481 yards and three TDs.
Defensive MVP: CB Blessuan Austin. The 6-1, 198-pound sophomore was an honorable mention All-Big Ten pick by the media after ranking No. 2 in the Big Ten in passes defended (1.4 pg), breaking up 14 passes with an interception. Also need to mention senior end Julian Pinnix-Odrick, who led the team with 10 TFLs and five sacks.
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