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Rutgers dominates Northwestern in 24-7 season opening victory



Sep 3, 2023; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights quarterback Gavin Wimsatt (2) celebrates his touchdown with teammates during the first half against the Northwestern Wildcats at SHI Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers football opened the 2023 season with a dominant 24-7 victory over Northwestern on Sunday at SHI Stadium. With the national spotlight shining bright as the only college football game being played, RU came through with a very good performance to improve to 1-0 overall and in Big Ten play.

Gavin Wimsatt looked improved and played with real poise on Sunday. He made some very good throws and completed 17 of 29 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown. He also looked to run at times and finished with 33 yards on 3.7 yards per carry and a touchdown. He had a couple dangerous passes that could have potentially been intercepted, but overall Wimsatt looked like he has made real progress under new offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca.

The first two touchdown drives were 18 and 16 play drives amassing 75 and 80 yards along with over 15 minutes of clock. It set the tone for Rutgers and led to total control in the game.

In regard to the play calling, Ciarrocca effectively mixed things up and was aggressive early on in the game. Rutgers showed confidence in Wimsatt right off the bat and it helped the young signal caller generate some momentum. The offense dominated with time of possession, finishing with a advantage of 37:59 to 22:01.

RU had a 20-11 advantage in first downs and won the turnover battle 3-1. A late fumble on a punt return by Rashad Rochelle was the one turnover by Rutgers. It lead to the only score of the game for Northwestern with a Brendan Sullivan touchdown pass with just 19 seconds left in the game.

A major plus was just two penalties for 20 yards by the Scarlet Knights. It was a pretty clean performance in the season opener for Schiano’s team.

With Aaron Young and Sam Brown unavailable, Kyle Monangai and true freshman Jashon Benjamin split the workload out of the backfield. After being contained up until the third quarter, Monangai had two big plays on the drive that extended Rutgers’ lead to 24-0. He finished with 49 yards rushing and a touchdown along with one catch for 20 yards. While Benjamin’s stats were modest, he looked solid and played within himself. He finished with 46 yards rushing on 20 carries.

The Rutgers defense played very well and held Northwestern to just 201 total yards in the game. Quarterback Ben Bryant was uncomfortable and under pressure quite a bit. He threw two interceptions and never established rhythm in the season opener. As a whole, the defense produced 5 sacks and eight tackles for loss (-48 yards).

It was a strong debut performance for punter Flynn Appleby, who pinned Northwestern inside the 20 yard line on four of five punts. He averaged 39.4 yards per punt and looked comfortable replacing fellow Aussie and reigning Ray Guy Award winner Adam Korsak.

Kicker Jai Patel was 1 of 2 on field goal attempts.

Overall, it was an encouraging performance from Rutgers on Sunday. They took care of business and dominated Northwestern the entire game. Head coach Greg Schiano has preached the need for complementary football and that’s what his team produced in the season opener. The offense was solid, the defense was excellent and special teams was competent. A great first step for a program hoping to go bowling in 2023.

For my rapid reaction podcast episode on the performance by Rutgers, click here.

Greg Schiano’s postgame presser is below.

Here is the game log I composed throughout the season opening victory for Rutgers.

First Quarter

  • Gavin Wimsatt to Ian Strong for a TOUCHDOWN on a drive that went 6:56 to start the game with Rutgers leading Northwesywrn 7-0. Great 4th down conversion at midfield. Good start for the RU offense!
  • Northwestern crossed midfield on their first drive but the Rutgers defense forced a punt. Offense will take over with 6:38 remaining in the first period.
  • Rutgers ends the first quarter just inside the Northwestern 25 yard line. The offense was 3 for 3 on fourth down conversions in the opening frame.

Second Quarter

  • Gavin Wimsatt dives into the end zone for a TOUCHDOWN to complete an impressive 16 play, 80 yard drive. Rutgers LEADS Northwestern 14-0 early second quarter!
  • Northwestern completes a pass on a fake punt but is one yard short for turnover on downs. Great stop by Rutgers as they have a prime opportunity to score on a third straight drive to open the game. Carnell Davis with the tackle on the play. RU takes over on the NW 45 yard line.
  • Jai Patel converts the first field goal of his Rutgers career from 32 yards and Rutgers LEADS Northwestern 17-0 midway second quarter.
  • Tyreem Powell hunts down QB Ben Bryant and forced a bad throw that’s intercepted by Max Melton at the Northwestern 30 yard line. 1:16 left in first half. Huge opportunity.
  • Jai Patel hits the right cross bar to miss on a 38 yard field goal attempt. The first missed opportunity of the game for Rutgers, who leads Northwestern 17-0 at the half!

At The Half

  • Rutgers leads Northwestern 17-0. RU has outgained the Wildcats 183-117 and had the ball for 21:44 of the first half. Gavin Wimsatt was 11 of 21 for 112 yards and a touchdown, along with 20 yards rushing and a score. The Scarlet Knights are 8 of 14 on third/fourth down conversions along with a 14-5 edge in first downs. Great start!
  • The offensive line has represented well. Ian Strong looks legit. Wimsatt has been poised. Defense has been solid.

Third Quarter

  • The Rutgers defense has done a great job of keeping Northwestern QB Ben Bryant off balance and uncomfortable so far. Big three and out to start the second half.
  • After a Rutgers punt, a great third down safety blitz call as Shaquan Loyal ends the Northwestern drive with a sack. RU LEADS the Wildcats 17-0 with 9:19 left in the third quarter and take over on their own 40 yard line.
  • Kyle Monangai with a 20 yard reception and a 15 yard TOUCHDOWN RUN on a critical drive to give Rutgers a 24-0 LEAD over Northwestern. 4:05 to play in third quarter.
  • Flynn Appleby’s first three punts an average of 39.7 yards with a long of 43 and two inside the 20. Solid, which is all Rutgers needs from the Aussie tasked with replacing GOAT Adam Korsak.

Fourth Quarter

  • Robert Longerbeam intercepts Northwestern QB Ben Bryant for the second takeaway for the defense in the game.
  • Kenny Fletcher and Mohamed Toure each had sacks late in the game.
  • Rashad Rochelle fumbled a punt return that gave Northwestern the ball back in Rutgers territory.
  • The turnover cost RU as Brendan Sullivan threw a 1 yard touchdown with 19 seconds left in the game
  • Rutgers starts the season 1-0 with a 24-7 victory!

Rutgers will have short rest to prepare for Temple (1-0) on Saturday, September 9 at home with a 7:30 pm kickoff. Plenty of postgame coverage to follow.

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  1. Henry Rutgers

    September 3, 2023 at 9:00 pm

    Wonderful summary of the game. I’d add one or two things, but you nailed it really well.

    I’d like to know what the NCAA issue with Nassem is.
    I’d like to know how Bailey and Langen are as well as any other injuries during the game.
    My Dad coached football and would challenge me to watch a player or group. Today I watched the tight ends and defensive backs. Two great groups. Langen’s leadership, energy and enthusiasm are fun to watch. He is a leader.

    Playing with so few penalties and turnovers cannot be understated. It’s a completely different team from last year. This could be fun.

    Hats off to Schiano for acknowledging the student turnout. It was great to see. I don’t know what the announced attendance was but that was the most seats in seats we’ve had in several seasons. Lower level was about 80% with a lot of empty seats in the north end zone. The upper level had good seat density between the 40’s. I was a little disappointed that the students left in the third quarter but one step at a time. They showed up and they were loud. Way off topic but the band looked like a Big Ten band at halftime.

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