SCOUTING REPORT: Gophers at Rutgers

Saturday: 2:30 p.m. at SHI Stadium (BTN)

A look at the Scarlet Knights: Four games into his fourth season at Rutgers, Chris Ash was fired as head coach Sept. 29 after a 52-0 loss vs. Michigan, which dropped his record to 8-32 overall and 3-26 in the Big Ten. The Scarlet Knights (1-5, 0-4 in the Big Ten) have 15 consecutive conference losses. Not much has changed since Ash was replaced as an interim by tight ends coach Nunzio Campanile, who was in his second year on staff. Rutgers also fired offensive coordinator John McNulty, but there has been no improvement there, either. After a 48-7 loss vs. Maryland, Rutgers was shut out for the third time in Big Ten play in a 35-0 loss last Saturday at Indiana. The Scarlet Knights have been held scoreless 10 times since 2000, the most among Big Ten teams. Yes, that dates back before them joining the Big Ten in 2014. Will they score their first TD in league play this year Saturday against the Gophers at homecoming? Gophers defensive coordinator Joe Rossi said: “They’re not going to completely reinvent the wheel. They have some different personnel playing, but then you just got to focus on yourself, your roles, your defense, your schemes, your adjustments.”

 

Who to watch: Quarterback Johnny Langan

It probably can’t get much worse for the Rutgers passing game than Johnny Langan throwing for only 1 yard in last week’s loss to Indiana. Well, he could throw for zero, but Campanile already called what Langan did previously an “almost impossible” feat. What will the Scarlet Knights do to give him a better opportunity Saturday? They have nowhere else to turn. Langan, a redshirt freshman, took over the starting role after Artur Sitkowski decided to redshirt the rest of the season after playing three games. Remember when a Rutgers QB got punched in the head when his teammate celebrated a TD pass? That was Sitkowski throwing a 74-yard scoring pass in a 30-16 loss to Boston College. The season-opening starter, McLane Carter, retired from football after suffering a concussion vs. Iowa in Game 2. Langan has thrown for 164 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions and has been sacked nine times in the past two games.

 

From the coach: Nunzio Campanile

Rutgers’ last Big Ten victory was 31-24 vs. Maryland on Nov. 4, 2017. Campanile, who won 60 games as a high school football coach at Bergen Catholic in New Jersey, won a state title that year. Having led his own program before on another level, he knows how to motivate. But this current losing streak is sinking the morale of his squad. With heads hanging after last week’s blowout loss to Indiana, Campanile told his players: “We’re not going to turn this place into a morgue. We have an opportunity to play football. We’re going to go out and try to find a way to get better. Try to wipe the slate clean and go 1-0 every week.”

MARCUS FULLER