PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP)Greg Schiano felt the season could be salvaged. The Rutgers coach dismissed his offensive coordinator, finding a new identity, and breathing hope into a season that was headed off track.
Samuel Brown V had a career-high 101 yards rushing and a touchdown and Noah Vedral threw for 113 yards and a touchdown as Rutgers rallied past Indiana 24-17 on Saturday.
”Whenever my name was called, just to execute my job,” the freshman Brown said of his career day. ”That was pretty much it.”
It was good enough to snap a 21-game conference home losing streak for Rutgers (4-3, 1-3 Big Ten). The last conference home win was against Maryland in 2017. It was the longest home conference game losing streak in Big Ten history.
Indiana (3-5, 1-4 Big Ten) opened the game with a 93-yard touchdown return on the kickoff as Jaylin Lucas went untouched to put the Hoosiers up 7-0.
”That’s huge. We’ve been needing to start better,” Indiana coach Tom Allen said. ”The freshman is the fastest player on our team. He’s a special talent and we got to find more ways to give him the ball. That’s exactly how you want to start.”
The fast-paced Indiana offense moved right down the field on its first drive of the game. Quarterback Connor Bazelak capped off the 11-play, 91-yard drive with a 7-yard touchdown run to give Indiana the 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
Rutgers answered with a 11-play, 86-yard drive. Vedral’s pitch and catch to Sean Ryan cut the Indiana lead to 14-7 with 9:53 left in the first half. The transfer from West Virginia had three catches on the drive after just nine on the season.
”That tempo, you could see at the beginning it took our team – no matter how much you do different things in practice, it’s hard to really simulate that at the speed with which they do it,” Schiano said. ”I think it took us a series and a half to get used to it, but then what an unbelievable job the defense did.”
Rutgers offense was operating under Nunzio Campanile, who is serving as interim offensive coordinator after Sean Gleeson was fired following Rutgers’ loss to Nebraska. With the change and the bye week, the offense responded despite being put in an early hole.
Rutgers defense, which came into the game ranked eight nationally in rushing defense (91.7 yards per game) and 10th in overall defense (285.8 yards per game), tightened up to keep the game in reach at half. After giving up 143 yards in the first quarter, Rutgers only gave up 129 yards in the remaining three quarters.
Indiana’s Bazelak finished 23 of 41 for 210 yards and a late interception.
Trailing 14-7, Rutgers received the ball to open the second half. Following a 15-play drive that resulted in only 46 yards, Rutgers settled for a field goal. Jude McAtamney matched his career long with a 49-yarder to make it 14-10.
The Rutgers defense had a three and out, and the offense had a methodical drive to take its first lead of the game at 17-14. Sam Brown had a 2-yard touchdown run to cap a 12-play, 56-yard drive at the end of the third.
Indiana only had the ball for 53 seconds in the third quarter.
”We had some pretty long sustained drives, and that was awesome for just getting into a rhythm. You could feel the ebb and flow of the game,” Vedral said. ”The lineman – you could feel the breathing and you could start to see the fatigue in the defense.”
Wide receiver Aron Cruickshank had 121 total yards for Rutgers.
Christian Braswell had a 12-yard pick-6, giving Rutgers the 24-14 lead with 5:12 left in the game. Indiana hit a 38-yard field goal with 1:18 remaining to pull within a touchdown, but were unable to recover the onside kick.
Indiana: After a 3-0 start, the Hoosiers have dropped five straight. And things are about to get a whole lot tougher for Indiana. The Hoosiers host No. 16 Penn State before traveling No. 2 Ohio State.
Rutgers: If the Scarlet Knights want any chance of making it to a bowl game, Indiana felt like a must-win. Rutgers has a gauntlet of a schedule remaining that includes hosting No. 4 Michigan and Penn State and going to Minnesota and Maryland.
Indiana: Bye week before hosting Penn State.
Rutgers: At Minnesota next Saturday.
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