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Rutgers Ends Big Ten Losing Streak With Win at Illinois

Rutgers rushing attack too much for Illinois as Scarlet Knights get second win of 2017.

Rutgers Ends Big Ten Losing Streak With Win at Illinois

After getting humiliated by Ohio State, Rutgers had a week off to reflect and enjoy some humble pie. What a difference a week can make. Rutgers went into Illinois and came away with an impressive 35-24 road victory at Illinois.

Rutgers Ends Big Ten Losing Streak With Win at Illinois

The win ends Rutgers’ 16-game losing streak against Big Ten competition, dating to Oct. 17, 2015, a wild 55-52 come-from-behind win at Indiana when Kyle Flood was the head coach and Chris Ash was the defensive coordinator at Ohio State.

“It’s huge, but you guys are the ones that talk about the losing streak,” Coach Chris Ash said. “There’s nothing ever mentioned in our locker room about the losing streak, it’s about trying to get better and somehow solving the mystery of going out and trying to play our best game on Saturdays. We were able to win, but we have not played our best football yet.”

Rutgers Ran The Ball Down Illinois Throat

The game came down to a battle between the Rutgers rushing attack and the Illinois passing game, just as we expected. Fortunately, the Scarlet Knights were able to dominate on the ground by committee and wear down the Illini.

On the flip side, the Rutgers defense did a solid job of limiting big plays and generated a lot of pressure on QB Jeff George Jr. in the second half. Illinois did have some success late in the game through the air, but the issue was no longer in doubt.

“We’re really happy to run the ball like that,” Ash said after the game. “We feel like, if you can run the ball like that, you’ll have a chance. Obviously, we felt good about the match up up front going into this game, and that’s why we ran the ball so much. Obviously, it was working, but it all starts with those guys up front. It all starts with them.”

Illinois was yielding a Big Ten-worst 181.2 rushing yards per game, so Rutgers came out and ran the ball, a lot. The Scarlet Knights rushed 47 times for 274 yards and five touchdowns. The 47 rushes represented 79.6 percent of the offensive plays as four different Scarlet Knights scored touchdowns.

Rutgers’ Defense Stepped Up In a Big Way 

On defense, Rutgers was able to frustrate George Jr. and picked him off twice. Jawuan Harris, playing in his first game of his career on defense after switching during the bye week, shined in his defensive debut. He had the first interception of the game in the opening half, as well as a forced fumble and he led the team with 11 tackles, several of them in the open field. K.J. Gray had the second interception off of a bobbled pass by Illinois receiver Mikey Dudek in the red zone. The Scarlet Knights held the Fighting Illini to just 86 yards rushing in the game and forced two interceptions.

Next Up For Rutgers 

Next up for Rutgers is homecoming weekend and a game against Purdue. There is no denying that the Boilermakers are much improved, but this is a winnable game at home for Rutgers if they play their best.

Can Rutgers win back to back Big Ten games? Stay tuned.

Jason Cordner

Jason Cordner

Jason is the New York Liberty Beat Writer, Rutgers Football Beat Writer, and co-host of The Box Out, a basketball podcast for DoubleGSports.com.
Jason Cordner
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