It was a familiar feeling for the Rutgers locker room, but sting was worse after a second embarrassing home loss. One month removed from the Houston blowout, Cincinnati kicked up the humiliation two notches with a 52-17 final score.
Rutgers had plenty of time to allow the loss to settle in before speaking about it in the locker room, and met it with feelings of shellshock.
“It’s unfortunate, but it’s all on us,” said quarterback Gary Nova. “We don’t have anybody else to blame. It’s our job to turn it around and end our season stronger.”
Coach Kyle Flood opened his press conference by admitting that Rutgers was out-coached and out-played.
Slipping to the brink where bowl eligibility is in doubt, Flood maintained that there is no reason to panic.
“I think when you look in the eyes of the players in the locker room and you see the determination that they have to get better and you see the way they prepared this week, I've said this many times, if you have a good week of practice, it doesn't guarantee you you're going to have a good game,” Flood said. “Unfortunately today is an example of that for us.”
The Rutgers defense started flat, and imploded with a series of blown coverages. In a game littered with bad plays, the lowlights took place so early that the Bearcats build an insurmountable lead.
Cincinnati added to the embarrassment with a series of successful trick plays that it did not need. The Bearcats completed two passes with skill position players, threw a touchdown on a double reverse and moved the chains on an unintentional fake punt.
“It is fun to go out there and do that,” Kay said. “The receivers made a lot of plays today. The offensive line did a good job with protection. The game plan coming into this week was great."
Nova set the tone offensively with an interception on the first offensive play of the game. From there, Rutgers averaged just 3.3 yards per carry in the return of Paul James and completed half of its passes.
Rutgers (5-4, 2-2) has no time to turn things around, with UCF (7-1, 4-0) waiting in Orlando, Fla., Thursday night. The changes for the Scarlet Knights begin Sunday night with a full practice.
“I think it's a challenge,” Flood said. “We've already done a lot of the advance scouting for the UCF game, and now we've got to reevaluate it based on today's performance and make sure we've got the right players in the best position possible for them to help us win that game Thursday night.”