The postgraduate quarterback, who hasn’t played since August because of an injury, came back for Rutgers football’s biggest game and finished the opening drive with an electrifying 21-yard touchdown run.
In front of a boisterous home crowd, the Scarlet Knights opened a two-score lead over helpless Nebraska by dominating on defense and special teams.
And that’s when Rutgers’ coaches blew it all up. They played musical chairs with the most crucial position, took a chance on the field with a backup quarterback who was prone to interceptions, and gave the Huskers a 14-13 victory.
After the incident, Schiano provided the following explanation:
Noah had a hand injury, but it has since recovered. He had it fixed, and he is now well. But he still doesn’t have the necessary level of stamina. Although he’s not at risk of harming himself further, he sometimes finds it difficult to handle the ball in the way he wants to. He can, but it only happens seldom. Additionally, muscular weariness plays a role. You know how long he had his hand in a cast or whatever he had on, and how long it takes to get it back.
He has therefore battled valiantly to return. Just not quite back yet.
Gavin Wimsatt is still hurt. Rutgers then went to three-interception thrower Evan Simon.
“So yeah, it’s unfortunate, the quarterback situation the way it is,” Schiano said. “It’s not the way you want it as a head coach for sure, but you don’t get to pick that.”
Indeed you do. Vedral could have continued playing if his health wasn’t in jeopardy because of his sprinting abilities, leadership, decision-making, and ball security. The one thing Rutgers could not do was turn the ball over despite having a lead, a good defense, and an exceptional punter holding down a struggling team. It screamed for Sam Brown runs and Vedral game management in the second half (roll-outs, draws, screen passes).
“We’re a good team when we don’t turn it over,” Schiano said.
Instead they had Simon winging it. Nebraska cashed in, and Rutgers is now 0-3 in the Big Ten.
“This is the outcome when you don’t let your QB get into the game and get some momentum,” Gio Rescigno tweeted, most appropriately. “We continue to switch every other play and expect good things to happen. Makes ZERO sense.”
You may recall that Rescigno was Rutgers’ quarterback against Maryland on November 4, 2017, when the team won a Big Ten home game. A 21-game losing skid is currently in effect.
Sean Gleeson, the offensive coordinator, is being blamed for the team’s ineffectiveness, and he is undoubtedly to blame. But it seems unlikely that he was the only one who made the choice to switch quarterbacks.
Noah Vedral’s comeback tale ought to have came to a close with a postgame interview about how his emotional first drive set the tone for a game that needed to be won. Instead, no quarterbacks had media interviews. Unusual, but also an indication of the position’s status within the program. It practically disappeared.
“I know our fans believe,” Schiano said when asked for his message to supporters who haven’t witnessed a Big Ten home win in five years. “They are frustrated as I am frustrated, but I know they believe.”
They do? Before the result was known, thousands of them left. What was left was a mass of ecstatic Nebraska supporters. Although the Huskers don’t have much going for them, interim head coach Mickey Joseph gave his squad the greatest shot to win on this particular night. That was adequate.