- Associated Press - Thursday, September 7, 2017

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) - While the result against Washington was the same as a year ago, there’s a lot more hope at Rutgers.

In dropping a 30-14 decision to No. 8 Washington on Friday, the Scarlet Knights realized they can compete with the top-tier teams.

That was far from the case last year. Washington routed the Rutgers 48-13 to kick off a season that ended with a nine-game losing streak to end the season. Four of those losses came in Big Ten Conference games by a 224-0 margin.

What was impressive was the Scarlet Knights didn’t get pushed around, they overcame mistakes and they moved the ball on offense.

“They played more physical than we did was my initial impression,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said after the game.

Rutgers second-year coach Chris Ash and his team echoed those sentiments earlier this week.

“When you turn on the film I think that anybody that would watch the game would be able to say that we were very physical up front,” guard Dorian Miller said.

It led to a strong running game, helping control the clock and tempo of the game. While graduate transfer Gus Edwards (79 yards on 24 carries) started, Robert Martin (55 yards on 13 carries) showed that the two should share the field. And it might not just be those two.

Ash feels the running back room is one of the deepest on his team as former Quick Lane Bowl MVP Josh Hicks didn’t touch the ball as running back and freshman Raheem Blackshear had three carries for nine yards. A weekly competition for touches is to ensue.

“I think we’re doing a good job of competing right now,” Edwards said. “A good job at keeping each other humble, and I think we compliment each other very well right now.”

The different running styles means some minor adjustments for the offensive line, going from a straight downhill runner to a shiftier back.

“I try and look at what are their flaws, what are their positives when we run the ball,” left tackle Tariq Cole said. “Gus hit me in my back a lot in practice because I wasn’t going downfield hard enough, so when he’s in I got to make sure I keep going 10 yards down the field and I can’t stop or else I’m going to get hit and I’m going to get injured. And Rob is kind of more shifty with it. He likes to make more cuts with the ball.”

Either way, there are fewer questions about how Rutgers will look against the top teams in the conference. While the wins still may not come this year, they will at least look like they belong on the same field.

Rutgers is even a 3 ½ point favorite to end its 10-game losing streak when it takes on Eastern Michigan on Saturday.

“I feel like we have a chip on our shoulder,” said Louisville transfer quarterback Kyle Bolin, who threw two touchdowns and two interceptions in the opener. “It’s been a long time since this program has gotten a win, and the fact that we were so competitive with such a great program last week just puts even a bigger chip on our shoulde …I feel like we have a lot to prove.”

The second-year head coach put it a bit more bluntly.

“We don’t take any games lightly, period,” Ash said.


More AP college football: https://collegefootball.ap.org and https://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25

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