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PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Rutgers seemed likely to be bowl eligible in its first season in the Big Ten Conference after piling up five wins.
The Scarlet Knights (5-4, 1-4) are riding a three-game losing streak after falling to No. 13 Ohio State (7-1, 4-0), No. 15 Nebraska (8-1, 4-1) and No. 25 Wisconsin (6-2, 3-1) by a combined score of 135-41.
The once-promising season has hit the skids, less than a month after Kyle Flood's team got points in the poll.
"You got to learn from the mistakes, you got to flush it and you got to move on," senior fullback Michael Burton said. "You've got to take what you did well from the film, take what you didn't do well, learn from both and just move on and that's really all you can do at this point."
Rutgers will have a bye this weekend and then face Indiana (3-5, 0-4) at High Point Solutions Stadium. It's a game many see as a must-win, considering it's the most winnable one left on the schedule.
Rutgers will play its last two games on the road, facing No. 7 Michigan State (7-1, 4-0) and the other conference newcomer Maryland (6-3, 3-2).
The Scarlet Knights say they aren't thinking about bowl eligibility. Flood hasn't brought it up to his team, and the players say they know they're a win away, but they don't talk about it.
"I think we're just focused on winning," senior quarterback Gary Nova said. "Like I said, I think we're aware of what the win will do, but if playing your hardest and playing great for each other isn't the motivation, then we got a big problem."
Flood is not one to discuss the big picture. His mantra is going 1-0 every week. Still, there's no denying how drastically things have changed in one month.
"It's football," Nova said. "Obviously, you want to win those games but you understand there's going to be ups and downs. We haven't played well, so we can't expect to win playing the way we're playing. So we need to turn that around."
A win against Indiana would take away the pressure of bowl eligibility, while still setting up Rutgers to exceed outsiders' expectations.
"It's been rough," junior wide receiver Leonte Carroo said. "But like I said, you just got to swallow it and continue to move on. There's a lot of football left. We could still do a lot of great things and we got the last three games, tough opponents. Indiana, Michigan State and Maryland — you win those three, that's a decent season."
Actually, it would be a great season, considering Rutgers was picked to finish last in the conference in the preseason poll.
"People said we were going to win one game in the Big Ten, so we still can shock a lot of people and go out there and continue to play hard," Carroo said.