"There are just some fundamental competencies we're still struggling to be good at, and that are associated with our style of play," Ellerson said. "Like I said, you can't dismiss any of that but when you are playing an outfit like that you don't have any margin for error. So you have to be on your game."
Army was for the most part, but the big errors killed them.
Alex Carlton missed an extra point with the Black Knights down 13-12 early in the fourth quarter. A 51-yard run by Stephen Fraser to the Rutgers 1 with roughly seven minutes left was nullified by a tripping penalty. A miscommunication less than a minute later allowed Rutgers (7-3) to block a punt and return it for a touchdown and a breakdown with two minutes allowed Jawan Jamison to clinch the game for the Scarlet Knights with a 56-yard TD run.
"Obviously, it's a heartbreaker," Army junior running back Malcolm Brown said. "We know we can build off it and improve next week.
Army has two games left, at Temple next week and then the big one against Navy on Dec. 10.
Ellerson said he is not looking toward next season.
"We have two opportunities left," he said. "I'm not talking about something we're doing in the future, but something we are going to do now."
The game was the first between the schools since Scarlet Knights player Eric LeGrand was paralyzed making a tackle against Brown on a kickoff return in their last game at the Meadowlands in October 2010. LeGrand served as a captain for the coin toss, and Brown was a captain for Army.
"It was kind of emotional," Brown said.
Rutgers did just enough to win in a game in which Rutgers wide out Mohamed Sanu set a Big East Conference single-season record for receptions.
Chas Dodd threw two touchdown passes, Jordan Thomas returned a blocked punt 32-yard for a touchdown and Jamison scooted to the game clincher for the Scarlet Knights, who will play Cincinnati for a share of the Big East Conference lead next weekend.
"These guys that play at the academies, you don't want their backs against the wall," Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said. "That's what it was tonight. We talked about it as a team all night. You just have to be ready for them to keep coming back and they did."
Dodd threw a go-ahead 38-yard touchdown to Brandon Coleman on the opening possession of the second half and then Army self-destructed for the second straight week.
Carlton missing a potential game-tying extra point in the fourth quarter and a 51-yard run by Stephen Fraser to the Rutgers 1 with around seven minutes to play was nullified by a tripping penalty.
Trailing 13-12, Fraser put Army within a yard of the lead when he ran down the left sideline and was tackled in front of the Cadets' student body, sending them into a celebration.
However, there was a flag on the field for the trip well behind the play and Army was eventually forced to punt.
Wayne Warren came up the middle and blocked Chris Boldt's punt. Thomas picked up the ball and scored for a 20-12 lead with 6:36 to go. Jamison closed out the scoring.
Army should have tied the game at 13 in the opening minute of the fourth quarter after Larry Dixon scored on a 2-yard run set up by an interception and return by Thomas Holloway that gave the Black Knights the ball at the Rutgers 36. However Carlton, who hit two short field goals in the first quarter clanged his extra point off the right upright.
Sanu finished the game with 13 receptions for 129 yards. His last one was his 93rd of the season and it broke the conference's single season mark of 92 set by Larry Fitzgerald of Pittsburgh in 2003.
Rutgers placekicker San San Te also struggled on the historic baseball stadium's yielding grass surface, hitting an extra point and a 26-yard field goal in the third quarter with Rutgers ahead 13-6 on the series after Dodd's TD to Coleman.
Army controlled the clock and outgained Rutgers 177-109 in the first half and found itself tied 6-all, and it was lucky to be tied.
Carlton kicked chip-shot field goal after the Black Knights first two drives stalled inside the Scarlet Knights 5. A 55-yard run by Larry Dixon set up the first kick and an 18-yard run by quarterback Angel Santiago ignited the second.
Rutgers got on the board late in the second quarter after Army gambled on fourth and 2 from the Rutgers 40 and Santiago was tackled for no gain.
Dodd (17 of 27 for 196) then drove the Scarlet Knights 60 yards in eight plays. Jeremy Deering ran for 19 yards on first down and Sanu caught a 16-yard pass on the second play. Dodd eventually finished the drive with a 3-yard pass to fullback Michael Burton. Te's extra point was yanked wide left.