By: Eddie Hobbs
On the heels of an underwhelming performance against then No. 15 Michigan, the Terps return home to take on the Scarlet Knights for their homecoming game. Just under a year ago Maryland lost a close game to a Rutgers team who dominated on the ground to the tune of 239 yards in their 31-24 win over the Terps.
With the injuries to Tyrrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill early in the season, Maryland’s third-string option Max Bortenschlager started eight games in their place. Bortenschlager played up until the fourth quarter against Rutgers but was hit hard on a third-down run late in the game and had to be examined by the medical staff.
Ryan Brand, a walk-on transfer, had a chance to tie the game on a 15-yard pass to DJ Moore, but they couldn’t connect, and the Terps dropped their fifth game of the season. The game is something that the team still hasn’t forgotten about.
“Obviously a year ago Maryland went over there and lost,” Interim head coach Matt Canada said on Tuesday. “So, our players are well aware of that and understand that, [and] understand the importance of being ready every week.”
Rutgers (1-5, 0-2 B1G)
Last season, Rutgers relied on senior Kyle Bolin to lead its offense, but since he graduated the Scarlet Knights have now turned to freshman Artur Sitkowski. Saying Sitkowski is going through growing pains would be an understatement at this point in the season. The new Rutgers quarterback has complete 53 percent of his passes for 750 yards and has thrown 11 interceptions to go with his three touchdown passes.
Rutgers lost their three leaders in receptions from last year: Janarion Grant (16), Damon Mitchell (10) and Dacoven Bailey (9). Given the loss of their reception leaders from last year, others have stepped up. Bo Melton and Raheem Blackshear have 46 receptions between the two but have only mustered one touchdown.
Raheem Blackshear and Jonathan Hillman have been a two-headed monster for Rutgers this season in the backfield. After Gus Edwards and Robert Martin both departed for the NFL, it left big shoes to fill in Piscataway, New Jersey. Blackshear and Hillman have scored seven times while contributing 637 rushing yards.
Rutgers’ weak points come on the defensive end, ranking in the bottom 100 in almost every category. Even though they haven’t been great on defense, the Rutgers linebacking corps has always been its most solid group. Deonte Roberts and Trevor Morris have been leading this group for years now, and it is no different this year.
Morris came into the season needing 86 tackles to break into the program’s top-10 leaders. In his two previous seasons, Morris has racked up over 100 tackles, and he is well on his way to reach that feat again this year. Morris has 52 tackles to go along with four pass breakups and four quarterback hits in 2018.
Roberts was a captain as a junior in 2017 starting all 12 games, and agonized opposing players all of last year while reaching 104 tackles. He is right behind Morris in tackles this year with 46 of his own while also getting credit for a fumble recovery.
What Maryland needs to do to win
- It’s no secret that Maryland’s rushing offense is a key to its success. The Terps offensive line will need to do a good job of breaking off defensive linemen and getting up to the second level so they can get bodies on the Scarlett Knight’s impressive linebackers.
- The Terps need to force Rutgers into third-and-long situations on Saturday. Michigan had a lot of success on third down last week because the Wolverines were within five yards of the sticks for many of them.
- Kasim Hill doesn’t need to be a superstar in this game, but it would go a long way for him to get on a roll. Hill had a forgettable game against Michigan last week (5-for-10, 62 yards, 1 interception). If Hill can get some completions, and get into a groove, it will be helpful for the rest of the season.
Maryland will use a run first mentality all game and will wear down Rutgers with their jet sweeps and differing fronts. Damian Prince, Derwin Gray and Terrance Davis all played against Michigan last week and look to build off another week of playing as a group. Ty Johnson and Anthony McFarland should be able to will Maryland to a victory over Rutgers and the Terps will get their fourth victory on the year.