Thank you to Aaron Breitman (@aaron_breitman) from SB Nation's Rutgers blog, On the Banks, for taking the time to answer some questions from us about Maryland's game Saturday against Rutgers.
1. Fellow new B1G member - how has the 2nd year in the conference been treating Rutgers?
It's been a rough year for many reasons, including off the field behavior of the players and head coach Kyle Flood. However, on the field the team has taken a major step back from their performance last season. First year starting quarterback Chris Laviano has struggled mightily at times and the team has continued the disturbing trend of getting blown out repeatedly against the top tier teams of the Big Ten.
The team has played with little fight and spirit, with the exception of the Michigan State and Indiana games. Amazingly, a win against Maryland would put them at 5-7 with a slight chance to go to a bowl game, and finish in 5th place in the East division. If they lose to Maryland, they would be 4-8 and finish in last place, which is more what this season has felt like.
2. With so many jobs open, will the Kyle Flood era at Rutgers continue into 2016 or will they make a move after this off season?
It's a complicated answer that sadly will be determined by politics and money instead of performance. Based on results on the field and discipline problems off the field, both with players and Flood himself, he absolutely should be fired after Saturday's game. However, based on Rutgers financial difficulties of having the largest subsidized athletic department in the country, I think the only way they fire him is if they can do so based on just cause.
After Flood was suspended earlier this season for his improper contact with a professor, Rutgers hired a law firm that specializes in helping schools with NCAA violations. The university is doing their due diligence to make sure no NCAA violations have occurred within the football program. If violations are found, that would most likely lead Rutgers to terminate Flood for cause and be off the hook for the 2.5 million they would owe him and his staff. If nothing is found, then I do expect him to be back and most fans would be very upset about that. There are more questions involving the authority of our current athletic director and lack of interest from our university president, but I will spare you the details.
3. What has been the biggest surprise for Rutgers this season? Biggest disappointment?
The biggest surprise was the details of the investigation of Kyle Flood's improper contact with a professor, leading to his three game suspension. Flood's calling card during his tenure was his integrity and that quickly changed once the report was released. It painted a picture of someone that flaunted his authority and knowingly circumvented the rules. It also highlighted that his actions were incredibly dumb.
The biggest disappointment has been the defense, who have been historically bad this season. Obviously, losing three starters in the secondary before the first game was a crushing blow. Those players were arrested and dismissed, along with several others, due to off-season incidents. Rutgers has been forced to play multiple redshirt and true freshman all season in the secondary. There is talent there but their inexperience has created a steep learning curve.
However, other than linebackers Steve Longa, Quentin Gause and Kaiwan Lewis playing well against the run all season, the rest of the defense has been a massive disappointment. The front line has not been able to put pressure on their opponent's line and quarterback, repeatedly. Kemoko Turay, who led the team with 7.5 sacks last season as a freshman, has been almost invisible. Players expected to step up in the absence of senior captain Darius Hamilton, out for the season with a knee injury, have done little.
Most frustrating has been the apparent lack of gameplan or strategy at times from defensive coordinator Joe Rossi. They play too far off their defenders in pass protection and too soft in zone coverage, allowing offenses to have a field day finding receivers in open space. Week after week, few blitz calls with minimal success have led Big Ten quarterbacks to torch this defense. Rossi needs to go.
4. For Maryland fans making the trip up 95 Saturday, what food and or beverage venues do Terps fans need to check out and know about?
Rutgers has a campus that is spread out over New Brunswick and Piscataway. The football stadium and tailgating areas are in Piscataway, which there are shuttles from the main campus in New Brunswick that run often on game day.
In New Brunswick, there are many nice restaurants and all types. Clydz is a martini bar with great food, Due Mari is a good Italian restaurant by Chef Michael White, Old Bay is a fun New Orleans style place with a great atmosphere, Harvest Moon is a microbrewery, there is the old school feel of Tumulty's Irish Pub and of course, sports bar Brother Jimmy's. They are all within walking distance in downtown New Brunswick.
Also, if you walk around the tailgate area you are likely to be offered a beverage and plate of food, especially if mention your dislike for Penn State.
5. Complete this sentence: _____ will win because _______.
Rutgers will win because senior captains Leonte Carroo, Paul James and Quentin Gause will lead them to victory in their last game on the banks.