After a 59-0 throttling at the hands of No. 12 Penn State, Maryland football will head to New Jersey to take on Rutgers and attempt to bounce back.
A Maryland offense that was one of the most prolific ever to start a season has gone rather stale, but there is a pocket of the schedule coming up that could allow the team to regain its rhythm.
Here is a look at the good and bad of what Rutgers does:
Don’t overlook quarterback Artur Sitkowski
Rutgers sophomore quarterback Artur Sitkowski is a homegrown New Jersey talent that has become a blessing for a program in need of a leader. The pro-style signal caller transferred to IMG Academy for his senior season of high school and returned to New Jersey as a high three-star recruit that could make an immediate impact.
As a freshman, Sitkowski started 11 games, becoming the only freshman in school history to achieve that feat, while throwing for 1,158 yards and four touchdowns. So far in 2019, Sitkowski has tallied 429 yards and one touchdown, but has also completed 64.7 percent of his passes.
The Scarlet Knights run a pro-style spread offense that allows Sitkowski to manage the game from the pocket. His experience and high-level decision making comes in handy as he’s able to move through his progressions and find the best option.
Isaih Pacheco has led the way on the ground with 262 yards and four touchdowns, but it’s actually been backup running back Raheem Blackshear leading Rutgers in receiving with 310 yards and two touchdowns.
While the Rutgers offense often falters and struggles to get big gains on original play designs, Sitkowski and the talent around him has shown and ability to improvise that should not be taken lightly.
Defense struggles to get a push
Similar to one of the problems Maryland has faced on both sides of the ball, Rutgers fails to impose any size or will to make a difference on the line of scrimmage.
Early in the season against UMass, former Maryland offensive coordinator Walt Bell was able to use a classic misdirection play to help spring Cam Roberson through the first to levels of the defense and off for a score.
For Maryland, being able to use its stable of running backs to create plays will be paramount to getting and maintaining a lead. That will also rely on the Terrapins getting a push from the offensive line, but Rutgers poses much less of a physical threat than the likes of Penn State last time out.
Michigan really proved that Rutgers lacked size on the defensive side of the ball, bullying its way in for one of its seven touchdowns in a 52-0 rout of the Scarlet Knights last weekend.
Getting players in space will be key
One of the ways Maryland can easily increase its chances at getting back in the win column is by focusing on getting the ball to the best athletes on the field and letting them control the game.
Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis uses this philosophy and it helped get the Wolverines off the ground and running early against Rutgers. Quarterback Shea Patterson is able to take a quick three step drop and get the ball out to wide receiver Nico Collins on the sideline, where Collins is able to turn up field and use his speed to finish the play.
One way that Maryland in particular can use this advantage is by getting the ball to tight end Tyler Mabry. Rutgers doesn’t have the strongest secondary and Mabry could pose a size advantage across the middle and to the outside.
Bell and the Minutemen were able to use a similar mismatch of their own as quarterback Randall West found tight end Kyle Horn over top of the defense for the first score of the game. Horn is listed at 6’5, 245 pounds while Maryland lists Mabry at 6’4, 248 pounds.
With the pure athletic talent that the Terrapins have in the backfield, in the receiving corps and at the tight end position, it only seems right to get the ball to those players quickly and let them try to make plays.
The bottom line
Facing a Rutgers team with nothing to lose after the firing of Chris Ash, makes the Scarlet Knights a bit more unpredictable and players will certainly play with more of an edge.
For Maryland, they keys to a victory will be playing its own game, trusting its athletes to make plays over those on the other side of the ball and being disciplined. Coming away from Piscataway with a win could help right the ship on a Maryland season that took a quick 180 last weekend.