After starting the season with two resounding wins, the second of which was against a then-No. 21 ranked Syracuse team, it seemed like this was the time for Maryland football to make a name for itself.
Then the Terps went to Philadelphia, where they lost a game to Temple that they likely should have won. It was 60 minutes of missed opportunities, as Maryland’s offense failed to capitalize on an abundance of chances.
Coming out of the bye week, the Terps had a tougher test. They were hosting a top-15 Penn State team that had dominated the recent series between the two programs. Maryland was just a seven-point underdog at kickoff, but it eventually lost 59-0.
Now, the Terps face what may be a must-win game if they want to have any chance at bowl eligibility. They’re heading up north to face a Rutgers team that just fired its head coach and offensive coordinator.
“It’s just very important that we bounce back,” transfer tight end Tyler Mabry said. “It was the first conference game, but we know what we need to do and what we’re capable of doing.”
Saturday’s game is slated to start at noon ET and will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights (1-3, 0-2 Big Ten)
2018 record: 1-11 (0-9 Big Ten)
Head coach Chris Ash Interim head coach/offensive coordinator Nunzio Campanile was the Scarlet Knights tight ends coach just five days ago. Now, he’s in charge of a Rutgers program that doesn’t seem to have any direction. Campanile joined the staff in Piscataway in 2018 as the running backs coach following an eight-year stint as a high school head coach at Bergen Catholic.
Players to know
Johnny Langan, redshirt freshman quarterback, 6’3, 232 lbs, No. 17. As if things couldn’t get any worse for Rutgers, following Ash’s departure, starting quarterback Artur Sitkowski informed the program he plans to redshirt, reportedly seeking a transfer. Now, Langan will be thrust into his first collegiate start.
Langan played for Campanile at Bergen Catholic, where the pair won a state championship in 2017. From there, he went to Boston College, where he didn’t see any game action to take a redshirt season before transferring to Rutgers. He’s seen limited play for the Scarlet Knights, so far with one completion for eight yards and three rushes for two yards.
Isaih Pacheco, sophomore running back, 5’11, 210 lbs, No. 1. Pacheco’s season numbers look solid — he’s racked up 262 yards on 56 attempts (4.7 yards per carry) with four touchdowns. However, nearly all of that came against UMass, when the sophomore found the endzone on four separate occasions. In the three games since, Pacheco has carried the ball 36 times for 106 yards, good for just 2.9 yards per rush.
Raheem Blackshear, junior running back, 5’9, 192 lbs, No. 2. Blackshear is listed as a running back, and in four games, he’s carried the ball 29 times but for just 88 yards, gaining three yards per rush. But Blackshear’s made a name for himself in 2019 as a receiver, pacing the Scarlet Knights in catches (29), yards (310) and touchdowns (2). Maryland had issues covering a similarly-sized receiver in KJ Hamler a week ago, and that could spell trouble for the Terps on Saturday.
Kicking. On the season, Rutgers has made all five of its field goals and all seven of its extra points. Thanks to the leg of Justin Davidovicz, the Scarlet Knights haven’t left any points on the board on special teams. Against Boston College, he even hit a 50-yarder.
Most things. The season is just four weeks old, but simply put, Rutgers has been a bad football team. The Scarlet Knights average just 16 points per game, which ranks 13th in the Big Ten and 127th in the nation out of 130 teams. Defensively, they allow 33.3 points per game, which ranks last in the conference and 109th in the country. In terms of yardage, it’s a similar story, as Rutgers has struggled to do really anything at a high rate.
Three things to watch
1. Can Maryland take care of business? This is a game Maryland is expected to win — the Terps are favored by more than two touchdowns — and Rutgers has been the runt of the Big Ten litter since it joined the conference. Last time Maryland was a favorite, it lost to Temple, 20-17, in Philadelphia. The Owls are much better than the Scarlet Knights, however, and barring anything crazy, the Terps shouldn’t have much trouble.
“Honestly, we have to just stay focused,” senior defensive back Antoine Brooks said. “Don’t put our head down. Just keep looking forward. ... It’s not the end of the world. We just gotta keep our head down and just keep pushing forward.”
2. Can Josh Jackson get back on track? This was a thing to watch last week, and Jackson didn’t correct his errors. In fact, a new issue popped up: he’s been staring down his receivers, allowing defenses to key in on a target.
At practice this week, Tyrrell Pigrome was getting more reps with the first-team offense. Locksley maintains that Jackson is his starting quarterback, but he seemed more open to the possibility of Pigrome getting increased playing time on Saturday.
“We’ll continue Josh as our starter, but just like any other position, you remain a starter based on your ability to produce,” Locksley said in his press conference Tuesday. “And for us at the quarterback position, it starts with taking care of the football first, scoring points second and then displaying leadership third. We’ve got to get that out of that position and if we feel we’re not getting it out of Josh, we will not hesitate to give Piggy a chance.”
3. Will Rutgers be galvanized by the Ash firing? A good percentage of the time, when a head coach is fired during the season, the team plays better under the interim. It’s unclear how the players have reacted to the change in leadership, but in its first game of the Nunzio Campanile era in Piscataway, look for the Scarlet Knights to potentially come out with a newfound energy.
“There’s nothing worse than playing a team that doesn’t have much to lose,” Locksley said. “And I would imagine, knowing coach Ash and the type of team that he developed, that these guys will rally together to form a bond and play for each other. So we expect them to have all types of effort.”
Vegas: Maryland -12.5, O/U 56 (as of Thursday night)
ESPN FPI: Maryland 82.2% chance to win
Me: Maryland 35, Rutgers 21
Catch up before the game
- Maryland football held players-only meeting to get back on track
- Opponent film breakdown: What to expect from Rutgers
- Testudo Times Podcast: On the road again
- Running back Lorenzo Harrison III likely out for season with MCL tear, partial ACL tear
- Rutgers football head coach Chris Ash fired ahead of Maryland matchup