For those avid readers of the site, you know that certain Scarlet Knights may be judged a little more harshly by this blogger like K.J. Gray, Trevor Morris, and Gus Edwards. In these three players cases, it took some time for the physical talent to reach the level of performance fans expected. For that reason, Edwards deserves to be praised specifically for his performance on Saturday against Maryland. There was plenty of pressure on him with Janarion Grant out, but Edwards came through.
Maryland’s pass defense is poor, but Rutgers passing attack is not much better so Offensive Coordinator Jerry Kill opted to force the ball down the Terrapins throat from the opening drive. The opening possession did not result in points as a field goal sailed wide right, but with Rutgers having so much success running up the middle a message was sent that this was going to be a long game at the line of scrimmage. On the drive alone, Edwards took the ball on the first six plays for 25 yards.
As the game progressed, the running back rotation was utilized to limited success but the Knights stayed committed to pounding the rock and wearing down the Terrapin defense at the point of attack. To a level not seen in quite some time, Rutgers eventually wore out the opposition to the point that scoring on the final two drives seemed almost inevitable thanks to Gus Edwards. Robert Martin may have been the beneficiary in scoring the tying touchdown but the staff went back to Gus on the final Rutgers drive with the game tied.
Edwards carried seven times to just two passing attempts as he broke the 100 yard barrier for his first time as a Scarlet Knight. Rutgers was now in field goal range and faced a third and six at the Maryland 23 yard line. Since the Knights had so much success on the ground, Maryland brought a blitz to stop a run and prevent a scramble, not respecting the possibility of a Rutgers receiver gaining quick separation. Giovanni Rescigno and Edwards were on the same page luckily, and Gus took a quick pass the distance after dodging one tackle for a score that proved to be the difference.
In total, Edwards accounted for 109 rushing yards and 23 more receiving. This is huge considering the team only passed for 107 even against a shaky Maryland secondary. He now has 630 yards on the year to go along with 7 total touchdowns. More importantly his battering style has been key to wins against Illinois (91 yards), Purdue (94 yards), and now Maryland.
Coming into the season when the 5th year graduate transfer from Miami arrived, it seemed like a low risk, high reward move even if he was simply on par with Josh Hicks and Robert Martin. Then the Staten Island native turned heads and became the clear cut lead back much to the surprise of almost everyone. After the season began, Edwards looked ok but lacked the burst at the line we saw so much from Martin, Hicks, and now Raheem Blackshear.
In the last few games though, Edwards has shown an ability to get into position to use his size and speed. His initial cut may not be the same as the other backs, but he has a knack for getting himself moving with enough momentum to make him tough to bring down. His power eventually wears down the defense when aided by any threat of a pass. If he can get back to the line of scrimmage he seems to be able to get four yards almost every time. He also shows some speed getting to the edge.
So as three games remain on the schedule, a thousand yards may be out of the question barring an incredible effort from Edwards and the team around him. I am skeptical of Edwards being quick enough (though plenty fast and powerful enough) to play at the next level, but he has already proven more than we bargained for. His 100 yard game puts him in the record book and this win will be a memory many fans have for quite some time.
Game ball, Gus Edwards.