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Rutgers Football Game #5 Preview vs Maryland

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Wait, there’s a game this weekend? Well, this should be interesting.

Boston College v Rutgers
All of a sudden it’s Langan’s turn.
Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images

How To Watch, Stream & Listen

Maryland (2-2; 0-1) at Rutgers (1-3, 0-2)

Where: SHI Stadium, Piscataway, NJ

Kick-off: Saturday, October 5 at 12:01 p.m. EDT

Weather: 56 degrees, sunny with a 1% chance of rain, 5 mph winds

TV: BTN, Lisa Byington, James Laurinaitis, and Elise Menaker, Out of market channel finder

Stream: Fox Sports App

Radio: Rutgers IMG Sports Network with Chris Carlin, Ray Lucas, Eric LeGrand, and Anthony Fucilli - Rutgers IMG Sports Network: WCTC 1450-AM, WOR 710-AM, WENJ 97.3-FM, WNJE 920-AM, Sirius 135, XM 202. (WRSU 88.7-FM: Jake Ostrove and Brad Loprinzi)

Current Spread: Maryland -12.5

Against The Spread: Rutgers 1-3; Michigan 2-2

Series History: The teams have met 15 times ever, Maryland leads the series 3-2 since the teams joined the Big Ten.

SB Nation UMd site: Testudo Times

Maryland Statistical Leaders

Passing: Josh Jackson - 61 for 121 pass attempts, 50.4%, 789 yards, 8 TD, 4 INT; Tyrell Pigrome - 4 for 9 pass attempts, 44.4%, 60 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT;

Rushing: Anthony McFarland Jr. - 249 yards on 55 attempts, 4.5 ypc, 5 TD; Javon Leake - 197 yards on 24 attempts, 8.2 ypc, 2 TD; Jake Funk - 173 yards on 17 attempts, 10.2 ypc, 2 TD;

Receiving: Dontay Demus Jr. - 10 catches for 185 yards, 18.5 ypc, 2 TD; Darryl Jones - 7 catches for 138 yards, 19.7 ypc, 0 TD; Chigoziem Okonkwo - 9 catches for 91 yards, 10.1 ypc, 1 TD; Tyler Mabry - 8 catches for 77 yards, 9.6 ypc, 3 TD;

Defense: Antoine Brooks Jr. - 31 tackles, 2.0 for a loss, 0 sack, 0 interceptions, 3 passes defended, 1 fumble recovery; Ayinde Eley - 23 tackles, 2.0 for a loss, 0.0 sacks, 0 INT, 1 pass defended, 1 fumble recovery; KeAndre Jones - 18 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 0 passes defended, 1 forced fumble

Kicking: Joseph Petrino - 18 for 18 PAT’s, 0 for 1 FG attempts; Paul Inzerillo - 2 for 3 PAT’s, 0 for 0 FG attempts

What To Watch For

Nunzio and ... Langan watch?

What a difference a week makes. Nunzio Campanile takes over a the program as Head Coach AND offensive coordinator. Danny Burrick covered the pros and cons here. So in the time of a week he has to develop an offensive game plan. In his press conference, Campanile said it was an entire staff effort but not to expect any radical changes and Art Sitkowski would be starting against Maryland. In yet another twist, Sitkowski is now mulling a redshirt.

So the Sitkowski watch was gone earlier this year, then back, then gone again with Art unlikely to play. Johnny Langan who did not get granted eligibility until late in the process and was the #3 QB on the roster gets the start. McLane Carter last we heard was still not cleared to play, so Cole Snyder is the backup this week. Langan played for Campanile in High School at Bergen Catholic so that will help some, but without extended game action since High School he might be rusty. Langan was mobile in high school but hasn’t shown much of that in limited action at RU. He is erratic with his off platform throws and not nearly as accurate as the other QBs on the roster when he has time to set. So the plan will be to run the ball and probably get Johnny some rollouts that we saw Shea Patterson destroy RU with a week ago. Even though it’s his first college start, could Langan be as bad as RU QBs historic performance at Maryland a year ago? Forget I asked.

Maryland has a good pass rush, the strength of their team as a whole. Rutgers has struggled to block even four man rushes at times. It will be interesting to see Maryland tries to bring a lot of people or let linebackers help out on the back end because MD has shown issues with communication and tackling in the secondary. Yards after the catch have killed the Terps in recent weeks, so Bo Melton needs to be a big player in this game for Rutgers. Matt Alaimo has showed the most promise in making plays with his legs after Bo. The next best option looking at his entire career is probably Eddie Lewis who has played sparingly this year after flashing a lot in 2018. Will he be reinvigorated with the coaching changes? Or will it be Blackshear and Aaron Young they try to isolate?

The battle of the backs

For the baby steps the Rutgers passing game has shown the last two weeks, Raheem Blackshear and Isaih Pacheco have been unable to get anything going on the ground. Though it was against backups, Kay’Ron Adams showed the most burst of any running back in recent weeks. I don’t think that was a mirage because Adams has shown the quickest first step on running plays to get to the perimeter. In the past we have been critical of Rutgers running backs for not letting the holes open, but being patient this year has not proven effective as those creases simply haven’t opened quite often enough. The Rutgers offensive line has to be better, though maybe Campanile has some ideas on how to block some plays a little differently than they have thus far in 2019.

On the Maryland side, Emily Giambalvo told Lance on our weekly podcast that the Terrapin offense was barely functional the last two weeks. Expect Maryland to go back to basics and feed Anthony McFarland with Javon Leake also seeing heavy touches. Even without Rutgers killers Lorenzo Harrison and Jake Funk who seem to have been around forever, the Terps can trot out an endless supply of speedy backs that could break a long run. Josh Jackson is less of a runner than his backup Tyrell Pigrome, but everyone in the Maryland press seems to think Jackson is still by far the better option. Don’t be surprised to see some more QB runs this week.

Both teams pride themselves on a good stable of running backs, but due to the offensive line it has to be edge Maryland.

Chris Ash, Head Coach. Andy Buh, D.C.

You have to figure Andy Buh is running his own show entirely on the defensive side of the ball with Ash gone. Buh coached at in the same role at Maryland last year so he has familiarity with many of the Terrapin personnel, exactly what Rutgers faced at Iowa when Jay Niemann was on the sideline a few weeks ago. Buh’s first task is ensuring his team is lined up and doesn’t misfit any runs (his favorite phrase at times). As has been the case all season, Tyshon Fogg needs to ensure the team is lined up right and the rest of the unit cannot miss tackles. Or we could see the embarassment that was the 2015 2nd half when Maryland ran wild on RU in the finale and ended the Kyle Flood era with a bang.

Maryland runs the ball as much as they can and delivers counterpunches with quarterback Josh Jackson utilizing wide receiver Dontay Demus and two tight ends. Emily’s assessment of Jackson is that he was hitting all his reads and delivering accurate balls in the first two games of the season, but never got into a rhythm and badly missed throws the last two weeks. This seems a ton like when Rutgers hosted Illinois a year ago and once AJ Bush got going, it was trouble for the Scarlet Knights.

I’d try and mix coverages. I prefer man to man on the outside if you have the defensive backs to pull it off generally but expect Rutgers to try and confuse Jackson in the first half with zone looks that also could aid cornerback support in the run game. Keep in mind after his garbage time targeting penalty (that was questionable), Avery Young is out for the first half of this contest. Tre Avery has been pretty good and likely slides into the outside corner role for a half at least which is another reason we might see more zone in the first half. Then if Jackson gets in a rhythm Rutgers can revert to their normal press man from Young and Damon Hayes in the second.

Special Teams

Maryland has not converted a field goal this season. Let that sink in. They have used three different punters this year, the best statistically (Brandon Gaddy) has averaged 42.8 yards per punt on just five attempts. Javon Leake is a good kick returner luckily for the Terps because their other best options are all sidelined: Funk, Harrison, and Turner. Turner (3 PR, 107 yards, 1 TD) is not expected to play due to a personal matter, which is one less weapon in the punt return game. All that said, expect Maryland has enough bodies to have the edge in the return game.

The Rutgers special teamers have continued to perform at a high level and should have the edge in every facet other than kick returning. They need to keep it up for Rutgers to have a chance in any of these upcoming games.

Why should I have hope?

  1. Maryland lost 59-0 last week so they are not exactly a juggernaut. (yet are favored by 12.5 points which is all you need to know about Rutgers right now)

Path to victory

As I say quite often, in these matchups with two struggling teams, often only one team shows up. If they both come out flat, it’s a question of who can break through first. Then the opposing defense will tire out first, momentum will stay on there side unless some huge momentum swing on a pick-six, fumble deep in opponent territory, kick return TD, etc. happens. Maryland and Rutgers both have struggled in seizing opportunities in recent weeks, so we’ll see who can capitalize.

Expect both teams to employ the same game plan. Stick to the run, play-action, and RPOs and hope you hit a few big runs before the other team. Whichever defense blinks first is likely going to go home in defeat. Maryland deserves the edge that Vegas is giving them because their offense is built with more explosive options in the run game.

Do I think Rutgers will win? Not per my prediction, but this is a classic college toss up game. Or at least should be. There is huge pressure on Maryland to win this game after their Jekyll and Hyde start, which one will we see?

For the opposite perspective check out the game preview from the Testudo Times and how they feel about Rutgers.