What a long, strange week it has been for Rutgers football. Ever since the 52-0 blowout loss at Michigan last Saturday, the program has dealt with many changes. Nunzio Campanile takes over the head coaching role and offensive play calling duties and is reunited with his former high school quarterback Johnny Langan. He will start over Artur Sitkowski, who asked to sit out this game to contemplate the possibility of taking a redshirt season. How Rutgers will perform on Saturday is anyone’s guess, but the hope should be they come out and play spirited football for each other.
As for Maryland, they come in on a two game losing streak after a hot start to the season. Believe it or not, the Terps lost to Penn State by a wider margin than RU lost to Michigan. How they respond in this matchup is a big question mark as well.
In an effort to find out more about the current state of this week’s opponent, I was fortunate to speak with the managing editors of SB Nation’s Maryland site, Testudo Times. Thanks to Lila Bromberg, Sean Montiel, and Cody Wilcox for taking the time to preview Maryland ahead of Saturday’s game against Rutgers. They answered questions on what’s gone wrong the past two games, how the Mike Locksley era has gone so far, gave predictions for Saturday’s outcome, and more. Let’s kickoff things here.
AB: After an impressive win over a ranked Syracuse team, Maryland has lost two in a row, including a blowout loss to Penn State last week. What was working early in the season and what have the issues been of late?
TT: Honestly, Maryland has face better competition with more talented players. Yes, the Terps looked dominant against Howard and then-No. 22 Syracuse, which isn’t looking like such a great win anymore, but that is because the offensive and defensive lines were more talented and could gain leverage. Against Temple and No. 12 Penn State, Maryland has gotten pushed around and haven’t been able to put a complete game together in the trenches. When the Terps were able to keep quarterback Josh Jackson off of the ground, the Virginia Tech transfer had great timing and was in command of the offense. But in the past two games that has not been the case, and if Maryland plans on seeing a bowl game this year then that has got to improve.
AB: How has the Mike Locksley era been received so far and what are the expectations for this team this season and beyond?
TT: Through the first couple games of the season, all seemed positive.Everyone within the team is really high on him and there’s a palpable culture change for the better and you can tell the guys on this team will play their hearts out for him already. But the 59-0 loss to Penn State definitely upset the fan base, from what we can tell based on our audience, and hopes for the season have diminished a fair amount as the team has looked drastically different in recent weeks.
AB: Your site reported of a players only meeting this week. Is this a rare occurrence and how do you expect the team to respond on Saturday?
TT: Yes, according to players, this isn’t something that has happened in recent years. Though there were reports of one in 2015. I think it helped boost the team’s mentality coming off of two tough losses and allowed them to find leadership and motivation within themselves, which is important. But it’s hard to say how that will actually shape up on the field come Saturday.
AB: How has Josh Jackson been at QB this season and what are his strengths and weaknesses?
TT: Josh Jackson started out great, having as good a first two games as you could ask for from a Maryland quarterback. But in the last two matchups against stout defenses, he’s really struggled to get into a rhythm. He seems to struggle with vision and timing on the field, which will be something to watch this week.
AB: Maryland has four backs with over 100 yards rushing this season, has there been a constant rotation and if not, who are the primary rushers to be aware of?
TT: Maryland started the season with a deep backfield, consisting of Anthony McFarland Jr., Javon Leake, Tayon Fleet-Davis, Jake Funk and Lorenzo Harrison III. Two of those backs, Funk and Harrison, are out for the season with knee injuries. McFarland is the Terps’ No. 1 running back and currently has over twice the amount of carries as Leake, who is considered the secondary running back. Both running backs are able to run between the tackles but are also capable of catching the ball out of the backfield, which is something that head coach Mike Locksley has utilized more this season. While McFarland and Leake will receive the majority of the snaps, Fleet-Davis’ role in the coming weeks could increase with the injury bug that has struck Maryland’s backfield. Overall, though, McFarland is the guy to be on the lookout for on Saturday.
AB: What were the main defensive issues against Penn State and what adjustments do you expect them to make this week?
TT: The main issues that hurt the Terps against No. 12 Penn State were the same issues that the team dealt with against Temple. Not only did quarterback Josh Jackson struggle, making bad decisions and staring his targets down, but the offensive line did not make his job easier, allowing four sacks. The Nittany Lions even lost one of their best players, linebacker Micah Parsons, in the first quarter, and the Terps could not take advantage of the loss. Maryland has also struggled with penalties thus far this season. Head coach Mike Locksley continues to preach that his team needs to be more discipline, but we have not seen much improvement this season. The Terps currently average 62 yards in penalties this season, which can be the difference in a win and a loss.
AB: Are you concerned about former DC Andy Buh now in the same role at Rutgers having an edge based on knowing the personnel they’ll be matching up against in this game?
TT: No, not really. Maryland is in a completely different system with much different personnel, so it shouldn’t factor in too much.
AB: What are your predictions for this game?
Lila: 24-10, Maryland.
Sean: 35-21, Maryland.
Cody: 28-14, Maryland. Bonus: Anthony McFarland Jr. has two rushing touchdowns, and the defense has two takeaways.
Thanks to Lila, Sean, and Cody for taking the time to share great insight on the current state of Maryland football. For complete coverage of Maryland athletics, visit Testudo Times. To read my answers to their questions on Rutgers football, click here.