Of course the day did not begin without drama. About an hour prior to kickoff, we found out that not only would Art Sitkowski not play as he contemplated a redshirt, but Junior Captain Raheem Blackshear would not be in action either. As reported on the BTN broadcast and also nj.com, Blackshear told interim Head Coach Nunzio Campanile shortly before the game he planned to redshirt this season, having already played the maximum four games.
What do you know, RU had the ball first. Rutgers drove the ball well on their first drive against the Maryland defense without Raheem. Campanile’s playcalling proved quite effective on the first drive. Through a mix of runs by starting quarterback Johnny Langan and Isaih Pacheco with one pass to Daevon Robinson, RU moved the ball down to the Maryland 20 yard line. Unfortunately in what was a microcosm of the day, Justin Davidovicz’s 37 yard field goal attempt was tipped, still reached the crossbar, yet no good when it bounced the wrong way. Still though, Rutgers felt good about themselves for well ... a moment anyway.
After getting the ball for their first possession of the game on the 20, Maryland wasted no time getting on the scoreboard. An RPO would have been well defended if it was a run, but instead Terrapin quarterback Josh Jackson hit Dontay Demus in stride and Jarrett Paul wasn’t close enough in coverage. With no safety behind him, Demus easily raced 80 yards for the touchdown.
After Maryland’s Touchdown, Rutgers tried to return a kickoff deep in their own territory and failed, forced to start the drive at their own 16 yard line. After a nice run by Isaih Pacheco, Johnny Langan fired one behind his receiver that would have been a pick six had it not been dropped. On third and manageable, Langan had plenty of time but threw an errand pass into the RU sideline that was caught by Nunzio Campanile. Despite the obvious punting situation, Rutgers was flagged for a delay of game. Luckily Adam Korsak was able to kick the ball to the Maryland 39.
After Maryland looked quite poor on their second possession, they were bailed out by the zebras. The Maryland long snap on the punt hit an official and was recovered by Rutgers for a sure touchdown, but was called back as the referees said the official “was not in position” and to replay the down. The justification was that the refs wanted to give Rutgers time to substitute, but wow it would have been a huge momentum swing. On the redo, Maryland pinned Rutgers way back.
Football's a fast game but let's give the officials a chance to get in position, fellas. pic.twitter.com/x9L9F44kNn— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) October 5, 2019
After a Knight punt, Maryland went backwards with three negative plays. I was shocked they even tried to pass on third down as Jackson avoided one sack, but lost even more yards before Drew Singleton ripped him to the ground. The inconsistent Maryland punting unit did a decent job again landing RU back at their own 23.
After Johnny Langan nearly made up for two bad plays, he was stopped two yards short on a third down, 13 yard scramble. Rutgers lined up to punt, then audibled to a fake formation, but was called for a delay of game. This was the Knights’ second delay of game on a punt of the afternoon. The RU defense came up with a good series after a very questionable decision by Maryland to throw on third down got Jackson popped yet again. Larry Stevens missed the block by just inches and Maryland avoided a turnover on their second straight punt, barely.
Rutgers started strong with a nice throw by Langan to Shameen Jones and a beast run by Isaih Pacheco. Unfortunately a wide receiver screen to Melton that crossed midfield was negated by an obvious block in the day by Daevon Robinson. On the plus side, Korsak was able to flip field position.
This proved amazing as after a three and out, Rutgers went double reverse flea flicker. Langan threw the ball behind Bo Melton, but he adjusted to the ball well and despite a pass interference, Bo hauled in the 49 yard reception. On the ensuing play a quarterback option run sucked most of the defense to Pacheco. Langan took the ball outside, juked one defender and stretched the ball across the line, simply willing his way to get the touchdown while being brought to the ground. The moral of the play is that when you throw deep, if your guy can win the jump ball in space, huge gains can be achieved.
Call him Johnny McGregor ☘ pic.twitter.com/eCDEiPCIuD— Rutgers On BTN (@RutgersOnBTN) October 5, 2019
Maryland’s second play from scrimmage required a chase down from Tyreek Maddox-Williams to save a touchdown 50 yards downfield. It didn’t matter though as Tayon Fleet-Davis’s second straight reception was a wide open 23 yard TD. It was the exact ... same ... playcall. With the extra point, Maryland quickly regained the advantage, 14-7. 8:26 remaining in the second quarter.
After a kick return where Aaron Young broke a tackle, it was for naught as RU was called for delay of game on their first play of the drive. After a run by Aaron Young, Langan’s accuracy problems almost cost RU big time. The Knights had a screen well set up that likely would have gone for huge yards, but a throw behind Pacheco was tipped and Maryland almost came down with the interception. After an awesome run by Pacheco to get RU one yard shot of the sticks, RU elected to go for it on 4th down but Pacheco was stuffed at his own 42.
On the very next play, Maryland’s Javon Leake took it almost untouched up the middle, all 42 yards for the touchdown. Rutgers had been stuffing people in the backfield all day, but likely scared of the same pass to Fleet-Davis, vacated the middle and was gauged. Rutgers did block the extra point though and the score remained 20-7.
After a poor throw by Langan on 1st, Pacheco was stopped for a loss of five on second. Then on 3rd and 15, Langan was hit as he threw and the fluttering ball was intercepted and returned to the RU 1 yard line. Maryland score easily on the first play. 27-7. Three touchdowns in about a three minute period of game clock.
Rutgers elected not to go for it on 4th and 1 in an almost identical part of the field. After flipping field position it almost worked perfectly, but Jackson escaped a tackle that would have stopped him on third down short of the line to gain. After another minute fell off the clock, Tyreek Maddox-Williams made a key stop to force a Maryland 4th down. The Terrapins did RU a favor by committing a penalty to stop the clock. RU avoided disaster when a Maryland gunner shoved the RU corner into the return man wearing #38 on his jersey with no name. Not sure who that was for RU.
Rutgers moved the ball into Maryland territory, highlighted by receptions from Melton and Mo Jabbie, but Langan took a sack. After a nice screen to Aaron Young, another 4th down and 1 was stuffed easily by Maryland at the Maryland 37. The only eventful thing on Maryland’s three plays in the final 22 seconds was that Josh Jackson and Mike Tverdov both went down due to injury.
Halftime stats were interesting. Maryland got just five first downs, but Rutgers had seven. Total yards was 222 for UMd and 212 for RU. Both teams 9-17 passing. RU led time of possession 20:28 to just 9:32. Moral of the story: Speed kills.
And we saw it on the second half kickoff which Maryland took the house 100 yards from Javon Leake. The score was now 34-7, matching last year’s tally. After a Rutgers punt, Anthony McFarland went 80 yards on the very first play. So the first two times Maryland touched the ball in the second half they tallied 180 yards and two touchdowns. (No need to re-read, four one-play touchdown drives in one game for Maryland) 41-7, 12:40 remaining in the 3rd quarter. So much for any hope this would be a rehash of the 2015 contest between these schools in reverse roles.
After an RU punt that wasted a 50 yard kick return from Aaron Young, Tyrell Pigrome showed his arm in place of Jackson at quarterback. If you remember when Chris Ash and Drew Mehringer arrived at Rutgers they were eyeing a few quarterbacks for their spread system. After being more impressed by Tylin Oden, they halted recruiting Pigrome who ended up going to the also new coaching staff at Maryland led by D.J. Durkin. Pigrome is considered by most Maryland fans and media as not a viable option, but he was much more accurate on swing passes and intermediate routes than I expected. Those balls were right in his WRs hands to get nice yards after the catch rather than incompletions or them being stopped immediately. Javon Leake capped the drive with an easy 12 yard TD run. 48-7.
Cole Snyder had already played one snap due to a Langan injury in the first half, so he might as well get his money’s worth. Can we please see him now? Sheesh.
Of course Langan made me eat my words with a beautiful hot read to Paul Woods on a third down and a huge 37 yard completion to Isaiah Washington on the next play down to the Maryland 22. An ensuing Justin Davidovicz 42 yard field goal attempt missed badly even though Maryland didn’t even attempt to block it.
After a Maryland punt, Langan would remain at QB. My hope was RU could get Pacheco to the 100 yard mark on the ground. Isaih had 73 yards when the drive began and personifies the Scarlet Knights that have gave it their all no matter what all season. Maryland seemed to have the same idea and committed two men to Pacheco on every play, leaving receivers to be single covered and often wide open downfield. Once Rutgers reached a third down near midfield, Langan escaped the pocket and surely had men open again downfield because five Terrapin defenders were around him (Daevon Robinson clearly, possibly others). Langan was picked off on a tipped ball, though Rutgers was almost bailed out by a targeting call. Frankly, I’m glad Maryland was not flagged because they did a good job on the play when RU did nothing right. And if that’s targeting, every single violent sack in a football game would be one. Perhaps Rutgers would appreciate the radical change to flag football at this point.
Maryland had a long drive that Head Coach Mike Locksley seemed willing to slow down for a field goal attempt. He almost didn’t get it, but a Tyrell Pigrome fumble was called back as the zebras said the play was over, though the reply showed the ball was already loose when his progress was stopped. So Maryland lined up for the field goal, but the kick was blocked (RU’s second blocked placekick of the day) and Tyreek Maddox-Williams broke a few tackles on his way to the Rutgers 43. Maryland would end their fifth game of the season without converting a single field goal yet in 2019.
One run play but Rutgers ended the game.
Key stat(s): In the first half, Rutgers faced four 4th downs of two yards or less. The results were awful. One delay of game penalty, one punt, and two times stuffed on 4th and 1; one Pacheco and one Aaron Young. I get offenses that like to use the shotgun, but when you have a QB who is a big guy with some savvy, just go under center and try to quickly push the pile. Tom Brady can do it every time is not nearly the runner Langan is.
Johnny Langan was exactly what I expected. He played with Giovanni Rescigno level heart and emotion. Langan made mostly correct reads in the option run game. He broke some tackles in the run game. He was inconsistent on short throws, some off the mark, some perfect. There was no leading receivers, but maybe that will come back. He threw jump balls downfield, but two were hauled in and none of these throws were picked. He didn’t even see most of his open receivers downfield against a porous Maryland secondary. He was responsible for two delay of game penalties, one of which was embarrassing because he didn’t even realize RU didn’t have enough men on the field and was arguing with the referee to let him snap the ball for a few seconds prior. I get he was a little rusty, but the Manziel and Tebow comparisons need to stop until we see him hitting more receivers in the hands. For all the criticism though, Langan still threw for 161 yards, and we know that RU has struggled to crack 50 with regularity. Remember last year at Maryland, RU QBs went 2-17 for 8 yards, yes eight! yards and five interceptions returned for a combined 46 yards.
You can see how the floor for an offense with a mobile quarterback is just so much higher than a pure pocket passer, but Langan labored for his yards unlike Pigrome on the other side who moved as smoothly as a running back.
Additional Takeaway(s): Rutgers showed heart. Getting off blocks on defense. Breaking tackles on offense. Not going out of bounds without a fight. Trying to strip the ball in traffic. This was the emotion football should be played with and Rutgers lacked under Chris Ash most of the time.
- Pacheco willed his way to some decent gains, but I would really love to swap he and Jonathan Taylor and see what would happen. Taylor has played a lot more running back in his life and is on a much more functional team. I want to know how good Pacheco is really, as well as Taylor. Physically, I wonder how different they would be in combine drills or a decathlon. I’d guess Taylor’s first step is just way faster and the big difference, even if their top speed is quite similar.
- That play design Fleet-Davis burned RU on back to back, has Rutgers ever run that since Brian Leonard was on the team?
- Aaron Young is really fast. He is RU’s best chance for big plays by a mile. Unless Kay’Ron Adams emerges. Adams looked boom or bust.
- I would decline any penalty on the Maryland offense that did not result in a 1st down for the Terps. All accepting it does is give them another chance for a big play. Down and distance really have no bearing on their success on a given play.
B1G Boy Football: Mike Tverdov looked like a different human than earlier this season. He was decisive and forced the ball on RPOs. Maryland did not enjoy blocking him and the trickle down effect was some daylight for Elorm Lumor and Drew Singleton.
Next up: Rutgers travels to Indiana for a noon kickoff.
Look for more coverage of this game and the ongoing head coaching search at onthebanks.com.
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