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Rutgers v. Maryland Monday Morning Quarterback and early thoughts on Indiana

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Emotional roller coaster week punctuated with blowout loss.

Maryland v Rutgers
At least we blocked two kicks!
Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images

On Saturday at SHI stadium, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (1-4) were defeated by the University of Maryland Terrapins (3-2) by the score of 48-7.

Hindsight is 20/20, so let’s dive in.

Expectations coming into the Maryland game

  1. It would be a balance of plays to Isaih Pacheco and Raheem Blackshear. (Result: Blackshear didn’t play.)
  2. Rutgers’s offensive line would do enough to get yards for Pacheco especially with the threat of QB runs. (Result: Yes at first, then not at all.)
  3. Maryland will break a few big plays, but will otherwise struggle. (Result: Yes, times infinity)
  4. Rutgers will win the special teams battle easily. (Result: No, despite Maryland being poor also other than a kick return TD).
  5. One team will get the momentum and then run away with the game. (Result: Yes, times infinity.)

Initial reactions during the game

  1. Rutgers is holding up quite well other than that TD. (Film verdict: Early on, yes).
  2. Scarlet Defense wore out in the second half. (Film verdict: Yes, but Maryland got in a nice rhythm with Pigrome)
  3. Special teams were awful. (Film verdict: Not awful, but saved by a few awesome plays.)
  4. Langan missed open men. (Film Verdict: Definitely).
  5. This is going to be an even longer season than last year. (Film Verdict: Depends on the defense).

Monday morning quarterback

  1. About the breakdowns in the secondary, some of the route combinations were quite good to get people open, but a lot of the plays were well thrown balls to receivers who had “a step” on their defender.
  2. Upon further inspection, the defensive line was fine inside, I don’t think there is much more RU can get from their defensive tackles. Defensive ends though, maybe we can see a little more quickness as opposing offensive lines get more banged up the rest of the year?
  3. Johnny Langan did miss some receivers who were wide open, I mean more open than any Rutgers receivers in years. The main reasons for this were A. a soft Maryland secondary and B. the threat of QB runs not seen at RU since 1995 (save Gio’s first start in 2016). Langan has a good understanding of when to hand the ball off and when to keep it, there were just a few plays he made the wrong choice. So with that skill under his belt, the logical next step is to actually complete more throws with at least one less defender in coverage. He hadn’t started a game since High School, so I think there is opportunity for Rutgers to complete more of those passes. How many more is likely dependent on Johnny’s accuracy on intermediate routes, but he will have some room for error with the run threat.
  4. Rutgers offensive line was hard to judge even on the re-watch. Certain times I thought they may have been letting certain players unblocked, or using their momentum/aggressiveness result in overpursuit. Langan took one major hit when Maryland sent four men to one side and RU only had three blockers with no back to help out. (I hate no back sets). That said, Kamaal Seymour cannot be getting bullrushed into his quarterback among other occasional breakdowns. This will be the most interesting thing to watch against Indiana after another week of preparation.
  5. Bo Melton is a pretty good player. The game plan against UMass to get him the ball in space, line up in a variety of places in the formation, take some jet sweeps, etc. is likely the best course of action with Blackshear out. RU’s other receivers can catch the ball, so I’m not saying avoid throwing to them when open, but Melton has to be the focal point the rest of the way.
  6. How did Rutgers block a field goal and an extra point AND come inches away from blocking a punt without showing anything close to that earlier this year?

Surprise Stat

Rutgers threw for 163 yards by virtue of two jump balls that RU WRs hauled in.

Key takeaways from Indiana’s season so far

  1. Michael Penix Jr. has more upside than Peyton Ramsey at quarterback.
  2. With a few more bounces (like interceptions dropped that could have been caught), IU beats MSU and is on pace for a 3rd place Big Ten East finish.
  3. The performance against Michigan State was odd in that the Spartans offense was awful all year prior. The Hoosiers are probably the second worst secondary RU will face all year (behind Maryland).
  4. Other than their secondary (long the problem for IU), they are pretty sound all around. I mean getting whipped by Ohio State is expected.
  5. This just goes to show what competent football can get you because Indiana just has it together more than many opponents, all Rutgers fans ask for in the intermediate term.

Final Conclusions

We need to see how much better Rutgers can be against Indiana. I think we’ll know after two games probably and three games for sure against mediocre opponents where this team stands. It would be nice to see just one more win because there will be plenty more blowouts to go around, some at the hands of more average at best teams.

The schedule was pretty soft this year compared to what it is usually. You won’t ever have easier crossover matchups; Iowa isn’t their best, Minnesota is average, and Illinois is Illinois. In the east, Maryland and Michigan were both coming off blowout losses and absolutely wrecked RU. Michigan State is not their usual selves and hopefully will start to drop back to the pack the next few years. Ohio State is normal Ohio State. Penn State is the only team playing better than their typical season. So that’s 23 of the East below expectations and just 1/6 above.

Rutgers needs to do what they can to salvage their few talented players. If they do, the next staff will have some building blocks. If not, I don’t know if anyone other than an Urban Meyer could right this ship anytime soon.