After a difficult freshman debut season, followed by losing his starting job in training camp this past August, this Saturday is quarterback Artur Sitkowski’s chance for redemption. Sitkowski was officially named the starter on Thursday late afternoon by head coach Chris Ash. Rutgers hosts Boston College in a must win game despite it only being mid-September.
Sitkowski has been practicing with the first team since the loss to Iowa with McLane Carter still under concussion protocol. Per Keith Sargeant’s report, Ash said Carter hasn’t been cleared yet and won’t be available for Saturday’s game. Former BC player Johnny Langan, who transferred to Rutgers in the spring, will serve as the backup to Sitkowski.
This program desperately needs improved quarterback play to have a chance to beat Boston College and its Sitkowski’s opportunity to provide it. After leading the nation in interceptions a year ago, Sitkowski’s only action through two games was the majority of the second half in the 30-0 loss at Iowa two weeks ago. He was unimpressive, completing 4 of 11 pass attempts for 19 yards and one interception. In fairness, it was a difficult situation to walk into with Rutgers trailing 20-0 at the start of the third quarter.
With a two full weeks to prepare and taking first team reps exclusively, Sitkowski has the chance to be an x-factor in this game. I wrote yesterday about the importance of this game and for Rutgers to let it all hang out. It now begins with Sitkowski, who has a clean slate to start from against BC.
There is no doubt that Rutgers will look to lean on the run game behind workhorse back Isaih Pacheco and the versatile Raheem Blackshear. However, while Sitkowski will be tasked to be more of a game manager, he will have to do two things well for Rutgers to have a chance. Limit mistakes and not turn the ball over, while also making a few big plays. It’s no secret Sitkowski has struggled with both since starting the season opener in 2018 as a true freshman.
Let’s be honest, it’s fair to not be confident at all going into this matchup against a BC team that will be extremely motivated. They’ll be looking to bounce back from an embarrassing home loss to Kansas and they’ll bring a dozen players from New Jersey on their two deep with them. Add in the Sitkowski news and I think you can subtly hear a collective groan from Rutgers fans across the state.
Here’s the thing, I’m a sucker for a good story and the underdog. Hopefully you are too. The stage is set. I know, it seems unlikely that Rutgers and Sitkowski will figure it all out on Saturday, leading to the upset victory in front of what would be a delirious home crowd.
But what if this is moment we all look back on in a couple of years from now as the turning point? Can you see it? Sitkowski gets a standing ovation on Senior day as the Scarlet Knights are already set to go bowling in Ash’s sixth season in charge. He ranks near the top of the record books in several categories and is hailed as the savior QB who improbably helped to tune Ash’s career trajectory around at Rutgers. It all began with a heroic performance against Boston College in the fall of 2019, changing the course of history that on this day seems like an impossibility.
Ok it sounds crazy. But it’s possible. Maybe losing his starting job, having to sit through the season opener from the sidelines, even seeing Langan get time over him, followed by another lackluster performance of his own against Iowa triggered something. Maybe the two weeks to prepare as the starter allowed for something to click. Maybe the game will have finally slowed down for him after all.
It will be a tall task against a defense that has been one of the best in the country in recent years in pressuring opposing quarterbacks into throwing a lot of interceptions and taking a lot of sacks. It’s been an issue dealing with defensive pressure for Sitkowski. Now is the time for him to show growth by excelling through it.
We’ll find out Saturday at high noon. This is Sitkowski’s chance to change the perception of him, his head coach and the program. Whether you think it’s likely or not, every Rutgers fan should be rooting for this kid to pull it off.