Rutgers vs. Maryland: Stock up, Stock down
The Rutgers football team picked up its biggest win of the season on Saturday, when the Scarlet Knights (4-5, 3-3) were able to hold on to defeat Maryland (4-5, 2-4), 31-24 in a nailbiter. It joins a list of intense and close games the two teams have played in their 4 years in the Big Ten, as the conference series is now tied at 2 wins apiece.
An area that Rutgers has been weak in this season showed up on Saturday. Maryland quarterback Max Bortenschlager was sacked 4 times and forced out of the pocket on the majority of his passing attempts. Nose tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day was dominant, as he was constantly pushing around the Terrapin offensive linemen.
Gus Edwards had his best game in a Scarlet Knight uniform, running for over 100 yards and hauling in a key touchdown reception in the 4th quarter to give the Knights a 31-24 lead. Not to be forgotten is senior Robert Martin, who had 63 yards and ran for a 10-yard score to tie the game at 24 in the 4th quarter. They controlled the tempo of the game and proved themselves as the most consistent part of the offense.
While the running backs played well and deserve credit, that performance was in a large part due the dominance of the offensive line. Sans two kneel downs at the end of the game, the line paved the way for 245 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns and in pass coverage, did not allow a sack. This was a huge game for that unit, after giving up 5 sacks a week ago against Michigan.
The defensive line and linebackers have struggled to stop the run in Big Ten play. Against the Terps, they were not torched, but gave up 163 yards on 5.4 yards per carry to Maryland running backs. Bortenschlager is not a quarterback that can win games with his arm, but when the Terps were able to establish the run, he had some open looks and was able to convert them. In such a run-heavy conference, this is an area that the team really needs to improve.
While the receivers deserve credit for a strong performance blocking, true freshman Hunter Hayek was the only receiver to register a reception, hauling 2 passes for just 7 yards. Mo Jabbie stood out as a blocker, but when pass plays were called, the receivers could not get open down the field. Tight end Jerome Washington is the team's biggest weapon in the passing game, but struggles with drops and cannot be relied on as a safety blanket. The bottom line is that without Janarin Grant on the field, the receivers can't get open and that needs to change.