Pacheco's career day highlights improvements by Rutgers
The halfway point of arguably the toughest November schedule in college football came and went on Saturday at HighPoint.com Stadium, as the Rutgers football team welcomed No. 4 Michigan to the Banks.
The Scarlet Knights (1-9, 0-7) were unable to ruin the Wolverines’ (9-1, 7-0) chances of making the College Football Playoffs, falling 42-7 on Military Appreciation Day in Piscataway.
The offense had a hard time getting things going besides a huge play in the first quarter — which will be touched upon later. Rutgers finished the game with 252 total yards of offense, which compared to Michigan’s 453 makes it seem like this game was over before it started.
But, the Knights were actually pretty solid in this one through the first half, heading into the locker rooms at halftime down 21-7. Still, the Wolverines pulled away in the second half, and the No. 1 defense in the country kept Rutgers at bay to take the win back home to Ann Arbor.
Here are three takeaways from Saturday’s loss to Michigan:
Career day for Pacheco
Freshman running back Isaih Pacheco came alive this weekend in the second-to-last home game of his first year on the Banks. After back-to-back weeks of scoring 2 touchdowns as the team’s leading rusher — 183 yards over that span — Pacheco had a quiet game against Wisconsin two weekends ago in Madison, running for 19 yards on just six attempts. But he returned to form in a big way on Saturday.
The Wolverines had just scored a touchdown and taken the first lead of the game. The Knights got the ball back at their own 20-yard line and handed the ball off to Pacheco on the first play of the drive. Pacheco exploded through the trenches and ran down the field for an 80-yard touchdown, tying the game up at 7-7 after one quarter. The touchdown run was the longest by a freshman in program history, the longest run by a Rutgers player since the team joined the Big Ten and was the longest run allowed by Michigan’s top five defense this season. Pacheco ended the game with a career-high 142 rushing yards.
The Wolverines managed to put up 42 points on the Knights’ defense, but compared to worse performances against lesser teams, and given the fact that last time these two teams met in Piscataway the score was 78-0, Rutgers put up a relatively good performance. Senior linebacker Trevor Morris, who leads the team in tackles, had his fifth game of the season with at least 10, and now sits just nine tackles away from 100 on the season. Morris has 317 career tackles, which sits at No. 10 in the program record book. Fifth-year senior safety Saquan Hampton matched a career high in tackles with 11 on Saturday to lead the team. But the story of the day on the defensive side of the ball was freshman cornerback Avery Young who had nine tackles and a pass break up, and seemed to be all over the field on every play.
Sitkowski's streak ends
Coming into the game, true freshman quarterback Artur Sitkowski was still the nation's interception leader with 15 in 9 contests played. But, the first year student athlete turned things around, going two straight games without any turnovers, and through the majority of Saturday’s game, he did so as well. Unfortunately for him and the team, the streak would end there, as Sitkowski threw an interception on the final offensive drive of the game for the Knights. Despite maintaining the lead now with 16, Sitkowski hadn’t thrown an interception in 70 pass attempts, which was the longest streak in the Big Ten during that span before he broke it in the fourth quarter. Facing one of the best defenses in the country, it’s not surprising that he let one go. Sitkowski has shown significant improvement in his decision-making as the season has waned, not settling for low percentage throws and letting the game come to him.