Rutgers vs Wisconsin/Michigan: Stock Up, Stock Down
The Rutgers football team continues one of the toughest November schedules in the country this weekend, as it hosts No. 4 Michigan at HighPoint.com Stadium this Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
The Scarlet Knights (1-8, 0-6) put up a surprising, yet refreshing, showing last weekend against Wisconsin, giving the Badgers just a 10-0 lead at halftime and ending the game with 2 fourth-quarter touchdowns to respectably fall 31-17 in Madison.
Rutgers had a number of strong performances all around for the second straight game, and is a far cry from what the Knights put together in the first half of the season. The team has improved on both sides of the ball since the game against Maryland on Oct. 13.
With the Wolverines coming to town this Saturday, here are the players and coaches whose stocks have shifted this week.
Sophomore running back Raheem Blackshear
After slipping into the stock down category a couple of weeks back, Blackshear has reawakened after having a career day against Wisconsin last weekend. The second year back did his damage out of the slot in this game, as it was clear early on that the run game was not working for Rutgers.
Blackshear had a team-high 162 receiving yards off eight receptions, which led the team, and also caught the lone receiving touchdown of the day. To top it all off, he used his 10 rushing attempts to pick up 38 yards on the ground, giving him 200 all-purpose yards on the day — making Saturday his first time reaching 200 total yards in a game.
“The consideration is putting him in position to get the ball as much as we can, whether that's at running back or whether that's at slot receiver,” said head coach Chris Ash at Monday’s press conference on if he was considering putting Blackshear in as a full-time receiver. “That's really ideally what we'd like to be able to do with him. That's why we recruited him, because he's that type of athlete where he can do both."
Fifth-year senior safety Saquan Hampton
Speaking of career days, Hampton, who is one of the Knights’ five team captains, had a stellar performance last weekend and kept the team close with the Badgers through the first half of the game. Hampton picked off Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook not once, but twice in the first half.
Both interceptions showed the athletic ability of the fifth-year player out of Nottingham High School, as Hampton made leaping plays on both passes to cause the turnovers and hand the ball back to his offense. Hampton doubled his career interception total from two to four in just one game. Also, no other Rutgers player has had multiple interceptions in a game since 2012.
Oh, and Hampton also broke up two other pass plays to finish the game with four passes defended and 10 tackles — which tied for the team high. What a way to begin the final stretch of his career.
Sophomore placekicker Justin Davidovicz
Through the first six games of the season, Davidovicz was one of the highlights of the team. He had hit all five of his field goal attempts — including a 52-yard kick against Indiana that was the fourth longest in school history, and the longest ever at HighPoint.com Stadium. Davidovicz was also 10-10 on extra point attempts, as well.
Although he has maintained a perfect season on extra points (14-14), he has slumped a bit on the field goal side of things. After not attempting a kick against the Terrapins, Davidovicz was sent out to kick a field goal three times against Northwestern. He nailed his first attempt from 42 yards out, but missed his first kick of the season wide right from 47 yards to stop the Knights from extending their lead over the Wildcats — who beat Rutgers by 3 points, 18-15. He made up for it on his third attempt of the day with a chip shot from 26 yards out, but that field goal could have been the difference in such a close game.
Then last week in Madison, he had his first block kick of the season on his first attempt of the game. Badger Andrew Van Ginkel blocked Davidovicz’s 46-yard attempt before D’Cota Dixon scooped the ball back up and drove it down 34 yards to set Wisconsin up at the opposite 41-yard line.
True freshman running back Isaih Pacheco
Things seem to be going back and forth for the first-year player out of the backfield, where he has career performances one week, then is a no show the next. Following two games that saw him combine for 183 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns, Pacheco had only 19 yards on the ground and did not score. Granted, the return of graduate student Jonathan Hilliman was bound to impact his touches, but Pacheco did not seem to have his feet ready for last week’s game either. With the home stretch of the season here, he will need to seize the opportunities he gets to push the ball forward and make an impact on a struggling running game if the team hopes to improve.