Sitkowski's play over last 2 games has Rutgers on notice

Coming off a bye week, preparation would not be an issue for the Rutgers football team, as it traveled to Madison to take on the Wisconsin Badgers. 

Despite the 31-17 loss, the Scarlet Knights (1-8, 0-6) remained competitive in a game that nobody gave them a chance in and even covered the spread. 

Here are four takeaways from the tough-luck loss:

Too much Taylor

Heading into the game, Wisconsin’s running back Jonathan Taylor led the nation in rushing yards with 1,155 total yards of offense on the ground — holding a skinny lead over the Memphis Tigers’ Darrell Henderson’s 1,148. After his huge game against Rutgers on Saturday, Taylor stretched that lead and is now comfortably leading the nation with 1,363 rushing yards and has almost certainly re-entered the Heisman Trophy watch-list.

It was clear right from kickoff that Taylor would have his hand in the outcome of the game. On the first drive of the game, he led his team down the field and ended up scoring easily. Taylor finished his day with 208 yards on 27 attempts and added 3 touchdowns — 2 on the ground and 1 in the air.

With no help from starting quarterback Alex Hornibrook, who did not return from the locker room at halftime due to an apparent head injury he sustained after redshirt freshman defensive lineman Mike Tverdov sacked him on the last play of the half, Taylor basically single-handedly defeated the team he was once committed to. 

Raheem the receiver

After a strong beginning to the season that had been fading fast, sophomore running back Raheem Blackshear broke out in a big way. Despite his 38 rushing yards on 10 carries, Blackshear led the team in total yards thanks to his hands instead of his feet. 

On eight catches for 162 yards, including a career-high 41-yard reception, Blackshear caught the lone passing touchdown of the day for the Knights — his 2nd receiving touchdown and his 4th total of the season. 

Blackshear is becoming true freshman quarterback Artur Sitkowski’s favorite target this season, as the Warminster, Pa. native caught twice as many passes as any other receiver and had almost a third of the total receiving yards. 

Baby steps

Speaking of Sitkowski, the true freshman had his second consecutive game without throwing an interception. Sitkowski leads the nation with 15 picks on the season, but going two straight games without one is a step in the right direction.

Not only did Sitkowski not throw for an interception, he actually threw for a touchdown instead — his 4th of the season. Yes, it came with a little more than a minute left to play with Rutgers down by 21, but scoring a touchdown on the road, especially at Camp Randall Stadium in that environment, is no easy task. 

His 261 passing yards were the most he’s thrown in almost a month, when he threw for 267 yards against Illinois at home. Even though the Badgers have had their problems this year, this performance by Sitkowski is undoubtedly more impressive as it came away from Stadium, as well. 

Pick party

People knew points would most likely come at a premium for the Knights on Saturday, but heading into halftime, Wisconsin had only put up 10 points of its own. The Rutgers defense stepped up all game, especially the secondary where fifth-year senior Saquan Hampton had two interceptions, doing everything he could to try and spark the Knights.

Even though the Badgers put up 31 points, there's no doubt the defense, a young group of players that has been at the point of contention all season long, has been getting better. 

This game also comes on the heels of Rutgers' near upset win at home where the defense only gave up 18 points as the Knights came up just short, so things are looking up.

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