The biggest story coming from the 34-7 blowout in College Park, Maryland is how poorly Rutgers’ passing offense has played over the last six games. Artur Sitkowski threw for eight yards and had four interceptions on the day. Gio Rescigno came in for relief and his only pass attempt ended in another interception.
The Scarlet Knights have had an insanely hard time putting points on the board in the first half of the season and Sitkowski has had an incredibly hard time keeping the ball out of defenders’ hands. But when the passing offense is as inept as it was last weekend, the rushing offense needs to show up, and it did not do so at Maryland.
The leading rusher was Isaih Pacheco, a true freshman who did not even get the start, with 107 yards. Pacheco also scored the only points of the afternoon for Rutgers, a one-yard rushing touchdown with a minute left in the game. The Scarlet Knights had a total of 183 rushing yards in the contest; the Terps had 304.
This weekend, Rutgers is going to need to give Pacheco the ball when the game is still in reach. Letting Pacheco go wild when the game is no longer competitive is going to do nothing for his development in a season that has suddenly become a developmental year. When Pacheco has been on the field he has looked promising, and it is time for the Scarlet Knights to give him meaningful snaps.
The Wildcats have been decent at stopping the rush so far this season, giving up an average 150 yards per game. While Northwestern has struggled defending the passing game, it likely will not matter when they come to Piscataway. The Wildcats give up an average of 250 yards per game through the air, but Rutgers averages 147 yards per game and it has seemed like much less than that over the last few games.
Sophomore Jeremy Larkin will retire from football, effective immediately, due to a recent diagnosis of cervical stenosis. The condition is not life threatening but prevents continued participation in football.https://t.co/5BZO8naHCn#B1GCats pic.twitter.com/0XKWqvhd1J— Northwestern Football (@NUFBFamily) September 24, 2018
Since the medical retirement of Jeremy Larkin, there is not a star running back among the Wildcats, which will play well into the Scarlet Knights’ game plan. John Moten IV leads Northwestern with only 80 rushing yards on the season and the team as a whole has only racked up 419 rushing yards so far this year.
When Mike Tverdov sees game action he plays well, and shows a lot of promise for a freshman. With three and 1/2 sacks on the season, Tverdov is another example of a player who should get more snaps as the season becomes a loss cause. Look for Tverdov to have another developmental game as the Scarlet Knights prepare for 2019.
Rutgers needs to find a way to contain the three-headed monster of Flynn Nagel, Cameron Green, and Bennett Skowronek if they want a change in this game. The three have combined for 1,232 reception yards, which is 202 yards more than all of the Scarlet Knights have this year. This is a favorable matchup for the Wildcats, as Rutgers’ defense has allowed 1,318 receiving yards on the year.
Overall, Rutgers will not see a better matchup for the rest of the season, and must win this one to avoid going 1-11. If the Scarlet Knights can stop the Northwestern passing game they might be it a close one, but they have not been able to that this season.
Prediction: Northwestern, 31 – Rutgers, 10