Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pregame: Maryland vs. Rutgers

Maryland had one of their worst losses in history last week, falling to Middle Tennessee State last week 32-31 at home. The Terps season has been incredibly rough to start, losing to MTSU, getting destroyed by Cal, and barely getting past JMU. Now with one final non-conference game left, the Terps look to salvage a win in hopes of a .500 record in conference play for a bowl game.

The Maryland Terrapins (1-2) host another team just off I-95, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (2-1) in a rematch from 2007. That game was memorable to many Maryland fans, as Rutgers was ranked in the top-10, but fell to Maryland 34-24 in Chris Turner's first game as a Terp in New Jersey. Rutgers has played about how everyone expected, losing to Cincinnati but taking care of business against Howard and FIU. Maryland is 6-3 all-time against Rutgers.

If for no other reason, the Terps need a win to give them a good chance for a bowl game. With the ACC looking stronger than last season, the Terps can't afford to be 1-3 going into conference play.

Scouting the Competition: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Rutgers may have problems even before the game starts. Last week against FIU, freshman starting quarterback Tom Savage suffered a head injury, and it is not known if he will start. If he does not play or can't play every down, then redshirt senior Michigan State transfer Domenic Natale will play. Savage has been effective, and will be a big loss for Rutgers if he can't play.

The Scarlet Knight offense is a primarily running attack. Leading the rushing is junior Joe Martinek, who averages about four-and-a-half yards a carry, and backing him up is junior Jourdan Brooks, who grew up in Germantown, Maryland, averaging about 5.7 yards on 25 rushes. Their attack is bolstered by a strong offensive line, led by future NFLer junior Anthony Davis (pictured) at left tackle. The two receiving threats, and so far the only two threats, are senior Tim Brown and freshman Mohamed Sanu, who combined have 29 catches; the team has just 43 in three games.

Defensively Rutgers is efficient, but not a lockdown squad. The team plays a 4-3 squad. Junior Jonathan Freeny has already amassed four sacks from defensive end, and senior linebacker Ryan D'Imperio has 20 tackles. Their weakness is in the air, allowing 32 first downs in passing plays.

One of the intangibles will be head coach Greg Schiano. He had been offered the Michigan job in the past, and just because he has lost talent like Ray Rice and Kenny Britt does not mean he can't replace it. He is a solid coach and certainly remembers what happened two years ago.

Some things to look for in tonight's game:
1. What will Da'Rel Scott's production be?
After Scott lost two fumbles against MTSU, Friedgen pulled Scott despite that he was averaging nearly nine yards a carry. He is Maryland's most reliable runner by far, and the Terps need him to be successful. Friedgen has said that Scott will not be shut down, but if he fumbles again then he could get pulled again for Meggett. One thing that will help is that Bruce Campbell will finally return to the line, giving Maryland more experience at tackle. But Scott's play is key to the Terps winning, and they need him to play well to give Maryland a chance.

2. Will Chris Turner step up as captain?
The last time Turner saw Rutgers he replaced Jordan Steffy and led the Terps to victory. Right now Maryland is in dire straits, possibly looking at 1-3 and a tough conference road ahead. Turner has played fine in his last two games, but Maryland needs a leader to inspire them, and who better than the quarterback. If Maryland offense can set the tone, then the defense can follow.

3. When will we see some defense?
It has been hard watching Don Brown's defense the first three games. At least 32 points were allowed in all three contests plus Nolan Carroll is out for the season. Rutgers is not a predictable offense but the gameplan should be clear; they wil run the football very often, especially if their starting quarterback does not play. Hopefully the gameplan will include a number of run-stopping play and blitzes to pressure the new quarterback. Let's hope the Don can take care of business against the New Jersey foe.

This is tough, because Rutgers has taken care of business and Maryland is struggling mightily. But if Savage is not starting plus the home-field advantage, I will slightly favor the Terps. But this will need to be a well-coached game by Maryland, as they will need to trust Da'Rel Scott to be effective.

Maryland 31, Rutgers 27

(Photo credit: Baltimore Sun (Scott), (Davis))

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