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Penn State Nittany Lions

Know Your Penn State Nittany Lions Football Foe for Week 12: the 1-and-9 Rutgers Scarlet Knights

  • Location: New Brunswick, Newark and Camden, New Jersey
  • Enrollment: 68,942 (undergraduates and post graduates)
  • Home Stadium: HighPoint.com Stadium (Capacity 52,454)
  • Head Coach: Chris Ash, third season, 7-27 (.206)
  • Conference: Big Ten (East Division)
  • Overall Bowl Record: 6-4 (.600)
  • Conference Titles: 1 (Big East)
  • Claimed National Titles: 1 (1869)
  • First Game: November 9, 1926 (Rutgers won, 26-3)
  • Last Game: November 11, 2017 (Penn State won, 35-6)
  • Overall: Penn State leads, 26-2
  • Current Streak: 11, Penn State

Last year was a rough one for the Scarlet Knights, but they had a better record than 2018. The lost their first two games to No. 8 Washington and Eastern Michigan, then bounced back to defeat Morgan State 65-0. The Scarlet Knights then dropped their next two to Nebraska and No. 11 Ohio State, won their next two against Illinois and Purdue, lost to Michigan, then defeated Maryland. After losing their last three games to No. 16 Penn State, Indiana and No.21 Michigan State, Rutgers finished out the season 4-8 overall and were not bowl eligible.

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights’ 2018 class ranks as the nation’s 57th recruiting class (13th in the Big Ten) as compared to Penn State’s 2018 class, ranked at sixth in the nation and second in the Big Ten (per 247 Sports).

In August, eight Rutgers players were charged with third degree conspiracy to commit theft by deception in a credit card scam and were dismissed from the team.

Rutgers lost in large fashion to No. 4 Michigan last week, 42-7. Their only score came in the first quarter with an 80-yard run by freshman running back Isaih Pacheco, who will be fun to watch. Rutgers had 59 passing yards and 193 rushing yards to Michigan’s 260 passing yards and 193 rush yards. Believe it or not, Rutgers’ 193 rushing yards were the most this season against Michigan’s No. 5-ranked defense.

Rutgers is 127th in the nation in total offense, 129th in scoring offense, 107th in rush offense, and 120th in pass offense. Really can’t get much worse.

What’s going well for Rutgers on offense? In the running back corps, true sophomore Raheem Blackshear continues to turn heads and make big plays. This season he leads the team in rushing with 11 attempts for 478 yards and two touchdowns. He’s also the Scarlet Knights’ leading receiver with 40 receptions for 322 yards and two touchdowns. Isaih Pacheco, is second in the team after that 80-yard rush last week with 84 attempts for 460 yards and three touchdowns. Backup Jonathan Hilliman, a fifth-year senior, is third on the team in rushing with 76 attempts for 303 yards and six scores.

The quarterback position for the Scarlet Knights has had its share of issues. Last year’s quarterback, senior Giovanni Rescigno is 133 for 263 or 50.5% for 1,406 yards, seven touchdowns and six interceptions in his career. He’s now the backup with just 24 completions of 49 attempts (49%) for 233 yards and no scores this season. The Scarlet Knights are starting freshman quarterback Artur Sitowski who so far has completed 131-of-266 (49.4%) for four touchdowns and a whopping 16 interceptions.

Sitowski is backed up by an offensive line that’s struggled to protect him but who have some experienced returners in senior left tackle Tariq Cole, junior right tackle Kamaal Seymour, junior right guard Jonah Jackson and returning starting center Michael Maietti, a sophomore. The line is rounded out by left guard Zach Venesky, a junior.

Rutgers’ receiving corps is inexperienced with the exception of returning tight end Jerome Washington, a senior, who has had 11 receptions for 115 yards and one score this season. He picked up a career-high 39-yard reception from Isaih Pacheco against Indiana and is a member of the John Mackey Award Preseason Watch list.

Other top targets in the air are sophomore wide receiver Bo Melton (25 receptions for 216 yards) and freshman Shameen Jones (14 receptions for 144 yards and one score) and backup Eddie Lewis (23 receptions for 167 yards).

Rutgers is 25th in the nation in pass defense and 85th in total defense, but they’re near the bottom of FBS in rush defense (119th) and scoring defense (105th). Defensively, the Scarlet Knights are allowing 34.3 points and 418.6 yards per game.

Rutgers least experienced unit is the defensive line, but a sophomore defensive end, Elorm Lumor, leads the team with 6 tackles for loss and is second in the team with 3.5 sacks this season. Backup defensive end Mike Tyerdov leads the team with four sacks. Senior defensive end Kevin Wilkins leads the active roster with 17 career tackles for loss (and also has 44 tackles). Other starters include sophomore nosetackle Julius Turner (21 tackles, two tackles for loss) and senior defensive tackle Jon Bateky (37 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, three sacks).

The bright spots on the defense are returning senior linebackers Trevor Morris and Deonte Roberts, leading the team in tackles this year. Morris has 91 tackles (3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks) and is the Big Ten’s leading returning tackler and is fourth in the conference with 9.1 tackles per game this season. Roberts, ranked ninth in the conference with 7.7 tackles per game this season, has 71 tackles (3.5 tackles for loss). Sophomore linebacker Tyreek Maddox-Williams rounds out the linebacker unit (36 tackles, three tackles for loss).

In the secondary, senior free safety and NFL prospect Saquan Hampton returns. Although the team lost in dramatic fashion, Hampton had a game-high 11 tackles against Michigan (and has 55 tackles this year, with three TFLs and two interceptions). Hampton leads the team with 12 passes defended on the season (ten pass breakups, two interceptions), ranking fifth in the Big Ten and 24th nationally with 1.2 passes defended per game.

Safety Damon Hayes, a junior, has 49 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, one sack and two interceptions. Senior cornerback Isaiah Wharton boasts 50 tackles, four tackles for loss and one interception. Freshman cornerback Avery Young (is young) but is third on the team in tackles with 56.

With kicker Andrew Harte and punt returner Janarion Grant gone, Rutgers had to bring in some new blood.

Sophomore kicker Justin Davidovicz so far this season has been perfect on extra points this year and 8-for-10 on field goals kicking a 52-yarder, ranking it as the longest in stadium history since 1938.

Returning punter Adam Korsak, a sophomore on the Ray Guy Award watch list, has been solid again this year, kicking 65 punts for 2,752 yards and an average of 42.3 in 2018. Korsak set the school record with a 79-yard punt against Northwestern (tied for the second-longest punt in the nation this season).

Isaih Pacheco has been handling most kick returns with 15 returns for 293 yards with Raheem Blackshear filling in with nine returns for 166 yards. Freshman Avery Young has been in for most punt returns with seven returns for 42 yards.

Read more about Rutgers football at the Scarlet Knights’ SB Nation blog On the Banks.

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