This weekend, the Rutgers football team will travel south and take on Maryland for its final game of the season. The Scarlet Knights (4-7, 1-7) are trying to escape the bottom of the Big Ten East, now sitting in last place with their 1-7 record. The Terrapins (6-5, 3-5) are expected to be a much more difficult matchup than Michigan State and Nebraska.
To talk about Rutgers' matchup with Maryland, The Daily Targum sat down with Noah Ferguson, who covers Terrapins football for the university's student newspaper, The Diamondback.
Maryland has found a way to win six games this season against good opponents, but one could argue that the Terrapins' most impressive outings came in the losses to No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan, in which they played both teams close until the fourth quarter.
"They really showed that they’re trying to climb that ladder and hang with those big teams," said Ferguson. "I was there for the Michigan game in Ann Arbor, and when Tai Felton fumbled the opening kickoff, it looked like another one of those games when Maryland gets 59-0ed or doesn’t put up any points … but they really showed they could go blow for blow."
Maryland's quarterback is Taulia Tagovailoa, brother to Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Both brothers went to Alabama, but after one season, Taulia Tagovailoa decided to transfer north. He has improved every season, but that does not mean that he can't grow into a more significant role if he returns for his senior season.
"(Taulia Tagovailoa) has shown a lot of growth over the course of his Maryland career … He’s really shown poise in the pocket. His ability to run the ball, he’s a really talented player, smart player, and he's shown his composure in those big moments," Ferguson said. "We’ll see if he decides to come back. He could try and put his name in the draft, but if he comes back, that’s a really good sign for this team."
While the Terrapins’ offense is 63rd in the nation in offense at 396.8 yards per game, their defense is ranked 74th, allowing 382.8 yards of offense per game. Despite this, the Knights shouldn’t let that fool them. Ferguson believes there are playmakers on defense that could wreck the game if Rutgers is not careful.
"Jaishawn Barham, he rushes the passer very well … People are saying that he is an NFL talent," Ferguson said. “Along the secondary, Jakorian Bennett is a really talented corner. Everyone knows how good Ohio State’s wide receivers are … and Maryland really held their own in keeping them in check, which I was really impressed with, and (Bennett) was at the forefront of that and ... (Deonte Banks) and Bennett are two really good corners that can lock wide receivers down."
Head coach Greg Schiano will want to win this game, not only for the program's future but also to give a solid send-off for the senior players who will be moving on. Ferguson believes one way the Knights can win this game is to attack Maryland early and score fast, but the impression left from the Terrapins in last week’s game shows Ferguson all he needs to know about this team heading into Saturday.
"I was really, really impressed with Maryland against Ohio State — a 6-point game with less than a minute left, and they had a chance to drive down and win the game against the No. 2 team in the country," Ferguson said. "So I’m going to take Maryland here. I’m going to go Maryland 33, Rutgers 21."
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