Maryland-Rutgers Preview: Trying to right the ship with ACC play around the corner

September 25, 2009 | Luke Jones

With the start of conference play looming next Saturday, the University of Maryland will try to right its disappointing season against Rutgers in College Park on Saturday afternoon.

Having lost two of their first three games and needing overtime to secure their lone win against James Madison, the Terps (1-2) face Greg Schiano’s Scarlet Knights (2-1, 0-1 in conference play) out of the Big East. Rutgers hopes to be a contender in the Big East this season despite being blown out in the opener against Cincinnati, 47-15.

Defensive struggles continue to plague the Terps, as the inexperienced unit has battled injuries in the secondary and has surrendered a total of 119 points and over 400 yards in each of its first three games.

New coordinator Don Brown saw his defense wilt in the fourth quarter against Middle Tennessee State last week, allowing the Blue Raiders to march down the field in the closing seconds to kick a game-winning field goal as time expired.

Though Rutgers comes from a BCS conference—unlike James Madison and Middle Tennessee State—the Maryland defense may actually catch a break facing a more traditional offense this week  after facing spread offenses in the last two games.

The quarterback position is a question mark for the Scarlet Knights as freshman starter Tom Savage sustained a concussion against Florida International last week. His status remains uncertain, and senior Domenic Natale would presumably get the nod if the highly-touted freshman cannot play.

The Terps’ secondary must keep an eye on the little senior Tim Brown who leads the Scarlet Knights with 349 receiving yards and the Big East in yards per catch (24.9). Rutgers also has a 6-foot-2, talented receiver in true freshman Mohamed Sanu who had 101 yards receiving against Cincinnati in his first game as a collegian.

Despite last week’s disappointing loss, the Terps’ offense produced a season-high 446 total yards of offense. However, four turnovers led to 16 points for Middle Tennessee State.

Torrey Smith has emerged as Maryland’s biggest offensive threat, leading the nation in all-purpose yards and racking up 165 receiving yards and two touchdowns in last week’s loss.

At first glance, Da’Rel Scott’s 117 rushing yards looked like one of the shining performances of last week, but his two fumbles landed him on the bench in favor of Davin Meggett. Head coach Ralph Friedgen insisted this week that he has not lost faith in the all-conference tailback, but it will be interesting to see what happens should Scott put the ball on the turf against the Rutgers defense.

The Terps should receive a boost for Saturday’s game with the anticipated returns of left tackle Bruce Campbell and safety Jamari McCollough, both listed as probable this week. Both players sustained injuries in the season opener against Cal and have not played in the last two games. Campbell’s return would allow Paul Pinegar to return to his normal spot at right tackle, further solidifying the starting offensive line.

Saturday’s game will mark the second meeting between the schools since 1942. The Terps knocked off then-No. 10 Rutgers two years ago in Piscataway, 34-24. It is the first time Rutgers will play the Terps in College Park, as the teams played in Baltimore in 1940 and 1942. Maryland leads the all-time series, 5-3.

This meeting has obvious recruiting implications, as both schools are in constant competition for high school talent. Rutgers’ visit allows seven Maryland natives to return to their home state to play—including starting running back Jourdan Brooks and strong safety Joe Lefeged.

Center Phil Costa, middle linebacker Alex Wujciak, tight end Matt Furstenburg, punt returner/receiver Tony Logan, and defensive back Antwine Perez are the notable Terrapins from the Garden State.

Saturday’s game will mark the conclusion of non-conference play for the Terps. They open the ACC schedule next Saturday with a home contest against Clemson.

Terps’ Injury Report:
Out: Nolan Carroll (leg – season), Louis Berman (leg), Caleb Porzel (leg), Joe Vellano (foot)
Probable: Bruce Campbell (foot), Jamari McCollough (foot)

Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, but—again—the game can only be seen on ESPN360.

As always, check out my “Live from College Park” blog and WNST’s Twitter feed for coverage throughout the day from Byrd Stadium. Leave your comments, rants, and thoughts on the Terps by posting at the bottom of the page.

I’ll also be joining Eric Aaronson on Section 410 at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday afternoon (1570 AM or online at WNST.net) with a live report from College Park.

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