Football

Dismal passing, inconsistent defense contribute to Rutgers' 2018 losing streak

Wisconsin football (3-2 Big Ten, 5-3 overall) prepares to host Rutgers (0-5, 1-7) in an underwhelming matchup on Saturday. Rutgers, on a deep losing streak and without a single conference win, does not have much to offer in terms of competition for the Badgers.

Rutgers will be coming off a bye week before it faces Wisconsin. In their most recent game, the Scarlet Knights almost pulled off a win against Northwestern. Despite leading at halftime, Rutgers fell to Northwestern 15-18, furthering its losing record.

A handful of Rutgers’ freshmen made some significant plays that helped keep the Scarlet Knights in the game. Freshman running back Isaih Pacheco aided the offense with a 44-yard rushing touchdown. Defensively, freshman defensive back Avery Young led the team with 10 tackles, plus seven solo tackles and two pass breakups. A couple senior linebackers, Trevor Morris and Deonte Roberts, also contributed with nine tackles each.

Much of what little strength Rutgers does possess stems from its decent running back depth and some tight end strength, but there is little else besides that. The prominent figure in the run game is sophomore running back Raheem Blackshear who has recorded 399 rushing yards and also impacted the passing game with 27 receptions.

Though the Badgers aren’t coming off a bye week when they face Rutgers, they will be coming off a 31-17 road loss against unranked Northwestern. Wisconsin severely underperformed especially on offense. The absence of junior quarterback Alex Hornibrook and a poor performance by Jonathan Taylor that made it seem like he was just as absent ruined Wisconsin’s day. Taylor only recorded 46 rushing yards — the first time he hasn’t rushed for over 100 yards all season — and had two costly fumbles. Sophomore quarterback Jack Coan stepped in with Hornibrook out, throwing for 156 yards and one touchdown.

Northwestern was able to capitalize off of the Badger’s disadvantage of not having a seasoned quarterback on the field. In Saturday’s game against Rutgers, the Badgers will need to prepare Coan for another possible game if Hornibrook remains out. Taylor will also be crucial in making plays considering Wisconsin relies heavily on its running game at times. Although Rutgers does not present much of a threat to Wisconsin, it must not be overlooked especially when analyzing how Wisconsin performed last Saturday when they were again favored to win. 

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