Suddenly Autumn. Football. Analysis of September 1st Rutgers vs Texas State by Sports Journalist Juan Guarin. Intro by Calvin Schwartz September 2, 2018
A blink of an eye. Ninety degrees all week. August. Suddenly, yesterday, September and 75 degrees and kickoff of college football. Confession. For the past 25 years or so, I’ve been wishing away precious summers, counting days until Rutgers and college football. When my son was ten (a long time ago) I wanted him to feel the energy, pomp and circumstance of college campus, marching bands, tailgating, absorption of tradition, after all Rutgers is the Birthplace of College Football (149 years ago), so I’ve been with him at almost every kickoff and throughout seasons all these years. That tradition helped form a big part of my current life inculcating Rutgers. A long story. But I’ve never been able to write, express the analytical, football, sport side, game-day touch of sitting in the stands watching Rutgers football.
Cut to a few months ago when NJDiscover TV Show featured guests Bert Baron, WCTC and Charlie Kratovil, editor New Brunswick Today. I invited several Rutgers journalism students to attend the show taping; my first meeting with Juan Guarin, a recent May graduate of Rutgers journalism.
With Juan’s passion and seasoned eye for college and pro football and our shared alma mater, I thought it a natural progression and asked Juan to contribute to NJ Discover; his analysis of opening game; adding a special touch to NJ Discover. We structured this at half-time yesterday.
Calvin Schwartz 9-2-18
MEET JUAN GUARIN
Firstly, Juan is a recent May graduate of Rutgers Journalism. While there he was a Football Staff Writer for the KnightReport.net, Sports Broadcast Producer/Field Reporter for WRSU-FM Rutgers Radio, Rutgers Recruitment Beat Writer, The Armchair All Americans LLC., and News Reporter for the TAB.
“I am an aspiring Journalist looking to make a mark onto this big blue planet. Journalism gives me a stage to not only provide to the public the objective truth of the world, but to also give my opinion on any stance on any matter that I feel strongly about. I am passionate about my work, and put in everything I have to make sure my work reflects myself. Currently, I am specializing in Sports Journalism, hoping to make my way up through the sports world, especially the NFL.”
Juan Guarin contacts: LINKED IN https://www.linkedin.com/in/juan-pablo-guarin-camargo/
Facebook: Juan Pablo Guarin-Camargo (The Juan and Only) https://www.facebook.com/JPGCPDMSVR
AN INSIDE OUTSIDE ANALYSIS OF RUTGERS vs TEXAS STATE FOOTBALL SEPTEMBER 1ST 2018 BY JUAN GUARIN
Today’s game started with the release of a single red balloon from the fifty-yard line. To some, the balloon could represent letting go of the past three years of frustration and mediocrity Rutgers football fans have had to endure. To others, it’s the release of tension, the stress that comes with watching one’s team play their first game of the season, suppressing the hopes or disparities one might have to the back of their mind when coming into HighPoint Solutions Stadium, just to enjoy a game of football.
In reality, though, the balloon was meant to represent the free spirit and bravery of Danny Garofalo, a young man who fought a strenuous battle against muscular dystrophy his entire life, yet still made sure to attend every Rutgers home game over the last 11 years. Sadly, Garofalo passed away this past July, leaving behind memories of happiness and perseverance, making sure everybody knew to live life through his mantra; to “Make Every Day Count.”
It seemed that Scarlet Knights are holding true to Garofalo’s mantra, as they made the most out of today, beating the visiting Texas State Bobcats 35-7. The game was highlighted by a voracious rushing attack by the three-headed monster of Raheem Blackshear, Jonathan Hilliman, and Isaiah Pacheco, along with a stout and stubborn defense an impressive, albeit at times frustrating, premiere of freshman quarterback Artur Sitkowski. All that and more, as we list down our observations from today’s game.
A (minor) break from conservative coaching
In the past, Rutgers head coach Chris Ash has been scrutinized for his conservative play calling, mainly in electing to punt on makeable short yardage fourth downs near enemy territory. While risking a turnover on downs outweighs the chance at a conversion, the Scarlet Knights had little-to-nothing to lose last year, so why not run the risk.
Against the Bobcats, Coach Ash continued the trend, opting to punt on fourth and two at Rutgers’ 41-yard line. While the punt didn’t end up costing the Scarlet Knights, it was a missed opportunity for Coach Ash to show some cojones and do his best impression of Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson.
Ash did get bold in the middle of the fourth quarter, as he elected to go for it on a fourth and three on Texas’ 28-yard line. A run down the middle by freshman tailback Isaih Pacheco led to no gain and a turnover on downs, but hey, at least he went for it.
Youth players balling out (especially Sitkowski)
According to Land of 10.com, The 2018 football recruiting class for Rutgers was ranked “…No. 51 in the nation…[and] No. 12 in the Big Ten…”, based off findings from 247Sports. Headlined by IMG Academy quarterback Artur Sitkowski, the young fellas made one heck of a first impression to fans and their college football careers.
Starting with Sitkowski, the freshman starter completed 68.9 percent of his passes for 205 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions. Sitkowski showed excellent poise and footwork in the pocket and was able to read defenses well enough to find his receivers on drags, slants, screens and outside-post routes. Sitkowski was at his best in play action, finding sophomore running back Raheem Blackshear on a play action flat route, who then turned on the jets to scamper his way for a touchdown in the second quarter.
However, a knock on Sitkowski is his reliance on his first read. Often times, Sitkowski would stare down his receiver and force the ball into a tight window when he didn’t need to. In the third quarter, Sitkowski rolled out to the right in the shotgun, staring down sophomore wide receiver Everett Wormley. As Sitkowski threw the ball, Texas State’s sophomore cornerback Kordell Rodgers jumped the route, picked the ball off, and ran it in for a pick six.
“You throw a pick, you get over it. It’s football, it’s bound to happen.,” Sitkowski told reporters in a postgame press conference. “I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve thrown a couple [of interceptions] in training camp and I just think ‘OK, it happened, it’s over, let’s go out there and put the ball in the end zone.’ I learned to just forget what happened, learned from it, and apply it to the next drive.”
Sitkowski wasn’t the only freshman that burst on to the scene for the Scarlet Knights. Running back Isaih Pacheco led the team in rushing on 11 carries for 76 yards, including a 28-yard burst into Texas’s territory.
Redshirt freshman Mike Tverdov racked up two solo tackles and a sack against Texas State’s elusive duel threat sophomore quarterback, Willie Jones III.
Running game’s coming alive
Despite the big day from Sitkowski in the air, it was the ground attack that really got things going for the Scarlet Knights. The combination of the quick and elusive sophomore running back Raheem Blackshear and the hard-hitting transfer-grad power back Jonathan Hilliman was nearly impossible to stop against a Texas State rushing defense that was ranked in the top 45 last year. Together, this lightning-thunder duo combined for 126 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns, while also contributing in the passing game for a combined 60 receiving yards and a touchdown. But these two weren’t the only running backs grinding for yardage.
As previously mentioned, freshman running back Isaih Pacheco lead the team with 76 rushing yards on 11 carries. Redshirt junior tailback Charles Snorweah had four carries for 21 yards. Shameen Jones and Trey Sneed combined for eight yards on two carries. All in all, this committee of backs rushed for 218 yards and three touchdowns. I repeat; 218 rushing yards against a top 45 ranked rushing defense.
In a post-game interview with ESPN, Hilliman praised Rutgers’ backfield, stating “We’re a dynamic group. We’re definitely going to have lie downs playing as a committee, but y’know, everybody’s just gotta fulfill their role. I know that I’m the dirty work guy, but I’m down for it, and I can’t wait to succeed alongside my brothers.”
Penalties, penalties, penalties
Penalties were major drive killers for both teams today, but more so against Texas State. The Bobcats were self-destructing on almost every drive, committing 15 total penalties for 119 yards. The Scarlet Knights were not spared from the wrath of the yellow flag, either.
Despite only committing seven penalties for 50 yards, these came during crucial moments. There were three of these types of penalties on Texas State’s first drive alone; a holding call on cornerback Isaiah Wharton gave Texas State an automatic first down on a play that was incomplete on third and seven, an offsides call against Rutgers gives Texas a new set of downs in Rutgers territory, and a roughing the snapper call against defensive back Lawrence Stevens gave Texas an automatic first down on Rutgers’ 34-yard line.
The worst one costed the Scarlet Knights a touchdown. An illegal formation by the offense took away Sitkowski’s second touchdown of the game, and tight end Jerome Washington’s first of the season.
“Too many penalties, too many mistakes. The good thing is we played a lot of young players. I think I was told 15 freshmen, redshirt freshmen played today. Some were in critical positions. They made some mistakes. It was good to make those mistakes, get some game reps under their belt, still come out with a victory. It will help them in the long run,” Coach Ash said in in his post-game press conference.
Defense on point (barring injury)
Had it not been for that pick six, Rutgers would have had their first shut out game of the year against Texas State. The Scarlet Knight defense showed up for work against the Bobcat offense, allowing only169 yards of total offense (100 yards passing, 69 yards rushing), along with three sacks and 11 tackles for loss.
Senior cornerback Blessuan Austin, coming off a torn ACL, recorded his first interception of the season, but was seemingly hurt at the end of the play. While he walked off of his own volition, he never came back out on the field.
Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Tijaun Mason suffered a possible fracture, a “long-term injury”, quoted from Coach Ash on NJ.com.
Injuries were a bit of a concern for the Scarlet Knights last year, getting to the point where they moved 2016’s leading receiver Jawuan Harris to safety for the rest of the year just to add depth.
“One thing we talked about before the game, one of our goals for the season, is just to persevere through when sudden changes happen, and we just come back, get out there, and play assignment football,” said redshirt senior defensive back Saquon Hamilton.