Sitkowski shows off arm and mistakes in spring game
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) After 15 spring practices, Chris Ash is still searching for a quarterback at Rutgers and he doesn’t expect to name a starter until a couple of weeks before the season opens.
It’s no different than what he said when camp opened, even though freshman Artur Sitkowski gave the Scarlet Knights‘ third-year coach a lot to think about in the annual spring game Saturday.
Sitkowski hit 11 of 24 passes for 280 yards and three touchdowns to Bo Melton, including a 75-yarder on a dart of a pass that zipped roughly 40 yards in the air and found in the sophomore receiver in perfect stride. The other TDs covered 14 and 29 yards.
The New Jersey native who played his senior season at a high school in Florida also showed he was a freshman. He had a screen pass intercepted by defensive lineman Kevin Wilkins and had another deep pass picked off by K.J. Gray because he failed to look off the defensive back long enough on the pass down the sideline.
The 280 yards was more than the Scarlet Knights’ five other quarterbacks, including incumbent senior Gio Rescigno, who was 9 of 19 for 87 yards and sophomore Johnathan Lewis, who was 4 of 10 for 19 yards.
”It was all right,” said Sitkowski, who has shown a poise in handling the quarterback competition and a huge amount of confidence. ”I have a lot of things to get better at, the play actions. I made some rookie mistakes that I shouldn’t make. There were a lot of different things I could have done. I have a lot to improve on getting ready for training camp.”
The one thing that does not need work is his arm. The 6-foot-5, 215-pounder can make all the throws – the outs, the passes over the middle and the deep balls.
”He did some good and bad,” Ash said of Sitkowski, who he described as a leader and a hard worker. ”Obviously, he made some big plays, big throws. You can see the big arm he has.”
Ash said the picks were obvious mistakes. Sitkowski had some issues with the clock and other minor issues that come with learning a new offense.
However, Ash noted that Villanova won the NCAA basketball championship in part because of their 3-point shooting. In football, that translates to explosive plays and Sitkowski had his share, also connecting on a 37-yard pass play to receiver Mohamed Jabbie.
”We connected on a lot of plays,” Melton said of Sitkowski, who enrolled in January to get a head start on learning new coordinator John McNulty’s offensive system. ”But at the same time I still connected with Gio when he was in and J-Lew when he was in. Today, Art was throwing deep balls to me. He’s got a nice touch to his arm.”
Rescigno is looking forward the quarterback competition when the team returns this summer.
”We’re all competing with each other but the good thing is we are all close,” Rescigno said. ”All those guys are great guys in the quarterback room. The competition, that’s just part of football. It will make us better. I look forward to that and I know they do, too.”
Ash said the goal of the Scarlet Knights is to make a bowl game. He was 2-10 with an 0-9 Big Ten Conference record in his first season and 4-8 overall and 3-6 in the league last year. He said his offense is further ahead than in previous years and his defense is good, with depth on the defensive line being his concern.
The game ended in a 132-all tie when soon-to-be 5-year-old Mordecai Carathy of Garwood scored on a 93-yard run with the entire team leading the way to the end zone. The austistic child was then hoisted on their shoulders.
”It was a lot of good moves by the ball carrier,” Ash said of the run that would have been the scoring longest run in history of Rutgers, the birthplace of college football. ”He made some guys miss and then had some breakaway speed at the end.”