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QB Sitkowski starts vs Indiana for struggling Rutgers

September 28, 2018

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — Indiana leads the Big Ten in turnover defense. Up next is miscue-plagued Rutgers.

The Hoosiers will face embattled freshman quarterback Art Sitkowski on Saturday when they travel to Rutgers to face the reeling Scarlet Knights, who have lost three straight games by wide margins.

After beating Texas State in the opener, Sitkowski has not finished his last three starts. He was hurt against No. 4 Ohio and relieved by senior Gio Rescigno in losses to Kansas and Buffalo.

Many thought Rutgers coach Chris Ash would start Rescigno this week instead of turnover-prone Sitkowski.

“Art is going to be our quarterback,” Ash said after Thursday’s practice. “Art’s been our starting quarterback. We have never wavered from that, but we always will evaluate every position when we’re not having success. We’ve done that, and Art is still our quarterback.”

The Hoosiers (3-1, 0-1) won their first three games largely by forcing turnovers.

They lead the Big Ten conference with nine takeaways and are ranked No. 7 nationally. They’re also scored 31 points off those turnovers. Sitkowski has thrown seven interceptions, three of which have been returned for touchdowns. Rescigno has one interception in mop-up duty. Rutgers has lost four fumbles.

Indiana senior safety Jonathan Crawford is the leader of the pack. He’s had a hand in 18 turnovers during his four seasons in Bloomington, including three this season. He has one interception, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and nine career interceptions.

QB CONUNDRUM

Indiana also is figuring out how to handle a freshman quarterback. While Peyton Ramsey won the job and has played well as the starter all four games, freshman Michael Penix Jr. has seen action in two games. He can play in two more before burning his redshirt eligibility.

“That still gives you that flexibility,” Indiana coach Tom Allen said. “But I think that at the same time, as I’ve said before, he’s our backup quarterback, he’s our No. 2 quarterback, and so I expect him to play. So, we’ll see how that all ends up working itself out.”

UNKIND ROAD

Indiana has split the first two games in the series played in Piscataway.

Although the Hoosiers won their road opener at Florida International in Week 1, Big Ten road games haven’t been kind to the program. They were 1-4 in conference road games last season, winning only at Illinois. They haven’t won their Big Ten road opener since a 38-20 victory at Iowa in 2007.

“Road games in the Big Ten are always huge for us,” Allen said, “to be able to focus on improving as a football team.”

HOME COOKING

Rutgers (1-3, 0-1) is in a three-game homestand. It plays six of its next eight games at HighPoint.com Stadium.

WHOP WHOP

Hoosiers receiver Whop Philyor had five receptions through the first three games.

Last week, despite being hobbled by an undisclosed injury, he caught 13 passes for 148 yards, a career high.

The question now is whether Philyor, a sophomore who had a breakout freshman season, still will be one of Ramsey’s favorite targets.

AUSTIN OUT

Rutgers star cornerback Blessuan Austin’s season is likely over.

Austin, who tore his ACL last season, injured his knee while making a leaping interception in the first half of the season opener against Texas State. The senior recently had surgery.

“Bless came out of surgery just fine,” Ash said this week. “Thankfully, he got a lot of opinions from several different doctors. He did have to have his ACL reconstructed. He’s handling it great and he’ll work his tail off to try to get back.”

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AP Sports Writer Mike Marot in Indianapolis contributed to this report.

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