By Andrew R Koch
The Maryland Terrapins opened up its inagural Big Ten season with a bang, compiling 484 total yards on Indiana en route to a 37-15 win in Bloomington.
The offensive output was reminiscent of its roary start in the season opener against James Madison, where it racked up 471 total yards in a 52-7 win. Then the Terps headed down to Tampa on Sept. 6 for a matchup with the South Florida Bulls. As great as their first half was against James Madison, it was just as bad against South Florida. Maryland turned the ball over four times, and had the ball for just over eight minutes, but still only trailed 17-14 at halftime. The offense was more effective in the second half, but still turned the ball over two more times. However, the defense shut out the Bulls after halftime, and special teams came through with a big play. Maryland blocked a punt by South Florida’s Mattias Ciabatti in the fourth quarter, and the ball was recovered in the end zone by Avery Thompson. That gave the Terrapins a 21-17 lead with 12:25 left. Placekicker Brad Craddock closed out the scoring by connecting on a 23-yard field goal with 5:16 left to wrap up a 24-17 win over South Florida. In spite of all the turnovers, South Florida only got seven points off of turnovers (a fumble return for a touchdown in the second quarter). Head coach Randy Edsall said the statistics showed that Maryland’s offense was able to move down the field before turning the ball over.
“You take a look at their average starting (field position) was (their) 27, so they had to go 73 yards to score,” Edsall said during his Sept. 8 press conference. The one thing is at least those turnovers came down on the plus side of the territory, we didn’t give them a short field.” However, he added that his team can’t expect to win if they commit that many turnovers.
The Terrapins returned home with a 2-0 record heading into Week 3 and a night game on Sept. 13 at Byrd Stadium against West Virginia. Once again, Maryland got off to a slow start. Mountaineers running back Rushel Shell scored on a one-yard run, and quarterback Clint Trickett connected with wide receiver Mario Alford on a 43-yard scoring pass to give West Virginia a 14-0 lead after the first quarter. Trickett sandwiched a 44-yard touchdown pass to Kevin White between a pair of Craddock field goals, and then hit Alford for a 36-yard touchdown to make it 28-6 with six minutes left in the first half. After that, Maryland’s offense finally started showing signs of life.
Stefon Diggs caught a 77-yard touchdown pass from quarterback C.J. Brown, and backup Caleb Rowe connected with Jacquille Veii on a 26-yard score with 40 seconds left to cut the deficit to 28-20. Brown then started the second half with a bang by ripping off a 75-yard touchdown run to pull Maryland with one 14 seconds into the second half. West Virginia went back up by 10 on a safety and Trickett’s fourth touchdown pass of the night. The Terps answered right back with 10 unanswered points, capped by a 69- yard punt return by William Likely to tie the game at 37 with just under 10 minutes left. Likely also had an interception and forced a fumble. However, West Virginia would get the last laugh as Josh Lambert hit a 40-yard field goal as time expired. The play wasn’t without controversy. Edsall claims that a lineman on West Virginia’s field goal unit false started, and has sent video of the play, along with a dozen others, to the Big Ten Conference for review.
On Sept. 20, Maryland went into the Carrier Dome to face former ACC opponent Syracuse. Unlike the previous two weeks, the Terps were able to get their offense in gear early. Brown hit Marcus Leak for a 25-yard touchdown pass, and then hit Brandon Ross for a 90-yard score to help Maryland take a 14-6 lead after the first quarter. In the second quarter, after Syracuse scored a touchdown to pull within a point, Craddock hit a 31-yard field goal, and then Veii scored on a four-yard touchdown run to give Maryland a 24-13 lead with 6:13 left in the first half. Likely once again came up with another big defensive play, as he returned an interception 88 yards for a touchdown with 3:37 left in the half to make it 31-13 at halftime. The Terps would go on to a 34-20 win, giving them a 3-1 record as they head into Big Ten play.
Through the nonconference schedule, Maryland is averaging 36.8 points and 401 yards of total offense per game. Special teams have also made significant contributions, as they’ve blocked five kicks in the first four games of the season. Update: Maryland continues Big Ten play with its first conference home game against Ohio State on Oct. 4. After a week, Maryland will host Iowa on Oct. 18, and then travel to Wisconsin on Oct. 25.