The Maryland Terrapins defeated the Towson Tigers earlier today 28-3 thanks in large part to four forced turnovers and 102 rushing yards from Davin Meggett, but the performance likely wasn't enough to silence the critics that emerged after last weekend's embarrassing loss to Temple.
The Tigers, in fact, out-gained Maryland on the game and had an eleven-minute advantage in time of possession. The game was much closer than the score would indicate, and for a half even seemed like Towson had a good chance of pulling the upset.
Maryland kicked off the scoring with a 15-yard scamper by Adams, but the offense faltered on the next three drives. After an ugly first half for both sides, Maryland's defense came alive in the second stanza and forced three turnovers, including two interceptions of Towson's Peter Athens. The Terrapins would capitalize with three second half touchdowns, scoring on a 5-yard Pickett run, a 7-yard pass from O'Brien to Kevin Dorsey, and a 5-yard Tyler Cierski reception. Cierski's fourth-quarter score put the game out of reach for the Tigers and ensured that the Terps would be back to .500 on the season
But don't let the moderately impressive score fool you: this was not a strong performance from Maryland, at least for about the first 75% of the game. Towson gave away a fair number of scoring chances - a failed third down conversion inches away from the goal line, a botched field goal, two or three downfield passes dropped for likely touchdowns - any one of which would've changed the game given how early they occurred. Moreover, the four second-half turnovers were more the result of sloppy play by Towson - Athens threw a pass right to Kenny Tate on one of them, and just dropped a ball for a fumble - than good plays by Maryland.
Elsewhere, Maryland's offense still hasn't ironed out its kinks, particularly in the passing game; Danny O'Brien missed the majority of his deep throws and is yet to reclaim last year's form. But perhaps the most important caveat: Athens was actually Towson's second-string QB, brought in to replace starter Grant Enders, who was out with a concussion. I'll sum it up this way: when an FCS team with a second-string quarterback outgains you 348-335, things aren't good.
Still: a 25-point win is a 25-point win, and Maryland got it today. The fourth quarter in particular was promising and included a near-flawless 78-yard touchdown drive. O'Brien appeared to start clicking more and more as the game went on, and if he's got it figured out Maryland's hopes take a big lift for the rest of the season. Davin Meggett was particularly impressive; he continued his hard-running ways with over 100 yards on a 6.4 ypc average. On the other side of the ball, Joe Vellano was outstanding, and has probably claimed the title of "Maryland's best player."
One little note of strangeness: midway through the third quarter, O'Brien was pulled for at least a few plays in favor of C.J. Brown, who went 2-3 for 14 yards according to the statbook. His drive wasn't phenomenal, but it was an interesting pull for the coaching staff. It seemed to work, too; even though the drive ended with a punt, O'Brien refocused and followed up with the 78-yard TD possession.
There are still pieces there for Maryland - playmakers on defense, talent on offense. But this team is far from a finished product and has a fair number of holes. When Danny O'Brien isn't clicking, or when the defensive secondary is lax, or when the team suffers special teams mishaps as they did today, they'll pay for it. Next week's game at Georgia Tech will be a useful, if potentially painful, test of where this team truly stands.