The Edsall Bowl II got off to a slow start for Maryland, but in the end the Terps came out on top, as expected. It took them some time to get their sea legs, but strong games from both C.J. Brown and Stefon Diggs and a great defensive game by Dexter McDougle were enough to make up for other struggles and get Maryland a comfortable 32-21 win in perhaps its first real test of the season.
Brown threw for 277 yards on 15/28 passing, including one touchdown, while rushing for another TD and 122 yards. Diggs caught five catches for 110 yards and a touchdown. Dexter McDougle grabbed two interceptions, including a huge pick-six that gave the Terps a 14-point lead in the third quarter.
McDougle, however, appeared to injure his right shoulder in the third quarter on a big hit he put on Sean McQuillan shortly after his second interception. He was in obvious pain on the ground as he was attended to by trainers, and left the game. With fellow starting cornerback Jeremiah Johnson out 7-8 weeks, if McDougle's injury is serious the Terps could be in trouble at the position.
Maryland got off to a very sluggish start offensively, failing to convert on two fourth down plays and getting shut out by the Huskies defense in the first quarter. The first failed fourth down gave UConn great field position, which they turned into an early 7-0 lead after a five-yard touchdown run by Lyle McCombs. An interception by Dexter McDougle swung momentum in the Terps favor, but on the next drive Brandon Ross couldn't handle a short pass from C.J. Brown, which ended up in the hands of UConn CB Taylor Mack.
The botched catch by Ross was only the beginning of Maryland's running back struggles in the game, as both he and Albert Reid later fumbled on rushes that were picked up by the Huskies, giving Maryland three turnovers total. Still, Ross ran for 95 yards in 18 carries, the longest of which was a 25-yard run that kicked off a scoring drive in the second quarter.
The Terps got on the board after C.J. Brown took just four plays to get 80 yards down the field, capping it with a 41-yard run he made up the middle into the end zone. On Maryland's next drive, the Terps started at UConn's 40 but were held at the 11-yard line and settled for a 29-yard field goal by Brad Craddock to take a 10-7 lead.
After Connecticut tied the game on a 33-yard field goal with eight minutes remaining in the half, both offenses went stagnant until the Terps made one last drive in the quarter. With the ball at midfield, Brown threw a 48-yard pass to Levern Jacobs who was forced out-of-bounds at the three-yard line. After a failed touchdown attempt, Craddock kicked a 21-yard field goal to send Maryland into halftime up 13-10.
The third quarter featured the Terps opening up a 14-point lead on two touchdowns, first on a screen pass from Brown that Diggs took in 12 yards for an easy score and next on McDougle's pick six. They tacked on two more after forcing a safety - their second of the season -- early in the fourth quarter, and made it 32-13 after Craddock kicked a 40-yard field goal. The 40-yarder was encouraging to see from Craddock, who rebounded from falling well short on a 50-yard attempt in the third quarter.
UConn tacked on seven more after QB Chandler Whitmer threw a 75-yard pass to Shakim Phillips to open a drive with 4:48 left, and had a successful two-point conversion to make it 32-21.
Besides McDougle, another standout defensively was Marcus Whitfield, who recorded a couple of big sacks early in the game and together with Yannick Cudjoe-Virgil pressured the safety by Whitmer. William Likely also had a big game, accumulating 110 yards on three kick returns and having a solid night defensively. Deon Long had a quiet game with 39 yards on three catches.
It was far from a perfect game for the Terps, but they picked up the win on the road and were able to overcome several key errors, which is important for this team as they go forward and as the opponents continue to be of a higher level. Also importantly, Maryland has started the season 3-0 for the first time since 2001. They'll look to make it four when they face West Virginia in Baltimore next Saturday.