Now the real tests begin. Maryland's football season began with a bang but it was expected. This week we are going to find out a good deal more about this football team.
They are who we thought they were!
Maryland overwhelmed James Madison on Saturday, embarrassing them, 52-7. Let's take a look at some of the key points of the game and see what we can glean from it. Granted we are only one week into the season (and one against an FCS opponent) so it is hard to get a good sample size to determine Maryland's strengths and weaknesses. I will also be sprinkling in some pop culture and movie references every week if and when appropriate.
Ground and Pound:
The first stat that jumped out at me was 50. That was the number of times that Maryland carried the ball on Saturday against James Madison. 50! They ran more than Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump. (Our first movie reference of the year!)
Not only did Maryland run the ball a lot, they were incredibly efficient, averaging 5.7 yards per carry as a team. Brandon Ross shouldered most of the load for the Terps ground attack, carrying the ball 16 times for 86 yards. Wes Brown was superb, gaining 81 yards on only 13 carries. That is a solid 1-2 punch at running back for the Terps. It was nice to see Maryland attack what was supposed to be one of the strengths of this James Madison team and turn it into a weakness.
However, FBS teams like Maryland are supposed to dominate both lines of scrimmage against over-matched FCS teams like James Madison. The Terps did just that. It remains to be seen if Maryland can run that effectively against FBS teams, especially the likes of Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin.
The next stat that we need to address is 111. That is the amount of yards that C.J. Brown threw for in Saturday's blowout win. This would be understandable if C.J. had only thrown the ball about 15 times. But he didn't. He threw 24 times. Brown was 11/24 against an FCS defense that really had only one standout player. That does not bode well for Maryland's passing attack against quality opponents. What concerns me even more is that if you took away the touchdown pass to Deon Long, C.J. Brown would be 10/23 for 71 yards. Those kinds of numbers are not going to get it done in the Big Ten conference. Brown was sensational on the ground, running the ball seven times for 61 yards and three scores. Big Ten opponents are meaner and they hit harder. He'll have to be very careful about taking too many hits this season.
Brown struggled to complete open passes and while Brandon Ross dropped an easy screen pass, Brown for the most part was just missing his receivers. He seemed comfortable running inside the red zone but when he dropped back to pass he looked more lost than Tom Hanks in Cast Away. (Another reference involving Tom Hanks!) At one point, he almost overthrew a wide open Stefon Diggs and Diggs was quite animated in his displeasure of how his quarterback was performing. Diggs can't be happy with how he played on Saturday. He was limited to 5 catches for 53 yards, which led the team. Awards are not won in September but I can say with certainty that Stefon Diggs will not be bringing home any hardware if he puts up numbers like those again. Brown has to throw better if the Terps are going to compete in the Big Ten.
However, by comparison, Vad Lee made C.J. Brown look like Steve Young on Saturday. Lee was 16/37 for 141 yards and two picks. Lee played so poorly that ESPN couldn't even calculate a QBR (Quarterback Rating) for him. He was as bad as Brucie from The Longest Yard. (Breaking out our first sports movie reference of the year!) The Maryland defense mixed up their coverage schemes and brought Sean Davis on a couple of safety blitzes where he absolutely leveled Vad Lee. He hit Lee so hard that it made MY knees weak. By the end of the game, Lee was more beat up than Edward Norton in Fight Club. (It's not Tom Hanks but it's still a great movie)
Speaking of being beat up, Deon Long got banged up quite a bit on Saturday. He had to leave the field twice but returned to catch a touchdown pass. Deon Long is so important to the Terps' offense because in addition to his speed and ability to go up and catch the ball at its highest point, he helps take pressure off of Stefon Diggs. Maryland needs Diggs' wing-man to stay healthy. They need Long to be more like Iceman and less like Goose. (I am flying here! Did I just make a Top Gun reference AND a pun? I must be in the Danger Zone!) Expect to see a lot more of Diggs and Long against USF this week, especially since they gave up 374 yards through the air last week.
Maryland heads to Tampa this week to take on South Florida. The Bulls struggled to beat Western Carolina last week, 36-31 (WCU scored a garbage time TD in the final seconds). However, the Bulls didn't really have the game in hand until a little less than 5 minutes to go in the 4th quarter. A couple of interesting things to take away from their game is that South Florida ran for 294 yards and only threw for 191. They went 2-10 last year so they'll be looking to equal their win total from last year. I'll do a more in-depth preview later this week.