Last Saturday's win against Indiana was like a good meal. It started well and kept going. It looked great and it tasted just as good going down. You also may have enjoyed it in the company of friends along with one or several alcoholic beverages. At the end, you felt happy and sated. Yep, I think I nailed that metaphor!
"Who's your Daddy?" was also a line from Dana Carvey's humorous but ultimately quite forgettable comedy 'Master of Disguise'. During the movie we see Carvey's character, named Pistachio, try to harness his abilities to disguise himself as anyone he wants. It was rough in the early going but he gets much better by the end. It was a little like watching Maryland through the first five weeks of the season. The Terps looked like a very good team in week 1. Maryland managed to disguise themselves as a terrible team in week 2, barely making it out of Tampa with a win. In week 3, they showed heart but also couldn't tackle in a heart-breaking loss to West Virginia. How did they respond? In week 4, they scored on their opening drive and 34- 20 despite allowing 370 rushing yards. It was a bounce back win on the road that was uncharacteristic of recent Maryland teams.
I thought that Maryland was going to show us something different in week 5. I did not think that they would look similar to what I saw against Syracuse. But they were. They dominated on defense, keeping Indiana over 100 yards below their rushing average. They continued to keep Indiana out of the end zone, just like they did against the Orange. Maryland won the turnover battle for the third straight game. They got solid production again out of C.J. Brown until he got injured. Maryland is starting to develop an identity and it is working for them. As long as they stick to it, they should be in great shape. I think our theme/pun provider/reference inspiration for the column today will deal with The Face!
Already a two-fer in the reference bag as Face/Off is a 1997 action movie with Nicolas Cage and John Travolta and Face-off is a reality TV show on Syfy. C.J. Brown was 10-15 for 163 yards and a touchdown before coming out of the game because of a wrist injury that he suffered at the end of the first half. I couldn't believe it was him! Brown continued to execute short throws and give the ball to Brandon Ross and Stefon Diggs in space. He also incorporated Deon Long into the offense (Deon only had one catch the week before). Once again, Maryland was effective moving the football in the first half.
Just like with the twist in Face/Off, the plot thickened in Bloomington when Caleb Rowe took the field. Rowe went 12-18 for 198 yards and two touchdowns. He ran the offense well and continued to do things that Maryland had success with in the first half. He threw a screen pass to Brandon Ross, who took it to the house. That is the second straight week that Ross took a screen and turned it into six. If Brown can't go then Edsall will turn to Rowe and, after what Terps fans saw last week, they have every reason to believe that he can get the job done.
Maryland's defense had been worked over in the last two games. They had given up almost 700 yards to West Virginia and almost 600 yards to Syracuse. Like Jim Carrey in 'The Mask', they kept getting themselves into trouble and they would find a way out. Against Indiana, the mask came off. Maryland held Nate Sudfeld to 14-37 for 126 yards and held Indiana to over 100 yards below their season rushing average. Maryland can't allow opponents to rack up huge amounts of yardage. Maryland got a little bit lucky running into one of the consistently inconsistent teams in the conference in Indiana. One week they are losing to Bowling Green and another they are beating #18 Missouri on the road. They got dominated by Maryland last Saturday. What kind of defense are we going to see from Maryland this Saturday? Can they recreate their dominant performance from last week against a far more talented and consistent team in Ohio State?
Eye of the Tiger
Deon Long and Stefon Diggs had a rough go of it this season in terms of production going into the game against Indiana. They would not be denied and they were unleashed against the Hoosiers. Diggs had six catches for 112 yards and a touchdown. Long had 10 catches for 108 yards. That is more or less what we had hoped to see from this dynamic duo when the season began. Now this fearsome force has come alive at just the right time and they are hoping to take Maryland "straight to the top."
Will (eye) Am
Will Likely had yet another interception which means he has had three straight games with a pick. He needed players to step up around him and last Saturday that player was Cole Farrand. Farrand was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week, giving Maryland back-to-back winners after Likely took home the honor after the Syracuse game. Likely has been consistently great this season. He and other players like Farrand and L.A. Goree will need to continue to play effectively for Maryland to have a chance to stop very good offenses like the next five ones they are about to face.
Say hello to my little friend! Brad Craddock is still perfect on the season after nailing a 30 yarder and two 48 yarders against Indiana. He is in a three-way tie for most points responsible for by a kicker. Less than 10 kickers in the nation have made all of their field goals and Maryland has one of them. If Maryland has a not so secret weapon, it's Craddock.
Eye of the Beholder
Maryland is 4-1 after five games. That is a good place to be right? Looking ahead, Maryland has a lot of toss-up games on their schedule. Let's take a look at the schedule after this weekend's game. Iowa, Michigan, Penn State and Rutgers all appear to be winnable games. The only two games where Maryland will be heavy underdogs will be against Wisconsin in Camp Randall and Michigan State in College Park. Maryland has a shot to win a lot of games this year. A lot.
They have a chance to send a message to the rest of the conference and the country on Saturday in College Park? Is Maryland ready to make that jump? The eyes of Maryland fans and the Big Ten will be upon them. Can they be the team we thought they could be? I guess we'll have to wait and see.