Following last week's 45-point blowout victory over JMU, there weren't too many conclusions that could be drawn from the Maryland side of things. But the Terps' narrow win over South Florida Saturday tells us a lot more about Maryland's strengths and weaknesses as they enter a week three match-up with longtime rival West Virginia.
The defense can carry this team
Maryland's win over South Florida wasn't very pretty. There aren't very many times when you're going to finish on the winning side of the football when your offense commits six turnovers. But against USF, Maryland was able to do just that, in large part because of their defense, which held the Bulls to just 257 total yards of offense, despite being repeatedly put out on the field due to the offense's failures.
The defense was constantly put in situations where they had to stop South Florida and force them to punt and time after time, they came through. With the offense struggling, being able to rely on the defense to keep the Terps in the game was huge.
The defense also did a great job containing freshman running back Marlon Mack, who last week ran for 275 yards and four touchdowns. Maryland's defense held Mack to just 73 yards on 22 carries.
Hopefully this will be something the defense is able to do consistently throughout the season.
Maryland won a game they probably would have lost in the past
We've seen this before, when a Maryland team seemingly shoots itself in the foot against an inferior opponent, eventually losing the game. But that wasn't the case on Saturday. Despite gifting South Florida numerous opportunities to blow Maryland out of the water, Randy Edsall's club never gave up, eventually capitalizing on a blocked punt that led to the game-winning touchdown.
Protect that ball
As I said previously, it's pretty hard to turn the ball over six times and still win a football game, especially when you're playing on the road. Unfortunately for the Terps, the schedule only gets tougher from here and they're not going to be able to rely on that in the future.
Maryland has to be smarter with the football, plain and simple. C.J. Brown can't force passes and the running backs need to do a better job of protecting and holding onto that football.
The good news is that these turnovers are, for the most part, mistakes that can be corrected. Maryland was able to pick up the win despite all of their self-inflected wounds But with West Virginia on the horizon, they really need to get those mistakes corrected ASAP.
What were your impressions from the game Saturday?