Well, that was better.
The Maryland football team was miles from perfect against South Florida on Saturday, but the Terps did a handful of things well and handled an underwhelming team at home as a Big Ten team should.
Let's get to some particulars. As usual, these placements are subjective and non-exhaustive.
Caleb Rowe, quarterback.
Rowe threw three interceptions, but his four touchdowns and 297 yards will keep him in his new starting quarterback job awhile longer. He moved Maryland's offense up the field, and while he sometimes gave it away once he was down there (or before), he finished enough drives to put his team over the top. His 70-yard touchdown pass to Taivon Jacobs was the best delivery a Maryland quarterback has made since at least 2013. Here's Rowe, afterward:
"I'm expected to throw touchdowns. I'm expected to not throw interceptions. I've just got to play better, be smarter with the football and make better decisions and not try to force things. These are all things coaches preach to me, and it's just something that I have to improve on."
Roman Braglio, defensive lineman.
I tend to write a lot about Maryland defensive ends Yannick Ngakoue and Jesse Aniebonam, but not much about Braglio. That's a fault, because Braglio has been a sturdy contributor for more than a season now. He had two of Maryland's six sacks on Saturday and was disruptive whether he lined up in the middle or on the edge of Maryland's 4-3 formation. Here's Braglio, when I asked him about his success with Ngakoue and Aniebonam in third-down pass rush situations:
"It's awesome. Third down, you just go. Pin your ears back and get upfield and, you know, try to make a play. Everyone on the d-line loves rushing the passer. Getting a sack is probably one of the best feelings you can have as a d-lineman. When that happens and when the plan works the way it's supposed to, it feels great."
Sean Davis, cornerback.
No one had a worse afternoon in Maryland's loss to Bowling Green last week than Davis. He was beaten deep for two touchdowns and struggled to keep up with the Falcons' top receiver, Roger Lewis. Randy Edsall said he challenged Davis to be better this week, and was he ever better. Davis forced a fumble and had two interceptions to snuff out Bowling Green drives. On his first interception, in particular, Davis shined. He ran with step for step with receiver Rodney Adams (South Florida's closest Lewis equivalent) and jumped to snare the ball at his highest point. It was, Edsall would say, "exactly what we wanted" from the senior cornerback. He bounced back in a major way. Davis on the day:
"We just knew we couldn't lose two in a row, especially dropping the egg last week. We didn't want to put too much pressure on it, but we just knew we had to come out and play Maryland ball. That's we did. We took advantage of all the opportunities and came out with the 'W.' There was no extra pressure, though."
Maryland's offensive line.
The offensive line deserves great praise for holding up its perfect record by not allowing a sack for a third-straight game. The line's performance in run blocking was a bit worse, however. Right guard Andrew Zeller and right tackle Ryan Doyle generated some good push in spurts, but Maryland could only average 3.4 yards per carry for the day. When you consider that offensive lines are most responsible for the first five yards of a given carry, that's not great. Still, it was another outstanding day in the passing game.
Maryland twice decided to punt on close-range fourth downs well inside midfield, so it wouldn't be right to go over the top in praising Edsall. The Terps also had 12 penalties for 120 yards, which won't work. Edsall took blame for that in his postgame press conference, and it doesn't seem likely to be a major problem going forward. (Maryland's penalty totals to this point had been completely reasonable, and many on Saturday were for silly things like celebrations or running into punt returners before they had the ball.) Edsall clearly made the right call by inserting Rowe at quarterback, and he avoided a loss that wouldn't have helped his long-term employment prospects.
Maryland's running game.
Last week, against a brutally bad rushing defense, Maryland's only effective running came via quarterback scrambles and a few runs by Wes Brown. This week, there wasn't even much of that. Maryland only had 114 rushing yards against a defense that had given up 278 on 6 yards per carry a week ago. (That was against Florida State, yes, but a little more from Maryland would've been nice.) Maryland is now going into games against West Virginia (a top-20 defense), Michigan (probably a top-20 defense), Ohio State (definitely a top-20 defense), Penn State (also definitely a top-20 defense), Iowa (probably a top-40 defense) and then Wisconsin and Michigan State (you get the idea).
That Maryland can't run particularly effectively against the teams it's already played doesn't suggest anything good.