Maryland running back Ty Johnson provided a glimpse of his abilities in last season’s comeback win in the finale against Rutgers. That was nothing compared to what he did against Purdue in the Terps’ 50-7 homecoming win.
He sprinted for touchdowns of 42 and 43 yards on his only two carries in last year’s win over the Scarlet Knights. On Saturday against Purdue, he upped the ante from that performance considerably.
Johnson ran right past the Boilermakers for 204 yards on only seven carries, putting him 15th on Maryland’s all-time single game rushing list. He averaged a stellar 29.1 yards per rush. His longest, a 76-yard dash in with the game already out of reach in the third quarter, was simply unfair.
Right tackle Michael Dunn pulled around to the inside and sealed off Purdue linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley to give Johnson a lane into the secondary. From there, he was able to outrun Purdue defenders all the way to the 5-yard line.
The Terps got into the end zone a few plays later on a Perry Hills shovel pass to Teldrick Morgan.
As it is with many young runners, patience was a skill Johnson had to work hard at to develop in between his freshman and sophomore seasons. It paid off, as he was able to pace himself while Dunn threw the key block.
“It felt great. The first touchdown I scored, [running backs coach Anthony] Tucker said, ‘Hey, in the spring you probably wouldn’t have scored on that,’” Johnson told reporters after the game.
Of course, Johnson was still only half of the Terps’ 400-yard rushing performance. Freshman Lorenzo Harrison, who led the Terps in yards per carry entering the game, ripped off a 62-yard touchdown to give his team a thoroughly insurmountable 15-0 lead.
Johnson’s performance stood out, but each of Maryland’s six running backs did his job against Purdue. 400-yard games don’t come around often, even against lackluster defenses, and they require a balanced atttack. In his return from suspension, Wes Brown only had two yards on five carries, but Maryland didn’t need him. Harrison, Kenneth Goins, Jake Funk and quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome all averaged over five yards per carry. Most games won’t turn out like this, but Maryland will need contributions from everyone if it wants to hang with the top dogs in the Big Ten.
“Just being able to see another guy come in and there’s no drop off, that’s a great feeling,” Johnson said.
Purdue’s defense might be sub-par, but coming into Saturday, the Boilermakers could hang their hat on the fact that they didn’t allow big plays. They ranked 23rd in the country in opponents’ explosiveness, per Bill Connelly’s S&P+. Maryland broke that trend with four rushes of at least 48 yards. The Terps’ offensive linemen dominated the Boilermakers at the point of attack, keeping defenders away from the running backs and getting to the second level.
“Those O-linemen, they schemed up every way possible way to block every play we have,” Johnson said. “They looked at [Purdue’s} fronts, three-down, four-down, five-down. They looked at those fronts and went against the scout team and just did their thing.”
But that wasn’t all. For the running backs to break off those big runs, they needed the wide receivers to keep their blocks going. This is an area of focus in offensive coordinator Walt Bell’s system. From screen passes to outside runs, wideouts need to stick on their marks downfield, and they did.
“I don’t know how many times I saw guys down there 20 yards downfield, blocking guys down the field and finishing them off,” head coach DJ Durkin said. “That’s where you can get those big plays and home runs right from the beginning.”
Teldrick Morgan was one of those receivers. He came from a similar-styled offense at New Mexico State, which helped him adjust to what Maryland runs.
“When I got here, it was basically just learning the fundamentals of where to go, my hand placement and everything,” he said. “That was pretty much it. I’m pretty used to it.”
Wide receiver D.J. Moore helped spring Johnson on his final touchdown run, a 48-yard scamper that made it 43-7, by creating a hole on the edge.
“Every one of them that was out there, they did their thing,” Johnson said. “When they see me, they put the middle of their chest on [a defender’s] back leg and start blocking them.”