Maryland football administered a 50-7 decimation of Purdue in Saturday’s homecoming game, and the Terps’ defense looked as stout as it has all season.
The pass rush was dominant, racking up six sacks. The run defense held Purdue running back Markell Jones to 23 yards on 12 carries. The college game counts sacks against rushing totals, so throw these factoids in a blender and Purdue officially finished the game with 10 yards on the ground. That total was -3 before backup quarterback Elijah Sindelar scrambled for 13 yards late in the fourth quarter to get the Boilermakers back above zero.
Even when the Boilermakers actually made it past the line of scrimmage, they never went far beyond. Purdue had only two rushes of 10 or more yards, both on quarterback scrambles. Considering that Maryland’s run stopping has been inconsistent early in the season, Saturday’s performance was a welcome change.
“Our defensive line did a great job up front. We were able to make them one-dimensional,” head coach DJ Durkin said. “Going into the game, they were leading the conference in passing, but we knew we had to keep them one-dimensional, because that allows us to mix up our coverages, mix up our pressures. If you let them run the ball as well, then you’re just sitting there guessing all game.”
Defensive end Roman Braglio recorded his first two sacks of 2016 in the game. The senior was playing without a cast on his left hand for the first time since the season opener (he broke the hand against Howard and has played through it since). The increased mobility showed in the stat sheet and should be a positive sign for the future.
“A big part of defensive line is being able to use your hands,” Braglio said, “so without the ability to grab something, I was pretty much just poking people. My right arm got really strong, and I was trying to fight people off with one arm. But now I’ve got two hands, I’m back to me, it feels great.”
Jesse Aniebonam added 1.5 sacks, giving him a team-high four on the season. He teamed up with linebacker Shane Cockerille on one of them; it was the first sack of the former quarterback and fullback’s career. Jermaine Carter and Azubuike Ukandu got in on the action, as well. Maryland made five other stops behind the line of scrimmage, bringing the team’s total to 11 tackles for loss.
The Boilermakers struggled to throw the ball, as well. David Blough was 18-of-41 through the air for 132 yards, while Sindelar, who entered in the fourth quarter, was 4-of-12 for 63. That’s a team completion percentage of 41.5 percent. Alvin Hill’s interception of Sindelar was the feather in the cap for the secondary’s performance.
The defense only really needed to be “clutch” on one occasion. After Perry Hills threw his first interception of the year on Maryland’s opening drive, Purdue took over on the Terps’ 23-yard line. The Boilermakers picked up a first down on a Braglio offside penalty, but Maryland stuffed them on the next set of downs, and J.D. Dellinger’s missed field goal from 35 yards out kept the game scoreless.
“You’ve always got to be focused,” Braglio said. “Everybody’s locked in on the sideline. You’re sitting with your position coach and someone says ‘Sudden change.’ The whole bench shot up, onto the field, ready to go. ... No matter where they are on the field, our plan’s to stop them.”
Purdue stayed off the board all through the first half and into the third quarter, when a Hills fumble gave the Boilermakers another red-zone chance at the 14. Maryland’s defense promptly sacked Blough for an 11-yard loss, and Purdue ultimately came up empty again with a turnover on downs. The Terps’ lead was 29-0 by that point, anyway.
Purdue isn’t a very good team, and this performance by Maryland’s defense should be taken with a grain of salt. But this performance was so dominant that, at the very least, it has to be an encouraging sign as the Terps play bigger, faster teams in the Big Ten.