After Maryland football scored on its first drive against Michigan State last week, the Terps brought their regular kicking team out for the extra point. Only, the players didn’t line up in a field goal formation.
Quarterback Caleb Rowe, who serves as the team’s kick-holder, lined up behind center with running back Kenneth Goins to his right. Kicker Adam Greene was split out wide, then came in motion before the snap.
Michigan State looked discombobulated, unable to tell what in the world was about to happen from a formation that split most of Maryland’s linemen wide to the left. The play, an option pitch from Rowe to Goins, wasn’t complicated. It was the confusion by the Spartans defense, combined with solid execution on Maryland’s part, that enabled the conversion.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this from Maryland. After scoring its first touchdown against Purdue, the team lined up in a similar formation and Rowe completed a pass to Goins.
Players said the coaching staff told them early on in practice that going for two would be an option this year.
“They didn’t tell us the reasons behind it,” Goins said. “They just said, ‘They line up this way, we gonna do it.’”
It’s been something head coach DJ Durkin, special teams coordinator Pete Lembo and offensive coordinator Walt Bell work on each week.
“We’ll get together typically Tuesday morning to come up with a two-point of the week,” Bell said. “Every week it’s loaded up and every week it’s ready to go. If the look is there, we’re going to take it. If it’s not, we’ll kick the extra point. I think it’s just one more thing for people to prepare for that at the end of the day is very low-cost. It’s low-rent for us.”
Maryland’s offensive players don’t necessarily know in advance whether it’ll be called. When the Terps do go for two, it happens so fast that its easy to miss from the press box, and even from the sidelines.
“That’s something that we work on every single week,” left guard Mike Minter said. “I never know if it’s going to be called or not because I’m not on the field for it, but every time I look up and see, ‘Oh, we have eight points now,’ it’s kind of a shock.”
Talking to reporters this week, Durkin offered a simple explanation for his motivations behind taking this particular risk.
“I’m really big on, ‘If you call it aggressive, go play aggressive’ and let them know that’s what you’re willing to do,” Durkin said.
It’s worked so far, and going for two is something Maryland should continue doing, especially against the coming gauntlet of Ohio State, Michigan and Nebraska.
This isn’t because Maryland will have “nothing to lose,” against these teams. Instead, the Terps should go for two simply because, as big underdogs, they’ll need any help they can get.
Two attempts is a small sample size, sure, but Maryland has an approach that appears to work. Against the toughest Big Ten teams, when the Terps will need every little advantage they can get, going for two almost seems like a no-brainer.
For Bell, this is just another thing that distracts opposing defenses when they prepare for his offense.
“At the Friday walk-throughs, while they’re walking through two-point, extra-point field goal fakes, they’re not walking through our base offense,” Bell said. “And I think more than anything else, it’s a great way to make those guys waste time in preparation as opposed to something we do. And if that’s the only benefit you get, it’s worth it.”