Against Boston College in the Quick Lane Bowl, Maryland football was up against one of the best defenses — and worst offenses — college football has to offer.
The result? A weirdly disjointed game where the Terps were able to score quickly, but weren’t able to punch it into the end zone when they needed a score in the fourth quarter.
Let’s look at each of Maryland’s scoring drives:
- 3 plays, 75 yards — TD on a 62-yard Ty Johnson run
- 3 plays, 45 yards — TD on a 30-yard Ty Johnson run.
- 2 plays, 78 yards -- TD on a 63-yard completion to Teldrick Morgan
- 2 plays, 65 yards — TD on a 52-yard completion to Levern Jacobs
The latter two drives came in the first five minutes of the second half, and helped trim a 36-13 deficit to 36-27. These explosive plays are the single thing that brought Maryland back into the game.
When juxtaposed with Maryland’s other drives, it’s easy to see this offense’s shocking disparity in production. The Terps averaged 26.3 yards per play on those scoring drives. For the rest of the game, they averaged 1.6 yards per play. Next year, this team’s going to need to figure out how to raise its efficiency. A lot of that might have to do with quarterback play, and we’ll explore that another time.
Part of that can be attributed to a voracious Boston College defense. The Eagles entered the game as the No. 21 defense in the country, according to S&P+. The fact that Maryland scored 30 points against a team that gives up an average of 24.6 means the offense still kind of did its job.
Maryland allowed 29 first-half points to Boston College. Uhhh, what?
Boston College came into the Quick Lane Bowl having scored 30 or more points only twice against FBS opponents this season. The Eagles had the fourth-worst offense in the country, according to S&P+. Maryland’s defense certainly wasn’t good, but it had done a fine enough job against the other bad offenses it faced in 2016.
The Eagles then proceeded to score 23 points in the second quarter to take a 29-13 halftime lead. This can be traced back to three distinct causes:
- Maryland lost the field position battle by a lot/only had one yard of offense in the first quarter. The Terps started six of their eight first-half drives inside their own 30-yard line.
- Maryland had three turnovers and Boston College had zero.
- BC hit on a crucial 49-yard touchdown pass at the end of the first half. Maryland was playing press coverage on the outside with not much help over the top, for some reason, and JC Jackson got burned.
Towles made a perfect throw, to be sure, but Maryland really shouldn’t have been in this position in the first place.
But to Andy Buh and DJ Durkin’s credit, the defense bounced back in the second half. The Terps didn’t let the Eagles score an offensive touchdown, and kept them to 110 total yards (3.2 per play) after halftime.
The offensive line was leaky against the pass, but good enough against the run.
Maryland’s big men up front had their hands full with one of the best defensive lines in the country.
The Terps allowed seven sacks, but that wasn’t it. BC was able to knife right through Maryland’s line to get into the backfield untouched on several plays, including this fumble the Eagles recovered for a touchdown.
It looked on this play like Damian Prince was supposed to have the block, filling in for a pulling Terrance Davis, but Noa Merritt got right past him and swallowed Hills and Johnson at the same time.
- No. 1: Ray Smith got around Terrance Davis, who was part of a double team.
- No. 2: Miscommunication on a stunt. BC’s Zach Allen got around Brendan Moore, who expected Davis to be there. Except Davis followed his man inside, so Allen had a free lane to Hills.
- No. 3: Ty Johnson whiffed on blitzing linebacker Matt Milano, but it might not have mattered. Connor Strachan got right by Moore and was hot on Milano’s heels.
- No. 4: Kevin Kovalek put a swim move on tight end Derrick Hayward, then bull rushed Johnson, getting to Hills and forcing a fumble. It’s tough to put too much of the blame on Johnson here, because a running back isn’t going to have too much of a chance against a defensive end one-on-one. This led to a BC field goal.
- No. 5: Harold Landry lined up right over Moore and blazed right past him to force Hills to step up in the pocket, right into a couple waiting Eagle linemen.
- No. 6: Zach Allen bulldozed tight end Derrick Hayward and Johnson missed his block in the backfield, giving the Eagles’ defensive end an easy route to take Hills down.
- No. 7: Damian Prince was one-on-one against Landry, who got right past him as Maryland ran some play-action.
- No. 8: On Maryland’s last play of the game, Landry sped around right tackle Damian Prince to take down Hills, who didn’t sense him.
But enough with the bad news. The good news is those same linemen helped Johnson have a big day. On his 62-yard touchdown run, Prince and Davis opened a lane for him beautifully.
Against a defensive line as good as BC’s, that’s is as good as it’s going to get.
Ty Johnson had 159 yards rushing. He didn’t carry the ball in the game’s final seven minutes.
On the surface, this is a statement worth yelling about. But upon further investigation, it’s actually a fairly defensible thing. Well, at least 75 percent defensible. I think.
In the Terps’ famed 10 plays after getting to the BC two-yard line, they had Wes Brown and Kenneth Goins Jr. in as running backs. Each is bigger and better than Johnson in short-yardage situations. Johnson the big-play threat. They didn’t need a big play there.
BC’s run defense is really, really good. I’m guessing Bell didn’t want to run right into the teeth of that, so he tried to go around it. And on the Terps’ final drive, they were passing because they had almost no time. They’d broken as many big pass plays as they had run plays, and it’s very possible that BC would have stuffed any run play Maryland would have called. But yes, it seems silly not to at least try to give Johnson the chance to break one loose.