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Maryland football had its big runs in 2016, but also got stuffed plenty of times

Using what we call “extreme carries,” let’s look at how each Maryland back offset his best and worst runs.

NCAA Football: Quick Lane Bowl-Boston College vs Maryland Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland’s running backs broke free for plenty of long runs in 2016. The group combined for seven touchdowns of over 20 yards last season, accounting for roughly 40 percent of their 18 total scores on the ground.

This is how Ty Johnson finished the season averaging 9.1 yards per carry. His breakaway runs more than offset his short gains and the times he didn’t reach the line of scrimmage. Johnson had 11 runs of 20-plus yards, easily the most on the team; that’s exactly 10 percent of his carries. Seven of those runs went for 40-plus yards. These are plays that change the complexion of a drive, and he was always a threat to rip one off.

Here’s his longest touchdown run of the year, a 66-yard scamper against Indiana.

Johnson also had 17 runs of no gain or lost yardage, so about 40 percent of his carries resulted in what we’ll call an “extreme” outcome. That’s certainly more hit-or-miss than most backs, but Johnson only lost a total of 27 yards on those attempts. So his 28 extreme results netted him an incredible 16.96 yards per carry.

Lorenzo Harrison is in a similar boat. He had eight runs for over 20 yards and 12 carries of no gain or worse (33 lost yards). This accounts for 20 of his 88 carries (23 percent); he averaged 11.95 yards per carry here and finished the season at 7.2 overall.

Extreme carries

Player Carries 20+ Stuffs Ext. Avg Ovr. Avg
Player Carries 20+ Stuffs Ext. Avg Ovr. Avg
Ty Johnson 110 11 17 (-27) 16.96 9.1
Lorenzo Harrison 88 8 12 (-33) 11.95 7.2
Kenneth Goins 41 3 8 (-11) 8.27 5.9
Wes Brown 33 0 16 (-33) -2.06 0.8
Jake Funk 29 1 1 (-5) 12 4.7
Trey Edmunds 26 2 6 (-2) 6 6.1

Maryland’s other running backs trended more toward the middle. Trey Edmunds had two long runs and only lost yardage once all season. Kenneth Goins had three breakaways and was stuffed eight times. Jake Funk had only one big run in the season opener, but his only negative play was the infamous jet sweep against Penn State, and that was more about the play call than anything.

Wes Brown’s senior season stood out in the worst way. Sixteen of his 33 carries didn’t cross the line of scrimmage, and he didn’t offset it with even a single big run—in fact, his longest rush all season was nine yards. That’s how he averaged 0.8 yards per carry in his final year with the Terps.

The goal, of course, is to turn potential losses into slight gains; that extra yard or two can keep momentum going and put the offense in a much more manageable position. During Maryland’s three-game stretch late last season against Michigan, Ohio State and Nebraska, the momentum was nowhere to be found.

Three bad weeks

Date Opponent Carries Yards Ovr. Avg 20+ Stuffs Ext. Avg
Date Opponent Carries Yards Ovr. Avg 20+ Stuffs Ext. Avg
11/5 @Michigan 29 82 2.83 1 (+21) 9 (-29) -0.8
11/12 Ohio State 23 32 1.39 0 8 (-16) -2
11/19 @Nebraska 13 36 2.77 0 3 (-1) -0.33
*These numbers are those recorded by running backs only.

Combine this extended stagnation with limited production through the air, and Maryland had a zero-dimensional offense that scored zero touchdowns for nearly 168 minutes of game time.

This obviously isn’t on the running backs alone. The offensive line always has to block for them, and an effective passing game can keep defenses honest. But if Maryland’s backs can make the most of their extreme carries, the Terps will be better off. With Johnson and Harrison returning to starring roles, there’s reason for optimism.