Maryland football’s win over Texas was fun, emotional and exciting for fans of a team that languished through a scandal-filled offseason that’s now poured into Week 3 of the regular season. The Terps’ win over Bowling Green included much less of all of those things, but it did include one thing Maryland was missing in its season debut: a fearsome rushing attack.
After Texas held Maryland to 3.1 yards per rush, the Terps ERUPTED for 8.4 against Bowling Green.
Texas bottled up the Terps nicely, which was to be somewhat expected. The Longhorns have much to figure out as a team and as a program, as evidenced partly by losing both rounds of their home-and-home against Maryland, but run defense might be the thing they’re best at right now. A lackluster performance on the ground there isn’t too much cause for concern.
Against Bowling Green, Maryland dominated on the ground all game. The points didn’t come until later in the second half, but that the Terps exceeded 8 yards per play in every quarter is evidence enough that the ground game was effective. (Penalties and sloppy play killed a bunch of drives before they started.) They ended up with 444 yards on the ground:
How Maryland got to that total:
Ty Johnson: 124 yards on 12 carries
Tayon Fleet-Davis: 102 yards on 15 carries
Lorenzo Harrison: 86 yards on 8 carries
Anthony McFarland: 69 yards on 8 carries
Javon Leake: 42 yards on 3 carries
Tyrrell Pigrome: 15 yards on 2 carries
Jeshaun Jones: 11 yards on 1 carry
Kasim Hill: -2 yards on 2 carries
And this spreading the ball around isn’t by accident.
“Both plays and players, our offense is built on a lot of guys touching the ball,” Canada told reporters Tuesday. “That’s something that we take a lot of pride in. I think that’s something that keeps our players excited and keeps our players engaged on offense.”
Part of the success is due to quality of opponent, yes. Texas had a top-10 run defense last year, per S&P+. Bowling Green had THE WORST RUN DEFENSE IN FBS, per those same numbers. Early-season college football means overreacting (or not overreacting, hopefully) to small sample sizes while we wait for more data points to paint a more complete picture of each team. And when the sample sizes are extreme, the truth is likely somewhere in the middle.
Matt Canada has spread out the carries amongst Maryland’s running backs, and almost all have had success.
This was also a common theme for Maryland early in the season during Walt Bell’s tenure as OC in 2016 and 2017. Spreading out the carries keeps any one player from shouldering too much too early, and helps starter Ty Johnson avoid injuries.
Maryland RBs in 2018
Canada’s pre-snap motions sprung Maryland’s backs for multiple big gains against the Falcons on Saturday. Here’s Tayon Fleet-Davis taking the ball 30-plus yards after a fake jet sweep to Lorenzo Harrison III...
...and when Kasim Hill actually handed it to Harrison on a jet sweep at the goal line, Bowling Green didn’t stand much of a chance.
That’s a cherry-picked example from the first half because I didn’t want to re-example the whole game again, yes, but it still illustrates the kind of havoc the Terps’ rushing game can wreak.
So what are we going to see this week?
Temple’s run D was okay last year, and has been okay again this season against poor competition. Maryland should still be able to run on it.
Maryland’s Week 3 opponent is 0-2, and those losses have been, well, bad. An optimistic view of Temple for 2018 would see a team that ended the year on a few high notes contending for the league crown in the AAC.
So far: nope!
The Owls lost to FCS Villanova in Week 1 by two points after beating that same team by three points in 2017. Last week, they lost to Buffalo at home. Temple is 21 spots lower than its preseason S&P+ projection of 81, and it seems fair to say anything less than a 21-point win on Saturday would be disappointing for the Terps.
If Temple has a strength right now, it’s probably still defending the run. Villanova averaged 4.1 yards per carry in Week 1, and Buffalo had 3.7. But that’s an FCS team and an FBS team that couldn’t run the ball a lick last year.
Temple’s overall strength last year was on defense, where the Owls were equally okay at defending the run and the pass. The offense doesn’t appear to have improved from its No. 102 S&P+ ranking last year, though, which means Maryland’s offense should get the ball back often. If Maryland’s able to run, the game could be over quickly. If the gains only come intermittently, things could be close for a while longer.