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How this Maryland win over Texas was a little different from the last one

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The games followed somewhat similar patterns, but this wasn’t just a repeat of last year.

maryland football-dj durkin-news-jordan mcnair Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland football’s win over Texas in 2017 was actually pretty simple. The Terrapins had absolutely stupid success on the ground early, some big special teams plays on both sides pretty much canceled each other out, and a late Texas surge didn’t have nearly enough gas.

That script was somewhat similar this time around, but there were some big changes.

What’s up first is obvious, but important: Maryland’s players honored their fallen teammate.

Staff members at Maryland, whether they’re coaches, trainers, administrators or even the school president, are far from out of the woods when it comes to answering for Jordan McNair’s death.

The players, though, aren’t the reason why Maryland is in this situation. And they kept his name and number visible everywhere on Saturday.

“79 on three”

A post shared by Maryland Football (@terpsfootball) on

“Today was just fun to be back out there with everybody,” quarterback Kasim Hill told reporters after the game. “The things that you miss on the sidelines, all the emotion, all the conversations, just the flow of the game, just being out there with those dudes. That’s the love of it right there.”

maryland football-texas-2018-game-recap- score-stats Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The script of the actual game played out similarly in a few ways, but different in a big one.

Running the ball has been Maryland’s one true identifiable strength the past two years. With Ty Johnson leading a deep stable of backs this season behind a veteran offensive line and a healthy quarterback, there was every reason to think running the ball was Maryland’s chance at a win—maybe even its *only* chance at one.

Nope! Maryland averaged 3.1 yards per carry on 46 attempts Saturday. Johnson, who averaged 11 yards per rush against the ‘Horns last year, was stopped in his tracks often and only had 2.7 this time around.

Maybe we shouldn’t have been too surprised at this. Last year, stopping the run was Texas’ biggest strength after Week 1. Even losing defensive tackle Poona Ford didn’t clear the cupboard for Texas up front, and it showed. The Longhorns stuffed Maryland routinely.

So this meant Maryland had to find success in other ways. Hill, in his first full game quarterbacking against an FBS team, was steady. A 17-for-29 mark through the air for 222 yards (an average of 7.7 per attempt) to go with one touchdown and zero interceptions was what Maryland needed.

A star turn from Jeshaun Jones was part of that too, and it was fun as hell.

Hill, Tyrrell Pigrome and that one pass from Jones added up to a 21-for-34 mark through the air and a total of 264 yards.

And Maryland’s defense was also about as good as anyone could reasonably expect. The Terps about equaled their performance from last year’s game but added one more turnover than last year’s two (which ended up icing the game) and did a better job of keeping the Longhorns out of the red zone. Texas clearly has some stuff to work out, but a team that was supposed to be improved after putting up 41 points against the Terrapins only put up 29 this time around.

Maryland-Texas: 2017 vs. 2018

Stat/team 2017 2018
Stat/team 2017 2018
Maryland
Yards per play 8.3 5.1
Yards per pass 14.6 7.8
Yards per rush 6.1 3.1
Pts. per scoring opp. 5.3 3.9
Turnovers 1 0
Texas
Yards per play 5.6 5.4
Yards per pass 7.1 6.7
Yards per rush 3.1 3.9
Pts. per scoring opp. 3 5.3
Turnovers 2 3

The end of the game was an atmosphere befitting the stadium and the fans who dared to make the trip.

FedEx Field is not a good stadium by NFL or Big Ten standards. This was true before the game, and it was certainly true as it became clear the field wasn’t even close to equipped to handle the downpour of rain in the second half.

So what followed was an environment befitting Michigan State’s 2017 season. There was a lot of rain, and the on-field product devolved after Texas scored 22 unanswered. The teams combined for 46 first-half points. The second half only saw 17. The Longhorns, with several opportunities to come win this game, did their best to get in just enough of a position to do so before letting things slip through their hands. And Maryland, with an offense that briefly reappeared after seeming to be an abstract concept in the second half, was holding on for dear life. Here’s what the drives looked like after the weather delay:

When Maryland’s offense went quiet, though, the defense held on. Matt Canada admitted as much in a post-game interview.

Last year, the Terps only scored 30+ points twice against FBS opponents after the Texas game. If Canada can get some more out of Maryland’s rushing game against teams with defenses not as prepared as the one he just faced, Maryland fans could have a lot more to look forward to on the field this fall.