9It had been the tale of two seasons for Maryland football after starting 2019 as one of the hottest teams in college football, but then crashing down hard to a 2-2 record.
The Terps were able to return a bit closer to their form from the beginning of the season, however, in a 48-7 road win over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
Here’s a closer look at the good and bad from Saturday’s matchup.
The big play returned to the fold
The 2019 Maryland offense has thrived on the big play in 2019, but failed to continue the power it displayed early on against Howard and Syracuse in its last two outings against Temple and Penn State.
Against Rutgers, the offense ignited early as quarterback Josh Jackson found wide receiver Dontay Demus Jr. across the middle on a skinny post route for an 80-yard score on the first offensive snap.
The zone blocking and play-action to running back Anthony McFarland Jr. allowed Jackson just enough time to sit back and wait for Demus to break free off of his man and deliver the strike.
After a streak of drives that resulted in eight punts, including six three-and-outs, Maryland was able to answer the Scarlet Knight’s first and only score of the game with a similar scheme as the first play.
Lining up with two backs in the backfield and one receiver wide to the right, Jackson was able to fake a handoff to McFarland, which brought linebackers up to the line of scrimmage and allowed wide receiver Tayon Fleet-Davis to find open space down the sideline.
On back-to-back plays, Maryland was able to catch Rutgers eyeing the backfield and leaving the second level wide open for Fleet-Davis to gain 50 yards and then score from 23 yards out.
Utilizing the play-action and run-pass option sets are key for the Terps to be successful as they attempt to keep defenses balanced between covering the run and pass.
Pigrome got the job done
After Jackson went down with a high-ankle sprain towards the end of the first half, quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome took control off the offense and picked up right where things left off.
Pigrome finished the game completing 13-of-18 passes for 111 yards in his first significant action of the season. He also added 44 yards on the ground across five rushes.
Head coach Mike Locksley and offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery put Pigrome in situations to succeed, which ultimately led to the team coasting to a victory.
As seen above, Pigrome spent a lot of his attempts getting the ball out quickly and efficiently to playmakers in space, allowing them to make plays and advance drives rather than dropping back and relying on downfield passing.
Blocking up front was not pretty
Despite helping tally 48 points and 490 total yards, with 200 coming on the ground, the Maryland offensive line continued to get beat due to the lack of depth and experience upfront because of injuries.
Maryland's offensive line is looking like a mess without the likes of normal starters Terrance Davis, Marcus Minor and Johnny Jordan, who are all out with injuries. pic.twitter.com/Ni7YYzr715— Lila Bromberg (@lilabbromberg) October 5, 2019
Even with Rutgers getting two sacks and five tackles for loss, the most glaring mistakes by the offensive line came on special teams.
On the third extra point attempt of the day, Maryland failed to get a push which allowed Rutgers to pressure kicker Joseph Petrino. He hooks the kick slightly to the left, where it meets the hands of some Scarlet Knight defenders.
This struggle returned late in the game, as Rutgers completely blew through the Terps’ offensive line to block Petrino’s field goal attempt on the last drive of the game. The Scarlet Knights overloaded the right side of the line and bullied their way down the middle, proving that Maryland is missing something up front.
The bottom line
Maryland got the job done. The team went on the road for conference play and was able to dominate a team that they were supposed to beat.
This section of the Terps’ schedule provides more chances for the team to build a rhythm before facing off against some of the tougher Big Ten competition in the final four games.
The win over Rutgers was far from perfect, as there is plenty to work on and injuries to try and recover from, but Maryland opening as betting favorites against Purdue on the road is a positive sign that things are trending up.