After an offensive onslaught against Howard, Maryland entered Saturday’s game against then-No. 21 Syracuse looking to prove it meant business on the field against a respectable opponent.
The Terrapins, now ranked No. 21 themselves, certainly did their job on both sides of the ball, finishing the 63-20 win with 650 yards while also holding the Orange to just 70 yards on the ground and a 40 percent conversion rate on third down.
Here’s a look at what the Terps did right against the Orange.
Maryland kicked off the game, and despite an early penalty, was able to shut down Syracuse on its first drive. Wide receiver DJ Turner’s fair catch after the three and out left Maryland with 67 yards to drive on its first possession, which ended up being nothing.
Offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery and the Maryland offense were able to use a run-pass option deception on second and seven, where quarterback Josh Jackson hit wide receiver Darryl Jones for a 40-yard gain. The Orange linebackers keyed in on running back Anthony McFarland Jr., stepping up and leaving open space across the middle for the completed pass.
Maryland recognized this mistake quickly and decided to hustle back to the line — snapping the ball just 15 seconds later — when Jackson found wide receiver Carlos Carriere open with a similar play call, but fit the ball through a tighter window.
The philosophy was also used towards the end of Maryland’s third drive, as the team quickly rushed to the line after completing a pass inside the five yard line and handed it off to running back Javon Leake to make it a 21-7 lead.
Throwing in an up-tempo set as seen in the beginning of this one helped the offense gain momentum and make the most of a defense trying to correct itself. The Terps have attempted to manufacture an up-tempo offense in the past, but sprinkling in the system when a mismatch is discovered always works better than forcing it into an offense struggling to lay down groundwork.
Utilizing skill players in different ways
One of the key lessons and philosophies that head coach Mike Locksley learned at Alabama was the importance of putting your best skill players on the field in whatever ways give your team an advantage.
The Terrapins have quite the wealth at running back, which was utilized well in 2018 through Matt Canada’s offense full of jet sweeps and misdirection plays. Locksley and his staff found a way to utilize a similar personnel grouping — with three running backs on the field at once — which resulted in Leake ripping off a 64-yard touchdown run.
At the bottom of the screen, McFarland is set out wide with fellow running back Jake Funk taking place of the slot receiver. This skill and size mismatch — compared to having two wideouts in those positions — resulted in Syracuse defensive back Trill Williams guarding the edge, safety Andre Cisco stepping in over the top and linebacker Lakiem Williams dropping back in coverage.
Having these playmakers in an unusual set forced the defense to account for all possibilities, and with Leake making one man miss, it was just enough to keep those defenders from rushing over to make a play.
Defense making a statement
It’s obviously difficult for a team that pitched a shutout in week one to get any better, but Maryland certainly showed why its defense could be a threat moving forward.
Defensive coordinator Jon Hoke used a number of different rushes and sets that threw Syracuse off, but the rushing defense was the key. Allowing just 2.4 yards per carry, the Maryland defense forced redshirt sophomore quarterback Tommy DeVito to try and beat them with his arm, which was a key mentioned in our film breakdown of the Orange.
As seen during the second quarter play that resulted in Jordan Mosely’s interception, the Maryland defense did well sending pressure in off of the edge making DeVito uncomfortable and even flushing him out of the pocket.
The Terrapins would score off that interception while also scoring in the first quarter after forcing and recovering a fumble by DeVito as he tried to escape from a collapsing pocket.
Pairing that pressure with solid coverage at the second and third levels of the defense made things difficult for DeVito, resulting in just a 40 percent conversion rate on third down, three failed fourth down tries and the second quarter interception.
Going against an offense that uses the passing game to open up the running game, holding the Orange to 70 yards on the ground proves just how effective the Maryland defense was. 330 yards of passing from Syracuse may seem like a lot, but when the fact that they attempted 41 passes gets thrown into the mix, the numbers add up to a stand-up performance by the Terrapins.