Terps Football: 5 Thoughts Before Maryland/Temple
Opponent: Temple Owls (0-2, 0-0 American Athletic Conference)
Location: Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium (51,802)
Date: Saturday, September 15, 2018
Time: 12:00 PM ET
TV/Radio Broadcasts: Big Ten Network, Maryland Sports Radio Network
Series Record: 7-1 Maryland
(Discuss this article on the BSL Message Board here.)
Fresh off of a blowout win over Bowling Green, the Terrapins return home to face 0-2 Temple in their third and final non-conference game. The Owls have lost to Villanova and Buffalo thus far, and this will be their first road trip of 2018. This certainly hasn’t been an ideal start to the season for them, especially having been bowl eligible in each of the last four years. These two teams last met in 2012, when Maryland topped Temple 36-27 in Philadelphia behind a strong performance by true freshman quarterback Perry Hills in his second collegiate game.
1. Running Wild
Kindly disregard my third thought from last week’s game preview, when I wondered whether we should worry about Maryland’s running game given their struggles against Texas. The Terrapins ran for a whopping 444 yards against Bowling Green, with 8 different players carrying the ball. They scored 5 of their 6 touchdowns on the ground, and had 4 touchdown drives where they didn’t attempt a single pass. It should obviously be noted that the Eagles’ run defense is one of the worst in the country, but it was impressive nonetheless to watch Maryland’s offensive line absolutely manhandle their opponents in bad weather on the road. Temple’s run defense has been a bit better so far this season, with opponents averaging just over 150 yards rushing per game against them. Look for interim head coach Matt Canada to establish the run early and often on Saturday afternoon to get his offensive line into a rhythm.
2. You’ve Been Stuffed
For as good as Maryland’s rushing attack was, their run defense was almost as impressive. Defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh’s unit stuffed everything that came their way last weekend, allowing just 15 yards on the ground. The Eagles averaged less than a yard per carry, and were forced to turn to their passing game more than they would have liked in the poor weather conditions. The Terrapins’ run defense has been one of the better ones in the country thus far, allowing an average of just 78.5 yards on the ground per game and less than 3 yards per carry. Temple’s rushing offense has been just as poor as Bowling Green’s in 2018, so it’s safe to assume Brumbaugh and his defensive linemen are licking their chops as they prepare for this game.
3. Let’s Talk Offensive Scheme
When Canada was hired to be Maryland’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach during the offseason, fans were promised an offense full of misdirection and motion. However, with so little media availability during the summer following the death of Jordan McNair, we had very little insight into what this offense would actually look like in College Park. Through two games, I’ve been very impressed with Canada’s scheme and play-calling.
Canada’s offense is built around three primary plays: downhill runs with his running backs, sweep runs with his wing backs, and play-action passes off of both runs. The goal for him is to force a defense to pick one of his runs to stop, and he’ll then turn to the other. Against Texas, he dialed up more sweeps since their defense was selling out to stop the inside run after being demolished by Ty Johnson last season. He also utilized Tyrrell Pigrome a bit more behind center to run some option plays in an attempt to soften up the middle. Last weekend, he was able to call a lot more downhill runs with Johnson and Lorenzo Harrison III, who each averaged over 10 yards per carry. However, when the Eagles caught on later in the game, he moved to more sweep runs with Tayon Fleet-Davis, who finished with over 100 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns. If a defense decides to load the box and take away both runs, he’ll hit them over the top with a play-action pass. This is the beauty of Canada’s system. With solid execution, he’ll have an answer to just about anything a defense decides to do.
4. Antoine Brooks, Jr. – Beast Mode
I said it last season, and I’ll say it again: Antoine Brooks, Jr. is the most athletic player on the roster for Maryland. In 2017, he started all but one game for the Terrapins and finished second on the team in total tackles. He was an Honorable Mention All-Big Ten, and led all defensive backs in the conference in tackles for loss.
Not only is Brooks, Jr. freakishly athletic, he may also be the team’s best pure tackler. He’s currently second on the team in tackles, and first in tackles for loss. Defensive coordinator Andy Buh has used him as a blitzer a lot this season, and while he only has 0.5 sacks thus far, he’s a constant presence in the opponent’s backfield. He’s also excellent in coverage with a nose for the ball, and his toe-tapping sideline interception against Texas sealed the victory for Maryland. Not bad for a high school quarterback.
5. Looking Towards October
With non-conference play set to wrap up after Saturday’s game, the Terrapins head into a mercifully lighter conference schedule next week. They’ll begin at home against Minnesota, with a bye week before travelling to Michigan. Rutgers, Iowa, and Illinois round out their October opponents, which may give the team a good chance to become bowl eligible before running the November gauntlet of Michigan State, Indiana, Ohio State, and Penn State. While bowl eligibility ought to be more of a baseline for this year’s team, reaching that mark sooner rather than later is always advantageous.