Terps Football: 5 Thoughts Before Maryland/Bowling Green
Opponent: Bowling Green Falcons (0-1, 0-0 Mid-American Conference)
Location: Doyt Perry Stadium (23,724)
Date: Saturday, September 8, 2018
Time: 6:00 PM ET
TV/Radio Broadcasts: ESPN+, Maryland Sports Radio Network
Series Record: 1-0 Bowling Green
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For the second straight season, the Maryland Terrapins overcame their double-digit underdog status to beat the #23 Texas Longhorns. Led by a stellar performance by true freshman WR Jeshaun Jones and three late turnovers forced by the defense, the team got their 2018 season off to an excellent start. Interim head coach Matt Canada and his squad travel up to Bowling Green this weekend to face the Falcons, who are fresh off of a loss at the hands of #24 Oregon.
1. Here We Are Again…But Healthy!
Last season’s win over Texas was an enormous one for Maryland’s football program, but was tinged a bit with Tyrrell Pigrome and Jesse Aniebonam both suffering season-ending injuries during the game. This year, the team didn’t suffer any major injuries whatsoever and will head into their second week with a fully healthy slate of quarterbacks. Beating Texas sets this team up very well, as they face Bowling Green and Temple to finish off their non-conference slate. Their conference schedule is much more forgiving this year, facing Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois as their cross-division opponents.
2. Two Quarterbacks
With practices being so closed-off to the public and the media this summer, no one really knew what to expect from Canada’s unit when they took the field on Saturday afternoon. Most people expected Kasim Hill to start under center, and he did. However, Tyrrell Pigrome saw plenty of time as well. In the end, Hill finished with a 17-for-29 line with 222 yards, 1 touchdown, and no interceptions; he also had 10 yards rushing. Pigrome completed 3 of his 4 attempts for 22 yards, and added 12 yards on the ground. It’ll be interesting to see how Canada utilizes his two signal-callers moving forward. If they can get out to leads against Bowling Green and Temple, we may see more of Pigrome than we did on Saturday.
3. Should We Worry About the Running Game?
As a team, Maryland ran the ball for 143 yards on Saturday, averaging just 3.1 yards per carry. Star running back Ty Johnson struggled to do much of anything, carrying the ball 11 times for 30 yards. Tayon Fleet-Davis had the most success on the ground, averaging 4.4 yards per carry. The team had very little success running between the tackles against the Longhorns’ defense, with most of their success coming on jet and fly sweeps.
With so little success from what was supposed to be such a talented backfield, it’s easy to wonder whether there should be some concern in College Park. However, it’s important to realize what Texas’ defense was doing. After allowing Maryland to run all over them last season, defensive coordinator Todd Orlando put defenders over the Terrapins’ center and both guards, essentially selling out to stop the inside run. They weren’t going to allow Johnson to beat them again, and he didn’t. Look for Canada to run the ball inside a lot against Bowling Green and Temple, both teams with smaller defensive lines. If the Terrapins can’t get their running game going in those two games, then it’ll be time to worry.
4. Let’s Talk Defense
Most of the talk after Maryland’s victory was about the offense, and rightly so with all of the excellent performances. However, it was the team’s defense that eventually won the game with three crucial turnovers on the Longhorns’ final three drives. Two interceptions by Tre’ Watson and Antoine Brooks, Jr., and a forced fumble by Tino Ellis overcame the offense’s late struggles to seal the win for Maryland.
The team’s run defense was very good, holding the Longhorns to less than 4 yards per carry and 142 total yards. They overcame Texas’ up-tempo offense, and were stellar on third downs, allowing conversions on just 3 of 15 attempts. While Sam Ehlinger did some damage with his arm, Maryland’s defense bottled him up on the ground, allowing him to run for just 30 total yards. For a team that struggled so much last season with mobile quarterbacks and on third down, many are hoping that this game bodes well for the future this season.
5. Jeshaun Jones…
When Jones committed to Maryland on National Signing Day this winter, I don’t think anyone expected him to set school and national records in his first collegiate game. But by the middle of the second quarter against Texas, Jones had already caught, run for, and thrown for touchdowns on each of his first three touches. He earned Big Ten co-freshman of the week honors, and his role in Canada’s offense will only grow with performances like we saw on Saturday. His ability to play outside or inside, to catch and carry (and throw) the ball will make him an integral part of this diverse system.