Terps Football: 5 Thoughts Before Maryland/Minnesota
Opponent: Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-0, 0-0 Big Ten Conference)
Location: Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium (51,802)
Date: Saturday, September 22, 2018
Time: 12:00 PM ET
TV/Radio Broadcasts: Big Ten Network, Maryland Sports Radio Network
Series Record: 2-1 Maryland
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The Maryland Terrapins enter conference play this week with a 2-1 record, as many people would have predicted before the season began. However, after beating Texas in Week 1, a 3-0 record seemed all but inevitable. Their surprising loss to Temple last week put a damper on what had been a stellar start to the year for a program undergoing so much turmoil off the field. They’ll need to regroup quickly as the schedule gets no easier from here.
1. What Happened Last Week?
The Temple Owls entered last week with an 0-2 record featuring home losses to Villanova and Buffalo. In most major statistical categories, they ranked as one of the worst teams in college football. However, Geoff Collins’ squad traveled down to College Park and outplayed the Terrapins in every facet of the game, winning by a score of 35-14.
Head coach Matt Canada’s team couldn’t do much of anything right. Temple dominated time of possession, and Maryland couldn’t stay on the field (1-for-12 on third downs.) While the Owls came in with one of the most lackluster pass rushing units in the country, they racked up 7 sacks while the Terrapins had none. With results from the investigation into Jordan McNair’s death set to be released less than 24 hours before this weekend’s game, the team will have yet another obstacle to overcome in order to pick up their first conference win.
2. The Need For Balance (and Speed)
After annihilating Bowling Green on the ground in their previous game, most people expected Canada to be able to do similar things to Temple’s similarly small defensive line. However, it wasn’t until late in the second half that they found any success in the running game. Ty Johnson ran for just 23 yards in the game, and Tayon Fleet-Davis had just one attempt. Anthony McFarland had the only good day offensively, running for just over 100 yards and averaging nearly 10 yards per carry.
Canada’s offense will need to find much better balance if they hope to compete in conference play. Having no answers for Temple’s defensive scheme isn’t a good sign as they face the likes of Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State. Getting into a solid offensive rhythm has to be the first priority, and you can’t go 1-for-12 on third downs and hope to get into any sort of groove. Look for Canada to get Kasim Hill going early with some easy, quick throws while supplementing that with some quick runs and tempo. Think less, score more.
3. Run Defense?
Maryland’s run defense was one of the biggest concerns heading into the year, but excellent performances against Texas and Bowling Green had put many of those concerns to rest. However, after Temple was able to run for 165 yards and 2 touchdowns on them, it’s hard to know what to expect as conference play begins. Of course to be fair to the defense, they were on the field a lot more than they should’ve been due to the offense’s inability to sustain drives. The Golden Gophers’ offense has been fairly balanced to this point in the year, but forcing their true freshman walk-on quarterback to make plays himself ought to be a priority on Saturday afternoon.
4. Rowing the Boat
Minnesota is coming off of wins over New Mexico State, Fresno State, and Miami (OH) in their non-conference slate, and need just 3 more wins to reach bowl eligibility in head coach P.J. Fleck’s second year. As mentioned above their signal-caller is true freshman walk-on Zack Annexstad, who is completing just over 55% of his passes on the year with 4 touchdowns and no interceptions. Fellow freshman Bryce Williams is the team’s top running back, and ran for over 140 yards against Miami (OH) last week. Minnesota’s top red-zone threat is wide receiver and Wildcat quarterback Zack Green, who has already racked up 5 total touchdowns this season.
Defensively, Fleck’s team is led by their stellar run defense, which has been one of the best in the country through three games. They’ve also had good success finding the end zone themselves, scoring 3 defensive touchdowns already.
5. Minor Injuries
While the Terrapins haven’t suffered the major injuries people have become accustomed to yet this season, some of their smaller injuries have begun to rack up. Against Temple the team was without both of its starting offensive tackles (Derwin Gray and Damian Prince), and two of its running backs (Lorenzo Harrison III and Jake Funk.) All 4 of these players were set to play major roles for this team, and while most of them are expected to return shortly, it’s nonetheless hurt offensive continuity to start the year.