Terps Football: Mid-Season Reset
With Maryland’s Week 6 matchup with Rutgers come and gone, the team’s season has officially hit the midway point. Despite the immense turmoil surrounding the program due to Jordan McNair’s death and the alleged “toxic culture,” the players have remained focused and currently boast a 4-2 (2-1 Big Ten Conference) record. Interim head coach Matt Canada and his staff have done a commendable job in an extremely difficult situation, and the team’s resiliency in the face of adversity has been a sight to behold. With the season halfway over, let’s take a look at where things stand for the Terrapins today.
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Despite their disappointing loss to Temple in Week 3, a 4-2 record after six weeks is about what most people expected for Maryland. While they were unable to offer much resistance to Michigan two weeks ago, they easily handled Minnesota and Rutgers in their other conference matchups.
Entering the season, the running game was expected to be this team’s biggest strength; thus far, that expectation has held up. They’re currently the 17th-best rushing offense in the country, averaging just over 245 yards on the ground per game. Ty Johnson and Anthony McFarland have led the way, both averaging over 8 yards per carry. Unfortunately for as good as Maryland’s rushing offense has been, their passing offense is one of the worst in all of college football. Led by redshirt freshman quarterback Kasim Hill, the team is averaging just over 120 yards through the air per game. There are only five other teams in the nation with worse passing offenses, and they all run the triple-option. While Hill has done a good job holding onto the ball, he’s completing just 53% of his passes on the year. If the Terrapins hope to compete against the upper echelon of this conference, they have to find a way to spark their passing game.
Defensively, defensive coordinator Andy Buh’s unit is quietly putting together a very impressive season. The team currently owns the 17th-best defense in the country, and have some of the best turnover numbers in all of college football. In fact, as a team the Terrapins have the 5th-best turnover margin in the nation. Graduate transfer linebacker Tre Watson has been a godsend for this defense, as he leads all tacklers with 60 so far this season. Do-it-all defensive back Antoine Brooks, Jr. continues to amaze with his athletic ability and nose for the football, as he leads the team in tackles for loss with 6.5. And Darnell Savage, Jr. keeps boosting his already impressive NFL resume, leading the team with 4 interceptions.
As a final note, true freshman kicker Joseph Petrino has been absolutely perfect so far this season. He’s converted all 25 extra points attempted, and is 5-for-5 on field goals with his longest coming from 40 yards. For a team that has struggled to find consistency in their kicking game since Brad Craddock’s graduation, Petrino looks like the answer for the next few years in College Park.
With 4 wins already under their belt, the Terrapins travel to Iowa for a tough road matchup against the #19 Hawkeyes. They’ll need 2 more wins to reach bowl eligibility, and those wins will likely have to come during the 3-game stretch starting at home next week against Illinois. After facing the Illini, they’ll remain at home to play Michigan State before hitting the road for a date with Indiana. With the team’s final 2 games coming against Ohio State and Penn State, their bowl chances will almost certainly be known by mid-November.
In a perfect world, simply reaching bowl eligibility wouldn’t be the benchmark for this team. Without all of the program’s turmoil, a 7- or 8-win season likely would have been the expectation. However given all that this team has been through in 2018, the ability to play in a postseason game would be an enormous accomplishment.
If Canada’s squad is to reach that 6-win plateau, beating Illinois and Indiana looks like the easiest path. Both teams have just 1 conference win, and it’s exactly who you think it is: Rutgers. Michigan State has had an odd season thus far, beating Penn State on the road last week but losing to Northwestern at home the week before.
The final thing to watch for the remainder of the year is whether or not the Terrapins can maintain close games with the likes of Ohio State, Penn State, and even Iowa. They were unable to do so against Michigan and as mentioned above, the lack of a passing game will make it nearly impossible to do much of anything against these blue blood Big Ten defenses. Keeping at least one or two of these games close into the fourth quarter would be an excellent building block for this team’s 2019 season.