By: Eric Myers
In its first game of Big Ten play, Maryland’s offense did not make an appearance inside Minnesota’s 20-yard line, yet managed to score five touchdowns. The Terrapins’ quick-strike, big-play ability kept themselves out of the red zone, but led them to the end zone in a 42-13 rout over the Golden Gophers.
With seven plays that resulted in 20 or more yards, five of which were through the running game, interim head coach Matt Canada consistently put his offense in a position to pick up those chunk plays. This explosive offensive effort comes on the heels of a disappointing loss to Temple where the offense was held without a score and struggled throughout.
Maryland used six key offensive plays en route to their first Big Ten win in nearly 11 months.
Jeshaun Jones 27-yard run:
To understand how Maryland’s running game yielded three big plays on runs up the interior, we must first look at Jones’ 27-yard run on the second play of the game.
This season Canada has used the jet sweep motion that brings a player right behind the quarterback under center countless times. On this play, Jones came from the slot and took the jet sweep handoff. Minnesota linebacker Blake Cashman got to the outside, but hesitated while reading the fake as Jones ran past him.
Maryland tight end Noah Barnes’ block occupied two defenders on the edge, enabling Jones to cut inside his block untouched on his way to the 27-yard gain.
Anthony McFarland 26-yard touchdown run
With that long jet sweep fresh in the minds of Minnesota’s defenders, Maryland used that motion as a decoy later in their first drive of the game. On a second-and-2 play, Minnesota clearly anticipated a run play with six defenders deployed along the line of scrimmage.
This time Kasim Hill sent Tayon Fleet-Davis in motion and faked the jet sweep handoff. When Fleet-Davis went in motion, Minnesota’s defensive back Calvin Swenson matched his motion by running across the line of scrimmage, vacating the area where the play eventually ended up.
Left guard Sean Christie made a key block to open up the hole between the center and guard for McFarland to exploit. Right guard Terrance Davis, who made his first start of 2018 after starting all 12 games a season ago, got to the second level and “pancaked” Minnesota linebacker Thomas Barber.
After Davis’ block, McFarland cut to the outside and ran down the sideline. Wide receivers Taivon Jacobs and Jahrvis Davenport escorted McFarland down the sideline with two blocks in the secondary to spring the redshirt freshman for his first career touchdown.
Ty Johnson 81-yard touchdown run
Maryland lined up with an unbalanced line on this first-down play as Christie and tight end Avery Edwards were the only players to the left of the center, Brendan Moore. Minnesota’s linebackers shaded slightly towards the overloaded right side of the line of scrimmage. After the snap, the inside linebackers cheated towards McFarland on the fake jet sweep to that side.
Moore and Christie combined to open up a huge hole for Johnson with one-on-one blocks on Minnesota’s defensive linemen while Edwards takes the outside linebacker from catching Johnson from behind. As Johnson sprinted through that opening, Minnesota safety Jordan Howden aggressively charged up to attempt a tackle, but Johnson easily made him miss.
From there, Johnson was gone and outran everyone for the longest touchdown run of his collegiate career.
DJ Turner 54-yard touchdown reception
At this point in the game, Maryland had yet to convert a third-down opportunity and turned to the passing game on this third-and-5 play to move the chains.
After the snap, both of Minnesota’s outside linebackers looped their pass rushes to the interior and the protection quickly broke down in front of Hill. The redshirt freshman quarterback showed poise in the pocket by stepping up to evade the rush. Still, the outside linebacker recovered and looked poised to bring Hill down for the sack. But just before Hill’s knee touched the ground, he got the pass away.
Hill’s pass found the hands of Turner who was running a 15-yard crossing pattern. After the catch, the junior from DeMatha High School, broke two tackles and scored his first collegiate touchdown.
McFarland 64-yard touchdown run
The Terrapins offense once again used the jet sweet to keep the defense guessing. Fleet-Davis came in motion and carried out the fake that drew one of the middle linebackers to him. The other inside linebacker read the play and drifted towards the wrong gap, leaving McFarland with an opportunity to cut up field.
On this play, Davis was beat across his face on the interior by Minnesota defensive lineman O.J. Smith. With Smith’s presence disrupting McFarland’s initial read, the young running back used his vision to find a gaping cutback opportunity inside the block of backup offensive lineman Ellis McKennie.
McFarland used his blazing speed to run past everybody in the secondary for his second touchdown of the day.
Chiogoziem Okonkwo’s 21-yard touchdown run
Maryland’s final drive began with just over nine minutes remaining and the Terrapins holding a 35-13 lead. The home team repeatedly turned to the ground game to take time off the clock and cruise to the victory.
On the final play of the 13-play drive, Maryland lined up in a tight formation with three tight ends and two running backs. Okonkwo, one of the tight ends, lined up off the line of scrimmage, motioned behind Hill and received a handoff for just the second time this year.
Whether Minnesota’s defense expected Maryland to continue interior runs or didn’t expect the tight end to take the handoff, the linebackers cheated towards the inside run fake. Okonkwo took the carry around the line and inside the block on the outside by sophomore running back Javon Leake.
Barnes came from his tight end position to serve as a lead blocker for Okonkwo and got all the way to the safety 10 yards down the field. His block allowed Okonkwo to get down the sideline for Maryland’s first offensive touchdown by a tight end since Sept. 19, 2015.