By: Eddie Hobbs
Last Saturday, Maryland football defeated the Texas Longhorns for the second year in a row by a final score of 34-29. The game was a focal point for the Terps as they wanted to start the season on a good note.
It would be easy for Maryland to overlook Bowling Green after its big win against a top 25 team. I will go over how they beat Texas and what Maryland needs to do against Bowling Green to avoid a letdown.
Kasim Hill Looked Comfortable
With the return of Kasim Hill, a pro-style quarterback, leading the Maryland offense, everything fell into place. Interim head coach Matt Canada implemented his new offense for Maryland and while there normally growing pains with a new playbook, the Terps showed no signs of unfamiliarity with the plays. On the first drive of the game, Maryland marched down the field for a six play, 67-yard drive to take an early 7-0 lead over Texas.
The biggest takeaway from last Saturday’s contest against Texas was that the team committed no turnovers. There was one play in the end zone where Hill and Jake Funk had an awkward handoff and resulted in the ball falling to the turf. Funk was able to hop on top of the ball for a Texas safety, but other than that mishap, the Terps had no other miscues with the ball.
Hill went 17-of-29 for 222 yards and one touchdown. When Hill would scramble out of the pocket he looked like he is missing some explosiveness that he showed last season, but the redshirt freshman is sporting a bulky knee brace after his torn ACL he suffered a season ago.
The Running Game was… Efficient*
The asterisk next to “efficient” signifies that the running game was very good, but mainly with wide receivers. Leading rushers from last season, Ty Johnson, Lorenzo Harrison III and Jake Funk combined for 26 yards. The one bright spot with the running back group was Tayon Fleet-Davis, who busted off a go-ahead 17-yard touchdown run that wound up being the winning score.
The Texas defensive front did its job and stymied Maryland’s running game up front. What was the difference for the Terps was that they ran plenty of jet sweeps to stretch out the defense. They even ran the same plays back-to-back when they were effective.
Receivers Stepped up
When DJ Moore entered into the NFL Draft this offseason, Maryland was left with a gaping hole in their receiving group. After Saturday’s game against Texas, the Terps are less worried about the group now, than they were a week prior. A ton of thanks goes to true freshman Jeshaun Jones.
Jones had a passing touchdown, a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown on his first three touches. No one in their first career game has done that in at least the last 20 seasons, according to ESPN.
The rest of the group took a step in the right direction as well. Taivon Jacobs had five receptions for 73 yards and one touchdown while DJ Turner and Jahrvis Davenport chipped in for a good all-around effort.
The Defense Showed up Big Time
The biggest question mark was going to be how the defensive group would look after an underwhelming 2017 season. The unit featured a new linebacking corps as well as new players along the defensive front.
The strongest group coming into the year was the defensive backs, who proved their case on Saturday. The group gave up a few big plays to Texas’ star receiver Collin Johnson, but the overall did a great job of blowing up bubble screens for little to no yardage.
The biggest takeaway from the defense was that they forced Texas to cough up the ball and were able to get off the field on third downs. Texas converted just three first downs the entire game, while also committing three turnovers.
One of those turnovers turned out to be the game-sealing interception for Antoine Brooks Jr. Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger heaved a wild pass on third down, and Brooks leaped high in the air and came down with the ball.
What Maryland Has to do to Beat Bowling Green
Bowling Green is coming off a huge 58-24 loss against No. 24 Oregon. While the Falcons lost big in Oregon, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have players that can hurt you.
Scott Miller hauled in two touchdown passes for Bowling Green. Miller racked up 13 receptions for 166 yards and two touchdowns. Look for Maryland to keep an extra eye on Miller throughout the game. He boasts a very quick first step, and also has the speed to separate from defensive backs.
“They [Bowling Green] do a lot of things that make it challenging for you,” Canada said. “They have a new defensive coordinator, guy who has coached a long time… A very good football team.”
Maryland must keep up the intensity on the defensive side of the ball if they want to win this game and avoid a letdown. The Terps did drop their second game of the season in 2015 in a 48-27 loss against the Falcons. Maryland rolled against Richmond 50-21 in their home opener and got embarrassed the very next week while Randy Edsall was at the helm.
Expect Ty Johnson and Lorenzo Harrison to get it going against Bowling Green. Oregon was able to rush for 212 yards against the Falcons, and Maryland has too good of a backfield to struggle for another week.