By: Eric Myers
Maryland’s transition from an offseason characterized by tragedy and turmoil leads them to FedEx Field for a matchup with No. 23 Texas.
After the Terps upset the Longhorns at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in 2017’s season opener, Maryland will look to begin this year’s campaign in similar fashion.
Interim head coach Matt Canada will man the sideline in place of D.J. Durkin, who remains on administrative leave amid allegations of the toxic culture within the program. Canada, who is in his first year at Maryland after spending a year as offensive coordinator at LSU, will maintain his focus on the offensive side of the football.
“I’m really focused on being the offensive coordinator most of the time, that’s my job,” Canada said. “[I’m] certainly more involved with the players on defense, trying to get around them, letting them know I’m there, I’m available, that’s a different situation when you’re just the offensive coordinator… our staff’s working very hard, we’re sticking together.”
In last year’s thrilling win over Texas, Maryland tallied 51 points and 482 yards. Canada’s offense will look drastically different from the system employed by former offensive coordinator Walt Bell, who departed for the same position at Florida State. Canada’s offensive scheme includes a bevy of pre-snap motion and movement and is more of a pro-style system.
Maryland’s offense will be led by either redshirt freshman Kasim Hill or redshirt sophomore Tyrrell Pigrome, both of whom are returning from season-ending knee surgeries in 2017.
Pigrome started against Texas last year and rebounded nicely from an interception returned for a touchdown on the opening possession. Pigrome completed 9-of-12 passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 64 yards and a touchdown before tearing his ACL.
Hill entered the game in relief and helped the Terps maintain their lead and complete their upset bid.
In order to win back-to-back matchups over Texas, Maryland’s quarterback will need the help of their deep stable of running backs. In last year’s victory over Texas, the Terps rushed for 263 yards and registered four touchdowns on the ground, with Ty Johnson recording 132 yards and a touchdown on just 12 carries.
Defensively, Maryland will look to improve their showing against Texas after allowing 41 points and 473 yards. Defensive linemen Byron Cowart and Jesse Aniebonam will pursue Texas’ starting quarterback Sam Ehlinger and try to fluster the sophomore signal caller.
Special teams played a major role in last season’s back-and-forth affair as Maryland returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown and Texas took a punt return for a touchdown. Both special teams units will try to be sharper in the third facet of the game.
Led by head coach Tom Herman, Texas has presumably been looking towards a chance for revenge against the same Maryland team who spoiled Herman’s anticipated debut.
Against Texas, the Terps look to extend their streak to nine consecutive wins in season openers. The game also offers a chance to put the tumultuous offseason behind them and shift their attention to playing football.
“We’re excited that it’s game week and we get to play somebody else,” Canada said at Tuesday’s media availability. “We’re as ready as we can be given the situation we’re in.”