Maryland’s Offense Struggles Mightly Against No. 19 Iowa

By: Eddie Hobbs

After a 34-7 victory over Rutgers last Saturday the Terrapins were riding high heading into Iowa but were quickly brought back to earth by getting shut out for the first time this season, with a 23-0 final score. Maryland’s defense continually gave its offense chances to capitalize early, but Maryland’s jet-sweep infused offense only made it to Iowa’s side of the field once in the entire game.

Iowa’s offense stayed on the field for an absurd 40:55, while Maryland’s offense was only able to muster 19:05. This trend isn’t new for Maryland, as they rank last in the Big Ten in time of possession, and 113 in the nation.

The key to this game was going to be how Maryland’s rushing attack fared against Iowa’s front seven, which is one of the better fronts in the nation. It didn’t start or finish well for the Terrapins, as they gained just 68 yards on the ground, and were forced to throw the football– something they haven’t done well all season besides the Texas game, which now feels like a distant memory.

Maryland’s passing game has the fewest attempts (134) and fewest completions (69) in the Big Ten along with the worst completion percentage (51.5).

With that, let’s take a look at what happened against Iowa on Saturday.

Tre Watson Interception

Stop me if you have heard this before: Tre Watson got his hands on an interception. On this play, Nate Stanley scanned the field before trying to step up in the pocket. Maryland’s interior linemen Oluwaseun Oluwatimi and Lawtez Rogers collapsed the pocket and made no room for Stanley once he moved up.

The rest was left up to Watson, who was in the right place at the right time, as Stanley threw the ball too high for T.J. Hockenson. That was Watson’s fourth pick this year, and he is now tied for second in the nation for the interceptions.

Kasim Hill First Pass

The first play call of the game for Maryland is a very good one, especially for Kasim Hill. The ball is snapped, and Hill immediately turns to his right, and that makes Djimon Colbert think Hill is going to pass to Ty Johnson out of the backfield.

Instead, Colbert leaves a gaping hole, which Jahrvis Davenport then fills and gains 12 yards on the first play of the game.  

This is good for two reasons: first, it keeps Iowa on its heels because they came into the game with its focus on Maryland’s rushing attack and it keeps them honest. Second, getting Hill in some kind of rhythm should be a priority for Maryland, especially with other Big Ten opponents coming up that the Terps will have to pass against in order to move the ball.

Third Down Fumble

Maryland had a successful jet-sweep on first down that gained a nice 7-yard chunk that was followed by an incomplete pass on second down.

On third down, center Brendan Moore snapped the ball that wasn’t perfectly placed for Hill and was snapped slightly to Hill’s left. Even though the snap wasn’t great, Hill still had a chance to catch it. The fumble caused Hill to sprint back to the ball and throw it out of bounds, halting Maryland’s first drive of the game, and wasted a chance to do something after Watson’s interception.

First Down False Start

On first down of Maryland’s second drive, Iowa just capped off a 17-play 72-yard drive and only came away with three points. The Terrapins’ defense had done a serviceable job against Iowa to that point by bending, but not breaking.

Against a ranked team on the road, Maryland couldn’t afford many mistakes, especially on offense. If the Terps get in long down situations, it doesn’t fare too well for them. It doesn’t help that Maryland commits 9.1 penalties per game, the second most in the Big Ten.

With the kind of offense that Maryland runs, they are susceptible to false start penalties because of all of the motions that go on before the ball is snapped. Here, veteran tackle Derwin Gray got a little bit of an early jump, and it set Maryland back five yards. After starting out in that five-yard hole, Maryland had two unsuccessful run plays, and a third-and-17 heave that was broken up by the Hawkeyes.

Kasim Hill Interception

At this point, Maryland’s defense continued to stop Iowa inside the 20-yard line. The Hawkeyes had driven down the field inside the red zone on two straight drives and were stopped on both, resulting in six total points.

Maryland got the ball back and had their most successful drive of the day with Hill completing two passes on this drive in particular. Facing a second-and-11, Hill attempted a pass to the far side of the field to true freshman Brian Cobbs. For the pass to be successful here Hill had to hit Cobbs over the top and near the sideline. Yet, the pass fell short for Cobbs and gave Amani Hooker an opportunity to make a play on the ball. It doesn’t help that Cobbs was blanketed and Hill stared down his receiver the whole way. It would have been better off for Hill to go to another read to get some yardage back to make it a manageable distance on third down..

Davenport Drop

After not scoring in the first half, Maryland’s offense needed to change the narrative in the second half in order to make the game competitive. Instead, the Terrapins went three-and-out on their first drive. Interim head coach Matt Canada has made it clear that he believes that he has two capable starting quarterbacks and decided to insert Tyrrell Pigrome into the game after the uninspiring first drive of the second half.

On the second drive of the second half, Maryland picked up six yards on a Pigrome rush, but quickly lost five yards after Anthony McFarland got stopped in the backfield. Pigrome was facing a third-and-9 in the shotgun and looking to his left for Davenport. The route looked like a 10-and-in just past the sticks, and it left Davenport open. Pigrome threw the ball right into his receiver’s hands, but Davenport looked to start running before making sure he completed the catch.

Just like that, Maryland had its second straight three-and-out to start the second half. Maryland’s defense had to go right back onto the field, and it felt as if the game was slipping away from the Terrapins after this play.

Pigrome Fumble

This was the most memorable play from Maryland’s loss against Iowa, and it’s for all of the wrong reasons. The play design was meant for a fake handoff on a jet-sweep around the right side of the line and then a subsequent handoff to Ty Johnson. Instead, Pigrome ran into Cobbs, dropped the ball, and kicked it into the end zone where Anthony Nelson then landed on the ball for the easiest touchdown of his collegiate career.

This felt like the end of the game, even though there was still 3:31 left in the third quarter.