By Giovanni Insignares
A 14-0 deficit was not enough to down the Maryland Terrapins, as they ferociously fought back and then prevented a late Iowa rally to advance to 5-2 on the season and 2-1 in conference play.
After being on the receiving end of a beat down by Ohio State two weeks ago, head coach Randy Edsall had nothing but praise for the way his players battled back to earn the victory.
“I’m just so proud of these kids,” Edsall said. “In terms of how they conduct themselves, how they handle themselves, how they just never say die and keep fighting, keep battling when we have some of our self-induced things out there on the field.”
With their third noon kickoff of the season, the Terps mirrored the slow starts that plagued them against West Virginia and Ohio State earlier this year.
On the first play from scrimmage, senior QB C.J. Brown was intercepted by DL Drew Ott, leading to an easy Iowa touchdown run by RB Mark Weisman five plays later to put the Hawkeyes up 7-0.
Maryland’s troubled start continued after WR Marcus Leak dropped a long touchdown bomb by Brown on the very next possession, resulting in the promising Terps’ drive ending in a punt.
The Hawkeyes would then increase their lead to 14-0 after an 80 yard touchdown drive was capped off by a two yard touchdown pass from Jake Ruddock to Henry Krieger Coble. At this point, Iowa threatened to run Maryland out of its own stadium on homecoming weekend.
However, the Terps seemed to learn from their previous mistakes as they slowly clawed their way back into the game
The rally was sparked in the second quarter when LB Yannik Ngakuoue, who finished the game with seven tackles, forced a fumble that would give Maryland the ball deep in Iowa territory and eventually set up a 43 yard field goal by Brad Craddock.
At that point, the Hawkeyes lead had been reduced to 14-10.
The Terps’ continued success against the Iowa defense would not end there, though. Maryland followed a quick Hawkeyes three-and-out with a six play, 44 yard drive punctuated by a one yard touchdown run by RB Wes Brown.
Maryland would take a 17-14 lead into halftime.
When asked after the game about how he felt about the team’s performance after the rough start, Edsall expressed his pleasure with the team’s resiliency.
“It is a group that understands that things will go wrong in a game and that it will not always be pretty, but what you have to do is just keep battling on each and every play,” Edsall said.
This fighting mentality was significantly tested into the third quarter when Brown suffered an injury scare and was motionless on the field. He would be helped off, but with backup QB Caleb Rowe already declared out for the season due to a torn ACL he suffered earlier in the week, the reins to the offense were handed to third stringer Perry Hills.
Facing his first playing time in two years, Hills performed his duties with ease. After settling in, Hills threw a short screen pass to WR Stefon Diggs, who took it 53 yards all the way to the end zone, putting the Terps up 24-14.
Diggs was the star of the game as he finished the day with nine catches for 130 yards and one touchdown.
Iowa was not to be undone, though, as another Weisman touchdown run late in the third quarter put them back into it, trailing Maryland only 24-21. However, CB Will Likely—who is known for his penchant of highlight reel plays—made sure his mark was felt.
As the fourth quarter rolled around, a poor throw by Rudock was easily intercepted by Likely, who had nothing but green grass in front of him as he raced into the end zone and pushed the lead back up to ten: 31-21.
The scoring then continued upon C.J. Brown’s return from his third quarter injury. A touchdown drive led by Brown and finished by Wes Brown’s second touchdown run of the game extended the Terps’ lead to 38-21.
C.J. Brown finished the game with 12 of 23 passing and two interceptions along with 21 carries for 120 yards.
Iowa made the game a bit more interesting toward the end by eventually cutting the Maryland lead back 38-31 and having the ball on their own 20 yard line with 59 seconds to go. However, any hope they had at sending the game to overtime was dashed when they failed to convert a fourth down.
Despite the wild nature of the game, the team was all smiles after securing the 38-31 victory.
““It was crazy….to be up that big, and they get the on side, it definitely did not need to be that close,” C.J. Brown said. “Our defense was able to shut it down at the end and get the ‘W’.”
Ultimately, Edsall and the Terps know that they cannot keep faltering early and expect to pull out victories, but they are still more than satisfied with how they have responded in tight situations.
“A bunch of guys stepped up that maybe haven’t been playing a whole bunch and it just seems like this group really grasped that team concept, that team pride and they love each other,” Edsall said. “They want to play hard for each other, they want to do it for each other; and when you have that, you get the results that you got today.”
Maryland will look to continue their winning ways at Wisconsin on Saturday, October 26. Kickoff is scheduled for noon.