Terps' questions now include QB

Heading to 13th-ranked Georgia Tech on Saturday with a whole lot of questions, Maryland answered many of them with a great effort in Atlanta.

Of course the hard-fought 21-16 loss may have opened the door on a whole new set of queries for first-year coach Randy Edsall's program.

No. 1, who is Maryland's starting quarterback?

After struggling the last four weeks, 2010 ACC Rookie of the Year Danny O'Brien was benched in favor of sophomore C.J. Brown late in the first half, and Brown directed the team the entire second half.

"I just felt we needed a little bit of a spark so I went with C.J.," said Edsall. "We'll just go back and watch the film and move forward from there."

Brown, who really hadn't seen any meaningful playing time in his two seasons, came in and lit a fire with his legs rather than his arm. He rushed nine times for 124 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown scamper that got the Terps back in the game at 21-10 early in the fourth quarter.

He engineered another touchdown drive and had the team moving late before throwing back-to-back incompletions from the Maryland 46 on third and fourth down in the waning minutes.

O'Brien hit just 1-of-6 passes for 17 yards and an interception before giving way in the second quarter. Statistically as a passer, Brown wasn't a lot better, hitting just 4-of-17 for 36 yards, and also tossing a pick.

O'Brien and Brown combined for a 23.7 pass efficiency mark, and Maryland's biggest play in the air came via a flea flicker pass by wideout Tony Logan, good for 34 yards to Kevin Dorsey.

Brown didn't look like the answer in the passing game but he made enough plays to jump-start an offense that hasn't looked good in recent weeks -- struggling against Towson to score 28 points, posting just one touchdown in a home loss to Temple and playing well in just one half of the loss to West Virginia.

"I thought that he did give us a spark," said Edsall of Brown.

But now after a tough week of criticism after playing poorly in three straight games, the Terrapins (2-3 overall, 1-1 ACC) have opened a new Pandora's Box with the question at quarterback headed into next week's big home game with undefeated and 8th-ranked Clemson.

C.J. Brown, a more mobile quarterback for the Terps than Danny O'Brien, could present problems for Clemson's defense Saturday night at Byrd Stadium. (Getty Images)
MONDAY NOTES: The Maryland defense, last in the ACC in total yards allowed (412.5 per game) coming into the Georgia Tech contest, turned in the unit's best effort of the season. The Terps intercepted a pass, stopped the potent Yellow Jackets on downs once, and forced five punts. Two of Tech's touchdown drives started inside the Maryland 35-yard line.

The Jackets had 272 yards rushing out of their triple option offense but that was more than 100 yards below their nation-leading average coming in, and they were 30 points shy of their season scoring average, held to a season-low 21 points.

"They went out and executed the defensive game plan that the defensive coaches put together," said Edsall. "When you do that, that's what happens."

Georgia Tech QB Tevin Washington said the Terrapins were doing some things to confuse his reads in the option game.

* The Terrapins started four freshmen on defense Saturday. LB Mario Rowson, subbing for the injured Kenny Tate, joined DE Keith Bowers, MLB Lorne Goree and S Titus Till. When sophomore LB Demetrius Hartsfield was hurt early in the second half, another freshman, Alex Twine, stepped in. Bowers and Twine are both true freshmen.

* The Terrapins were just 4-of-13 on third down conversions, a continuing problem this season. Maryland came into the game 11th in the ACC, converting just 38 percent of those situations.

* Maryland had just one penalty against Georgia Tech, a five-yard false start on lineman Max Garcia. The Terrapins have committed just three penalties for 16 yards the last two games.

* Maryland lost to Georgia Tech in Atlanta for the fourth-straight time, and now trails in the all-time series 14-6. The Terps are just 1-9 at Bobby Dodd Stadium and haven't won there since 2001.

KEEP AN EYE ON: QB C.J. Brown -- Brown is a strapping physical specimen at 6-3, 200 pounds. The previous coaching staff lauded his progression in practices but Danny O'Brien's brilliant play had kept him on the bench.

Brown is a more nimble and athletic runner and puts the threat of the option into the offense, though he doesn't seem nearly as polished a passer as O'Brien (at the top of his game). Brown has earned a chance to play more, though, perhaps as a starter or at least situationally.

LOOKING GOOD: The defense -- Beleaguered defensive coordinator Todd Bradford's unit faced a huge challenge against the nation's top rushing attack and the No. 2 scoring offense in the country. Injuries forced three freshmen into the starting line-up, and ultimately, a fourth frosh on the field but the team showed discipline and skill in becoming the first team this season to somewhat diffuse the triple option.

DT Joe Vellano was brilliant. Fellow tackle A.J. Francis had one of his best games and DE David Mackall and LB Mario Rowson helped control the edges, a problem for the unit all season. S Eric Franklin continued his stellar play this year. The Yellow Jackets, who led the nation in passing efficiency coming in, were just 6-of-21 in the air.

STILL NEEDS WORK: Special Teams -- Woes on the kicking teams continued, Georgia Tech getting a big lift with a 79-yard kickoff return to open the second half after Maryland seemed to have momentum at the break. This season the Terps have had a punt and a field goal blocked, had a killer roughing-the-kicker penalty against West Virginia, and have consistently underachieved in the return game.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I would say that we would take a step forward. I think the guys learned that when you practice the way we practiced and play the way we did today, you put yourselves in a position to win. That's what we want to do." -- Coach Randy Edsall.

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