Terps Grew From Victory Over FIU

Following their 42-28 win against the Golden Panthers, the Terps charge into ACC play.

Heading into their matchup with Florida International, the Terps took the cautious route – they knew FIU wasn’t a 0-2 team. Their close losses in competitive games with the likes of Rutgers and Texas A&M told a completely different story.

When the Terps were able to get going in all facets of the game – a revamped passing attack, a turnover-inducing defense and a special teams unit that you do not want to reckon with; it was exactly what their head coach needed to see.

“We were very pleased with the win on Saturday. We thought we played a very tough game, and I thought our kids really held in there and played w\ a lot of heart,” Ralph Friedgen said. “We made some plays when we had to make them both offensively and defensively, and on special teams.”

He also commented on the team’s ability to keep fighting late in the game, relentless in their efforts to make amends for their previous game.

“We kept answering and t hen later in the game, when it was easier for us to give in, we were able to fight through some adversity and finish a game. We could have given in; we were exhausted, and yet we didn’t. This is what it takes to win. This is how you grow. This is how you learn how to win.”

It was redshirt freshman Danny O’Brien at the quarterback position, leading the Terps’ offense to 250 yards and two scores through the air. The youngster, nonchalant in first career start, felt the experience provided “that extra level of comfort that I hadn’t had,” which will help to play in games.

For offensive coordinator James Franklin, O’Brien’s success was not a surprise, saying that his mentality and work ethic has really carried over onto the field.

“Some guys can do it in practice, but it doesn’t always translate to the game – the same poise, the same confidence, the same vision,” Franklin said. “I think he is pretty advanced for a freshman. We got to see if he can do it consistently.”

O’Brien’s favorite target, Torrey Smith, was hobbled in Saturday’s game by an apparent ankle injury minutes into the second half. Nonetheless, the Biletnikoff candidate refused to sit down, and made his presence known when he returned.

It was clear Smith was in pain, limping around his own end zone during his kickoff return duties, and again after his touchdown catch. Smith said he’d have to not be able to move or hurt his team to take himself out of the game, an attitude reminiscent of one Jim Brown to his coach.

“We’ve been calling Torrey [Smith] Jim Brown for years. If you watch that [touchdown] play, he’s running 4.3 [speed], flying down the sideline, and then all of a sudden, after he scores, his ankle’s like broke,” Franklin said.

But regardless, the O’Brien-Smith connection cannot thrive without the help of the offensive line, which was under intense examination following the injury to left tackle Justin Gilbert. R.J. Dill, his replacement who slid over from right tackle, anchored the line to what Friedgen called “a very competitive effort.”

“It wasn’t always perfect from a technique standpoint. I think we still got to get better there, but their effort – not letting Danny get hit – was pretty good,” Friedgen said, noting that in 27 of O’Brien’s attempts, he thought he was only hit twice. “

Defensively, the Terps allowed FIU to outgain them 472 to 419 in yardage, 355 of which came through the passing game. But in the process, their bend-and-not-break approach instills confidence in their defensive coordinator.

“When we needed three consecutive stops in the second half, late in third [quarter],” Don Brown said, referring to the consecutive interceptions by Adrian Moten and Trenton Hughes. “There’s three successive series where our character and our mental come through.”

The Terps’ defense has thrived when the opponent enters the red zone, ranked second nationally in allowing their opponents to score just over 55 percent of the time. As demonstrated by their play Saturday, Brown believes this can be the catalyst for improvement.

“When you got your back to the wall, we’re the best in the [ACC],” Brown said. “We’re still at a very formative stage. Wherever we are this week, I know we’ll be better three weeks from now. As long as health stays intact I know we’ll be better.”

The special teams’ effort, led by none other than punt returner Tony Logan, can be considered the spark to the Terrapins. What does he bring to the table? How about a little of everything? He’s a utility player, according to Friedgen, because of his ability to play so many positions and have a profound impact on the team.

“With the confidence he’s got in catching the ball, our guys are a little more motivated to hold those guys up and give him the chance. The whole team has kind of rallied behind him and really gone out of their way to set up some blocks because they know this guy is a dangerous guy who can take it back all the way,” Friedgen said. “The more success he has, the better he’s helping our football team.”

Following a conversation dating back to before the season began, Friedgen told Logan to focus on punt returns. He asked him to try and get 10 yards, and then it was up to him and his ability to make people miss. And against FIU, Logan’s 85-yard punt return exemplified exactly what his coach asked of him.

“I really feel like every time I get the ball that I can really make a big play,” Logan said. “[My teammates] always tell me when you get out there, we expect you to score all the time,” adding that is creates a momentum shift, in addition to boost of field position.

Come Saturday, the Terps hope to take the lesson they learned from the win over FIU and put it into play against their first ACC opponent. And of course, they’ll have the opportunity to grow even more in hopes of another win.

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