Follow Sam on Twitter
COLLEGE PARK, Md. Rollercoasters are fun, except when it comes to football.
But the Maryland football team seems to find itself in just that position – riding the peaks of the opener over Miami, falling into the troughs into a emotionless first half against West Virginia and a beatdown at the hands Temple, then once against climbing the tracks after a 28-3 bounce back victory against Towson.
The test now, for Randy Edsall, is to maintain that momentum.
"I learned that if we go out and execute, we have a chance to be a good football team and win games," Edsall said Tuesday during his weekly press conference. "I saw a team on defense that was opportunistic and created four turnovers. Our team saw that if we don't give turnovers on offense and commit penalties we give ourselves an opportunity to win. What we need to continuously do now is to practice and keep getting better in all phases of the game."
The Terps defense came out firing after halftime, exacting four turnovers that translated into 14 points. And after a first half that included a missed field goal, a turnover on downs and a punt in four possessions, Danny O'Brien was able to throw for two touchdowns.
In the second half battle, Maryland won 21-0. But it's a four-quarter contest, especially as they prepare for one of the most efficient offenses in college football.
Georgia Tech is a master of its craft, the triple-option. Junior quarterback Tevin Washington is orchestrating the best rushing offense in the country (387.2 yards per game), the most efficient passing attack (260.5) and No. 2 scoring team (51.6 points per game).
So with arguably eight quarters of well-executed football through four games, the Terps must figure out what drives their success.
"Look at your strong points and you look at your low points, and try to build the low points and play on your strong points," senior offensive guard Andrew Gonnella said. "We keep saying we're always moving forward. We let some opportunities slip this season. We had more control over them than we realized, but that's in the past now. We have an opportunity to go 2-0 in the ACC and that's what we're focused on right now."
Defensively, the Terps struggle to get off the field on third downs. Ranked at the bottom of the conference, opposing offenses are converting more than 48 percent of third-down attempts.
Edsall was out of ideas on how to solve the issue, saying he's tried a little bit of everything when it comes to schemes. Max pressure? Nope. A simple five-man rush? Nope. Max coverage? Nope.
What the head coach decided is that it's not the scheme that's t he problem; it's the execution.
"There's nothing more than we can do from the standpoint of trying to bring different looks in those situations. We've just got to get better in terms of playing the responsibilities with those calls that were making."
On the offense, the success stemmed by the classic concept of balance. O'Brien has attempted 150 passes already, on pace to nearly double last year's total.
With defenses like Towson plotting to eliminate the pass, the Terps turned to their running game. The 198 total rushing yards last week was a season-high, and included a three-back rotation of Davin Meggett, D.J. Adams and Justus Pickett.
In the Terps' wins and losses, the offense averaged the same amount of passing yardage. In two wins, thought, the Terps have 116 more yards of the ground, keeping the offense less predictable and opposing defenses on their toes.
"In the ACC with a lot of great defenses, you can't get too one-sided. We're going to have to establish the run in all of our games," O'Brien said. "The line loves that. The line loves running the ball first because they take a lot of pride in the run game…We have a lot of playmakers outside when we set up the run.
It begins with practice, as O'Brien, Edsall and a number of the Terps repeated throughout the day, as every day becomes an opportunity to work and improve. Edsall believes each week his team has a chance to be better than the week prior, and his quarterback suggested a win against the Yellow Jackets would be a good first step.
"We have a tough stretch, we know that," O'Brien said. "Getting this one is the next step to winning the ACC title…It starts with this one."