GAME PREVIEW: MD vs. UCONN

Find out what you need to know as Maryland gets ready to take on the Huskies Saturday.

Maryland (4—8) at Connecticut (3 —9)


Time: 7:34 p.m., Rentschler Field , East Hartford, Conn.
TV/Radio: ESPN, Terrain Sports Radio Network
Series: Series is tied 1-1
Last meeting: Sept. 15, 2012, Connecticut won 24-21
Coaches: Maryland — Randy Edsall (3rd Season 8-18); Connecticut — Paul Pasqualoni (3rd season 10-15)

Storyline Central


  • The RETURN — Maryland head coach Randy Edsall returns to East Harford, where he began his coaching career as the head coach of the Huskies back in 1999. Edsall left rather abruptly in successful 2010 season that took the Huskies all the way to the Fiesta Bowl. There are several coaches still on Edsall's staff who were with him at Connecticut, including outside linebackers coach Lyndon Johnson (also a UConn alum). UConn is coming off an embarrassing loss to FCS-contender Towson, 33-18. There is nothing that could boost moral more then defeating the Huskies former head coach Randy Edsall to get UConn back on track. However, that will be MUCH easier said then done.


  • New Crew— UConn has one of the top defenses in 2012, the Huskies were ninth in total defense (309.92 yards per game, 15th in tackles for loss (7.33 per game), 18th in sacks (2.72 per game), 36th in pass defense (212 yards per game) and 19th in scoring defense (19.83 points per game). Unfortunately, the Huskies' defense was hit hard by graduation and does not appear to be at the same elite level without defensive coordinator Don Brown, who joined Steve Addazio's staff at Boston College. The evidence? Towson put up 393 yards of total offense, including a 156-yard, two-touchdown performance by Tigers' running back Terrance West.


  • Terp Talk


    • Is the curse over? — Maryland's offense is off to a historic start as it had totaled 576 yards and 587 yards in the first two games. This is the first time since 1982 that Maryland has had back-to-back games with over 500 yards. In addition, Maryland's 43 points against FIU and 47 points against ODU mark the first time in program history Maryland have eclipsed the 40-point mark in consecutive games to open the season.


    • Too many options — The offense has showed a lot of versatility through the first two games. Against FIU, it was C.J. Brown completing 20-of-23 passes for 281 yards, and running for 105 yards; against ODU he went 14-of-22 for 275 yards and he ran in two touchdowns. Stefon Diggs, Deon Long, Nigel King, and Levern Jacobs are all dangerous wide outs, and Brown has proven if one is taken away he only has to look to one of the other talented receivers.


    • Ross is off and running— After being held to just 30 yards in the season-opener Brandon Ross ran for a career-high 149 yards against ODU. Albert Reid has also been silently picking up steam, forcing the defense to choose between picking up Ross or Brown, both of which have proven they can pick up serious yards on the ground. A well-established run game will only help to open up the receivers and the passing game as well.

    • The Bottom Line— Is actually Maryland's front line. The Terps have been haunted by the numbers and followed by questions regarding the offensive line all off-season. Randy Edsall has taken a new approach: putting the five best players on the line. The result? Former right tackle, then left tackle, Michael Dunn, is starting at right guard and former back up left tackle Ryan Doyle, is starting at right tackle. Mike Madaras and De'Onte Arnett return to their respective positions at left tackle and guard, while Sal Conaboy will anchor down the line at center. So far there have been some improvements up front, however the line has not really been exposed yet because of the competition the Terps were facing. UConn's pass rush might not be the most threatening but it should be somewhat more substantial than FIU or ODU.


    Behind Enemy Lines:


      The Front Line— Connecticut's offensive line is made up solely of fourth and fifth year veterans, although looking at the numbers against Towson, you wouldn't know it. Looking at the numbers from UConn's opener-five sacks, only 84 rushing yards-could be somewhat deceiving. While the Huskies are far from stellar up front, they were playing without probably their best lineman, senior right tackle Kevin Friend (6'6, 317), who was out with a concussion. Friend will be back for the game on Saturday. Friend's return might not be the only change along UConn's starting line Saturday. Keep an eye on the center position. Junior Alex Mateas (#73, 6'4, 315) won the battle for the starting spot against Towson, but red-shirt senior Tyler Bullock (#50, 6'4, 316) could get the nod against the Terps. Bullock started eight games for the Huskies last season. Two red shirt seniors anchor the left side of the line with Jimmy Bennett (6'9, 309) at left tackle and Steve Greene returns as the starter at left guard.

      McRunning backs — Junior running back Lyle McCombs led UConn's lackluster rushing attack against Towson. McCombs did manage to pick up 76 yards on 17 carries against Towson, although that is probably not quite the start he was hoping for.

      Under Center — Junior quarterback Chandler Whitmer returns for his second year as the Husky starter, however he looked a little bit like a rookie in game one. Whitmer was 16 of 28 passing for 206 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The most unflattering stats from game 1? That has to be his -26 rushing yards. Whitmer ‘s 2012 numbers, 2, 665 passing yards, 58 % competition percentage provide evidence that he is capable of tossing the ball around if he gets comfortable.

      Shak-Attack— Junior Shakim Phillips was the Huskies second leading receiver from last season and he could be Whitmer's go-to in the red-zone. Against Towson, he had five catches for 78 yards and two touchdowns. Junior Geremy Davis (6'3, 215) returns as the Huskies top receiving threat after hauling in 44 passes for 613 yards. Davis is Whitmer's go-to receiver, except in the red zone. Davis only had one touchdown catch last season and that trend continued in game one when Davis had five catches for 100 and no scores.

      Not the same Ol' defense— The Huskies, after finishing ninth nationally in total defense in 2012, allowed 393 yards of total offense, 201 rushing and 192 passing yards to the Tigers in their season-opener.

      Front Seven— UConn's front seven leaves little to be desired. The Huskies had 25 solo tackles against Towson, 14 of which were made by defensive backs.

      Connecticut lost its top pass rusher from last season, and in the Huskies first game against Towson…you could tell. Senior Jesse Joseph (6'3, 262) had six tackles and a TFL in the season opener, while his classmate and starter on the other side is Tim Willman, who has seven stops and one-and-a-half TFL. Red-shirt sophomore Julian Campenni (6'5, 317) and red-shirt senior Shamar Stephens (6'5, 317). Stephens has more experience of the two, but both have a lot to prove after the season opener.

      Linebackers— UConn lost both of its top linebackers from last season, and the Huskies struggled to plug the holes against Towson allowing Terrance West to run for 156 yards. So Brandon Ross could be up for another career day. The Huskies one bright spot is red shirt junior Yawin Smallwood, who is arguably the best player on the defense. He had 89.5 tackles last season, four pass break ups, two forced fumbles, and four sacks last season, and against Towson, Smallwood picked up where he left off, leading the Huskies with 16 tackles. The problem is he doesn't have much help. Senior Ryan Donohue had just three tackles against Towson, and sophomore Graham Stewart only had right.

      The secondary— will have its hands full with Maryland's talented receiving corps. The Huskies have graduated their top two corners from last season, and red-shirt junior Byron Jones (6'1, 191) and senior Taylor Mack (5'9, 175). Jones had seven stops and Mack had 10 tackles against the Tigers last week.

      At safety, UConn has freshman Obi Melifonwu (6'4, 208), who had 11 tackles and an interception in his first career game against the Tigers two weeks ago. Junior Ty-Meer Brown (6'0, 201) mans the other safety spot, he had only one stop against Towson.

      Terps win if…


      The O-line does not get exposed— The O-line has hidden behind C.J. Brown's ability to scramble, quick drops and a REALLY good Halloween costume (I joke). If they can continue to do the bare minimum and give Brown enough time to get a good read, the Terps should continue to roll. Also keeping Whitmer uncomfortable in the pocket will be important. If he gets into a rhythm he could be dangerous.
      Huskies win if…


      Everything goes wrong — Maryland's line completely crumbles and Brown gets nicked up. Also if Maryland struggles to establish a running game and Connecticut's secondary manages to keep up with Diggs and co.

      Prediction


      Prediction

      Maryland: 41 UConn: 14

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