Terps Back Ross Takes it a Step Further

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maryland running back Brandon Ross talked about his big play against Syracuse and what to look forward to in the future from the Terps' rushing attack.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- There was the 77-yard screen against Virginia a year ago...that went to the 2-yard line.

There was the 71-yard run from scrimmage against North Carolina two years ago....that went to the 1-yard line.

Terps junior running back Brandon Ross, a former prep track and football star back in his high school days in Delaware, certainly doesn't lack for speed. But his teammates were starting to, ahem, rib him a bit that one of these long plays better finish in the end zone.

"Oh man, yeah, it was real special," Ross said on Sept. 23. of his career-best 90-yard catch and run at Syracuse, this one he finished in the end zone to help break open the game early in Maryland's favor en route to the 34-20 victory.

Not since his high school days, against St. George's School as a senior while starring at the Charter School of Wilmington, Del., when Ross took a sweep play 85 yards for a score, had Ross enjoyed as long a scoring play.

And this time he would not be denied on the zone-read check-down Terps quarterback C.J. Brown made at the line and converted with the screen to Ross on the left side for paydirt in the opening quarter.

Said Brown after he met Ross on the sideline after the play:

"I made a joke, 'good thing you didn't get caught'," Brown quipped. "Because there's not too many times in practice you sprint 90 yards for a play. So it was a great touchdown for him.

"But it was great because he has had so many [career] opportunities where he's got one guy to beat and he gets tripped up by the grass, or a shoestring tackle, something like that. It was a zone-read with an option and they didn't run out with the back, so I just threw it out to him and he did the rest."

Said Ross, who was looking for a breakout game after some early season struggles with both rushing the ball and ball security:

"On that kind of play we have two options," Ross said in breaking down the longest touchdown reception under Randy Edsall, and the longest at Maryland since Darrius Heyward-Bey's 96-yarder catch from Sam Hollenbach against Miami in 2006. "We had Kenny [Goins] in the backfield as a runner, and pretty much just reading the linebackers you know. I kinda motioned out there based sometimes on the linebackers play, decide whether to run it or pass it. So it was a great read by C.J., he saw what he needed to see, he threw it out, and I got great blocking from Stefon [Diggs], Marcus [Leak], all those guys. We got great blocking on the perimeter and that's what helped spring it."

With defenses crowding the box more and more this season, it was the kind of gash play the Terps will be looking to make more of, not to mention given some of the struggles getting the run game fully established so far.

So it was extra rewarding for Ross to register the splash play, given his and the unit's struggles so far mustering up a consistent ground attack. Coming out of the game, Ross, who has started three of the four Terps contests, has just 117 yards on 29 carries and one score. Against James Madison in the opener he had a season-best 86 yards on 16 carries, but since then the lanes have been clogged and Terps backs have gotten little, Ross posting a combined 6 yards in the West Virginia and Syracuse games. Meanwhile, he went for just 25 yards on six carries at USF.

But he wasn't dwelling on that after the Syracuse win to lift Maryland to 3-1 heading into their first Big Ten game, Sept. 27 at Indiana.

The offense finally came together, at least in the first half at SU, and gave the Terps a bit more identity and confidence on that side of the ball. It also marked a boost in receiver blocking, as Randy Edsall praised his receivers for being more physical in that regard. The Ross catch and run, as well as running back Jacquille Veii's 4-yard score later in the game, illustrated the point.

"When I first looked out there I only saw two defenders," Ross said. "Of course, as soon as you get the ball everyone's going to fly over. But I definitely thought there was a chance. When I got those two great blocks from the receivers it definitely opened up."

Said Randy Edsall on Sept. 23 of his junior back and his big play at Syracuse:

"The thing with Brandon, we've all seen it. You guys have seen it, I have seen it: He's got the ability to make plays, and he's made big plays here. And again it's just one of those things: we are going to try to utilize him and all of our guys to the best of their abilities to move the ball and be successful. But he can catch the ball....and again, it puts another anxiety in the opposing defensive coordinators and defensive coaches that we got to play because of some of the things that he can do."

His teammates consider Ross something of an "old head," a modest, business-like veteran who is always in the film room or taking care of his body in the trainers' room.

Said Terps junior linebacker L.A. Goree, who called it a huge play for opening up defenses and lanes even more now:

"It was great to see because he has been stopped some times before, for real, but he's not a slow guy you know. And this time when he scored, man, I don't think anyone was even behind him he was so fast."

Ross echoed his coach's comments, that the Terps will take what the defenses give them each week be it the short passing game to set up the run or what not. Ross had a career-best five catches for 50 yards versus West Virginia, only to take that a step better a week later at SU with his long jaunt.

"We do a whole bunch of different things in the run game," Ross said. "In Coach [Mike] Locksley's offense, he just finds a whole bunch of different ways to score, and that doesn't always have just something to do with running the ball."

Ross said Indiana has a junior and senior-laden defense with experience, so they expect another challenge in their first BIG game.

This week's depth chart has Ross at No. 1, and sophomore Wes Brown his backup. The elusive Veii has provided an excellent change-of-pace look the last two weeks. Ross said the offensive line has done a good job run blocking while the receivers have really come on.

"I don't think it's very complicated to run inside. We just got to put it to our minds to do it," Ross said. "And Jacquille, oh yeah, that's my boy. He brings a lot of speed and a lot of energy to the table. When he is in the game I always feel he's a guy who can break one anytime. He's actually one of those guys, his competitiveness, it makes me kinda a better player. It's definitely good seeing him in there doing well."

Ross also had to get past his Week Two performance at South Florida where he fumbled twice. The following game, versus West Virginia, Albert Reid got the start.

"It's not something I kept thinking about. I just realized I just want to make plays to help the team," Ross said, who added of the fumbles he only "focuses on the next play."

And as for that Big Ten opener, Ross said not too much has been talked about yet, though the Terps want to prove "we can definitely play in it," Ross said. He said playing in the big stadiums will be special, just like playing his first time at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va., against the Hokies.

"My first time playing there, it was a lot of fans, you know you can barely hear anything. I kinda like that feeling," Ross said.

Ross also has his kid brother to watch over, sophomore corner Jarrett Ross, who may be pressed into more duty given all the injuries of late.

"I think he is growing as a player every day," Brandon Ross said.

Added Goree of his junior teammate Brandon Ross and the role he plays on the team:

"He's very mature. Always studying, in the ice bath, stretching....doing all the little things that you do to be a great player. I know a lot of our teammates see it. That's just his state of mind."

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