Here are five observations from Maryland's 37-15 victory at Indiana Sept. 27:
Farrand Brings "A" Game
Terps senior Mike linebacker Cole Farrand has been called everything from a "poor-man's Alex Wujciak" to deficient in pass coverage. But nothing deters the Terps tackling machine, who quietly goes about his business as Maryland's man-in-the-middle and defensive signal-caller.
Despite missing two starts and being limited in other games following a lingering camp foot injury, Farrand continues to come up big for the Terps undermanned 'D' when it counts most.
Sept. 27, facing the nation's No. 1 running back in Indiana's Tevin Coleman (189.7 yards per game), Farrand led a voracious Terps defense (and undermanned linebacker corps) with 19 tackles while virtually taking Coleman out of the game. The junior back, who also led the nation in all-purpose yards (221.3 yards per game), finished with 122 yards on 22 carries, but a bunch of those came on one third-quarter rush (for 44 yards) with the Terps' 37-15 win all but decided. Coleman, who came in averaging 8.62 yards per carry, did set a school record for 13 consecutive games with a rushing touchdown, but it was mostly moot as he could find little daylight running laterally much of the day.
Inside, Terps defensive linemen/pluggers Darius Kilgo and Keith Bowers set the edge, and time after time Farrand scraped and strung Coleman out for no gains or tackles for loss. He also stopped Coleman on a big fourth and one late in the third quarter. Coleman would go on to score IU's only touchdown of the day, with a 5-yard rush with just 9:29 to go as Maryland cruised to improve to 4-1 in winning its debut Big Ten game. IU came into the contest averaging 310.3 yards rushing per game, but was held to 206 and just a 4.1 yards per carry average.
All the more compelling for the unit was Maryland entered the game with starting 'Sam' linebacker Matt Robinson out for the second game with a shoulder injury and key backups Cavon Walker (season-ending foot injury) and Alex Twine (upper body injury) on the sidelines, while fellow starters L.A. Goree (back) and Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil had missed games with respective injuries as well and got nicked today but played on.
Farrand nearly reached his career best -- 23 tackles -- which he recorded last year versus Clemson, despite playing through a concussion and with a broken hand.
Like Wujciak, the former Terps MLB great, Farrand has the trademark flowing "locks" and nose for the ball.
Rowe Slings It
He's the Terps' resident gunslinger, and Sept. 27 junior quarterback Caleb Rowe got to strut his stuff.
With senior starter C.J. Brown bruising his left wrist and not returning for the second half, Rowe was inserted in the third quarter and promptly went about his business -- and Maryland didn't miss a beat.
The Terps' quarterback with the strongest arm and quickest delivery, though he can't run the zone read like Brown, Rowe carried the Terps to victory on the strength of his 12-for-18 for 198 yards, two touchdowns and no pick performance in Bloomington as Maryland began Big Ten play with a splash.
Rowe hooked up with running back Brandon Ross on a 36-yard scoring screen pass after reading the blitz on his second series for a 27-9 Maryland lead, and later found freshman wide receiver Juwann Winfree (for his first collegiate reception since burning his shirt last week at Syracuse), this after freezing the IU safety and stroking a beauty for 30 yards and a score to salt the game away in early in the fourth quarter at 34-9.
Brown, who got beat around in the first half in the zone read game, was finally looking comfortable in the Terps offense (10-15-163 yds, 1 TD), mixing in the run and the short passing game again before the injury. With a cast on his wrist and his ball cap on backwards in the second half helping with signals on the sidelines, Brown saw his understudy take the helm with cool efficiency.
Rowe is quicker and more decisive in the pass game than Brown, but the Terps lose a good bit in the run game without Brown, while the sixth-year senior is the Terps best at managing the offense and getting them into their plays. The question now begs, will the Terps start Brown with a cast on his left wrist next week versus Ohio State, or go with the hot hand in Rowe? The rap on Rowe in the past is he can often make hasty decisions and throw the ball into dangerous situations, but today he never flinched. He had several big strikes beyond the two TDs, hitting Stefon Diggs and Deon Long for 20-plus yard completions, while hanging tough and the pocket and for the most part avoiding pressure.
Craddock Deserves Props, Again
Not only did Terps junior place kicker Brad Craddock boom two more 48-yard field goals Sept. 27, as well as a 30-yarder to raise his season total to a perfect 10-for-10 (and his point-after attempts to a spotless 22-22), the cagy Aussie also made two key tackles on long IU kick returns as Maryland's coverage teams failed them for the first time this season.
After Maryland's first offensive drive stalled, Craddock came in and nailed his first of two 48-yard boots to give the Terps a quick 3-0 lead at 12:12 in the first quarter. Not only did this one have the distance, it was also a towering shot, Craddock's highest boot of the season.
But after Maryland went up 10-3 in the second quarter, the ensuing kickoff witnessed IU's Damon Graham return the ball up the left side 37 yards before Craddock knocked him out of bounds and helped stave off a special teams calamity.
Then, as the third quarter began, Craddock kicked off and IU's Shane Wynn jetted 35 yards before Craddock, with some help from Terps fullback Kenny Goins, dragged him down. The wiry Craddock, hardly known as a defensive stopper or top athlete, came up big again in the unlikeliest of ways.
His career-best field goal remains 52 yards, which came during his freshman year versus Wake Forest, while he boomed a 50-yarder last season and has a 49-yarder to his credit already this season. There may not be a hotter kicker in the nation, while he leads the team in scoring by a wide margin with 52 points.
It's all setting up perfectly for his parents, Raymond and Leonie, who arrive for a 12-week U.S. tour beginning next week for the Ohio State battle at Byrd in Maryland's first home Big Ten game.
Wes Brown Shakes Some Rust
Two games ago Terps talented sophomore running back Wes Brown -- coming off a year-long suspension last season -- was suspended for a "coaches' decision," while last week at Syracuse he got just two carries for 5 yards. It was hard to say which way his Terrapin career was headed as the star-crossed former four-star back from Good Counsel had barely even gotten out of the starter's block as a Terrapin.
But the big dog barked Sept. 27.
While still Maryland's season leading running back entering today's contest at Indiana (28-148 yds), Brown finally got a chance to get downhill as the Terps found some semblance of balance in their offense.
Brown rushed for a modest 34 yards on 15 carries, including a long of nine yards, but his second quarter, over the top 38-yard catch and run from quarterback C.J. Brown may have been his "I'm back" moment. C.J. Brown used an excellent screen fake and tossed it up over the right side for the big gainer to the bruiser Brown, who caught it in stride, which set up a Brad Craddock 30-yard field goal four plays later and a 20-6 Maryland lead as the Terps began to pull away. On the day he caught two balls for 50 yards but, overall, played such a bigger role, be it catching and running or blocking in the backfield.
Brown still represents Maryland's best vision back, its best "North-South" runner, and he doesn't hesitate to hit the holes or seek out linebackers once he hits the second level. He has the size, speed and power (not to mention hands) you look for in a feature back, and hopefully for the Terps, today represented a breakthrough of sorts. The other Terps backs have a tendency to dance East-West and get strung out laterally too much, but Brown simply hits the holes, and more often than not sheds first contact.
Terps junior back Brandon Ross was no slouch today, either, rushing six times for 61 yards and hauling in the big third quarter touchdown pass. But with junior back Albert Reid (lower body injury) yet another Terp to join the indefinite injury list today, the Terps are going to need Brown's presence more and more. Maryland rushed for a solid 123 yards as a team today, a vast improvement from last week's combined 56 yards from its running backs at SU, and just two yards combined the week before versus West Virginia. All in all, it was a key day for the offense in many ways (see WRs Stefon Diggs and Deon Long finally getting on track), while perhaps most importantly the offense sustained longer drives, finished drives, and helped chew up clock to give the taxed defense a break for once.
Powell Enjoys Homecoming Of Sorts
There may not be a more likeable Terps assistant coach than fun-loving special teams/running backs coach Andre Powell, who also happens to probably be the hottest among the Terps staff right now.
The former IU fullback of the late 1980s, more famous for clearing holes for all-time back Anthony Thompson than any of his own open-field jaunts, the self-deprecating Powell took some ribbing this week as the Terps ventured into his old haunts at Memorial Stadium.
He got to meet up with Thompson, who was on hand for the game, as well as former head coach Bill Mallory today in Bloomington, but it was all business once the game began.
Powell, one of the more animated and stickler-for-perfection Terps assistants, has to get coaching MVP honors so far for the 4-1 Terps, his special teams enjoying their best run ever under Randy Edsall led by placekicker Brad Craddock, who has been the model of perfection so far this season, and return men Will Likely and Stefon Diggs.
Maryland played its most complete game of the season today in the 37-15 win to get on the board in the "BIG," with all three units finally clicking for two halves. And despite giving up two long kick returns, for which Powell is probably still steaming on the flight home, Craddock nailed all three of his field goals, including two of 48 yards, while all season long special teams have provided big gash plays to help buoy the at-times struggling offense. Be it returns or a record three punt blocks already, Powell's playmakers continue to come up big.
On Sept. 27 that offense got good balance in the pass and the run game (something which clearly must have pleased Powell as well) from two different quarterbacks, so it didn't have to lean on big special teams returns. But Powell has the unit humming no doubt as it heads into the teeth of the schedule beginning this week with Ohio State.
The down-home Southerner, who loves bass fishing in his spare time but once had the misfortune of hooking a corpse on the Potomac River, takes it all in stride as he did again today.
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