As the clock starts on the big week of the Big Ten home-opener, the intrigue shifted into high gear Sept. 28 as Maryland coach Randy Edsall did his best to a keep a lid on just who will be at quarterback Oct. 4 when Ohio State rolls into town.
With starting quarterback C.J. Brown injuring his left wrist in the first half of the 37-15 win at Indiana Sept. 28, backup Caleb Rowe came in to finish off the Hoosiers. Now the big question is can Brown return this week, and what will Maryland coaches be looking for to determine just who goes behind center?
“He’s doing good,” said Edsall simply of Brown’s injury during his Sunday conference call with Terrapin beat writers. “We’ll continue to practice how we have every week and we’ll go out there today and we’ll go all week long. And we’ll practice and hopefully we’ll see if he can practice but we won’t have anything until gametime.”
So the Buckeyes will be preparing for either/or when it comes to their scout of the Terrapins – just the way Edsall likes it -- coming off what the coach termed “the most complete game we’ve played this year.
“I thought our kids gave great effort throughout the game and just did a really nice job. And we didn’t turn the ball over for two straight weeks so hopefully we can continue that. We cut down on the number of big plays against us yesterday and we got quite a few. It was good to see quite a few guys step up. It was good to see that we went on the road and got the win.”
Rowe was among those stepping up, hitting 12 of 18 passes for 198 yards and two scores, playing the entire second half. Brown had been having one of his best days throwing the ball – 10 of 15 for 163 yards and a touchdown – before injuring his left wrist. After the game, Edsall said Brown couldn’t grip the ball with that hand.
Without Brown and on a day when the Maryland specials teams wasn’t on top of their game as in the first four weeks, the defense rose up with a stellar effort, particularly from inside linebacker Cole Farrand, who had a season-high 19 tackles, and nose tackle Darius Kilgo, who had two tackles for loss.
The Maryland defense, gashed through the air by West Virginia and then run over by Syracuse, held Indiana to Hoosier season lows of 15 points and 332 total yards.
“I thought our defensive line played well,” said the coach. “They did a good job of keeping guys off Cole and L.A. (Goree), and those guys did a much better job of playing downhill this week. Again, you can have Darius and Andre (Monroe) and Keith (Bowers) and L.A., and Cole in there and it makes a difference. Those guys are all seniors, a couple of them are fifth-year seniors. That experience, that knowledge really helps you out.”
Edsall also said that the defense had practiced particularly well last week leading up to the Big Ten opener. Having Farrand and Goree both at full speed “makes a big difference,” he added. “I thought our kids just played really, really hard. We got after them from the get-go. I thought we were physical. I thought we played relentless. We ran to the ball really well. We missed some tackles but because we ran to the ball we competed like crazy.”
Edsall said it was a team defensive effort based on good communication (enhanced by the healthy return of those veterans finally on the field together) and their good execution.
“(Kilgo) probably had one of his best games,” he added. “He did a really nice job yesterday. I think he’s getting better with each game that he’s playing.”
After presenting Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson with one game ball on the field, Edsall announced the other game balls went to Stefon Diggs on offense, Farrand on defense and Brad Craddock on special teams. Craddock hit three more field goals and is 10-for-10 on the year, including six beyond 40 yards, two on Saturday.
Here are some of the other players singled out in the Sept. 28 conversation:
Yannick Ngakoue, the weakside linebacker who has played so well as Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil has finally battled back from a foot injury – “I think he’s just getting better. He’s still green. He’s still raw but he’s playing hard and getting better each week, and that’s what he’s got to continue to do – he (has) got to gain that experience so he can play faster than what he’s playing and play with more natural instincts, rather than maybe thinking a little bit. But just very happy with how he’s playing and how he’s coming along, and we know that he still has a lot of room to go and get better.”
Jarrett Ross, the sophomore cornerback now getting more time with Alvin Hill out – “Well, they didn’t challenge him much but again I thought he went in there and did a good job. What you have to do in the secondary is just play with good fundamentals and good technique, and if you do that you limit the ability of other teams to make plays against you. That’s what we have to do with Will (Likely) and J.J. (Jeremiah Johnson), Sean (Davis) and Anthony (Nixon) and Jarrett and Daniel (Ezeagwu), all those guys. That’s a position where you really have to be fundamentally sound and you have to play with good technique to eliminate…big plays.”
Derrick Hayward, the tight end now starting with Andrew Isaacs out -- “I saw a guy that got in there and got about 14 snaps and didn’t look lost in those 14 snaps. (He) went in there and did the things he had to do. He had the one illegal procedure penalty against him but those reps are invaluable to him. They’re going to make him better. Derrick wants to be good. He works really hard and again, it’s a process for him to gain that experience and gain that knowledge, and continue to get bigger and stronger.”
Other issues on which Edsall also opined Sunday:
Getting receiver Deon Long (10 catches for 108 yards) more involved – “A lot depends on what people do to you. Again, the coverages will dictate who gets the ball and what goes there. We tried to have him involved before but what they did just dictated that we were able to do some things where the ball would go to him yesterday and he ended up doing a good job. I thought he blocked the best that he has blocked all year. We’re getting much more productivity from a blocking standpoint out of our wide receivers, allowing us to get the big plays.”
More on blocking -- “(Tackle) Michael Dunn, I thought, did a good job of getting out on screens and (guard) Silvano (Altamirano), those two guys did a great job on Brandon’s (Ross) touchdown. Guys are understanding to give good effort and use great technique when blocking because it can make a big difference. I thought Marcus (Leak) blocked well yesterday. Deon is getting better. He took a step forward yesterday, and I thought Stefon (Diggs) took another step forward from the week before.”
Special teams not having a big play for first time -- “You’re not going to block a punt every game. We might not have a block in the game plan, those sort of things. And guess what? People are going to try to do things. They tried to kick away from Will (Likely) yesterday. It was one of those things where we didn’t execute as well as we could have in some areas and we have to understand that we have to execute to a high level. We’ll get back to getting to that level starting today.”
First Big Ten game -- “Just very, very pleased for our program and everybody. We can take that one now, we’ve got our very first Big Ten win. That’s behind us and now we can just continue to move forward.”
Edsall Avoids QB Question, Lauds Defense
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