COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- When push comes to shove, as it so often does in Maryland’s new football league, the Terrapins can fall back on the basic tenets that seem to set them apart from so many of the other Big Ten squads so far.
Simply, Maryland has playmakers. On both sides of the ball and that’s what helped the Terrapins (5-2, 2-1) ease past a pretty good Iowa team Oct. 18, 38-31, at homecoming before 48,373 fans in Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium.
With their quarterback knocked out of the game and Iowa starting to get a little traction in a running game the Terrapins kept the clamps on most of the day, Stefon Diggs turned a screen pass into a 53-yard score and then on defense, Will Likely zipped 45 yards for a touchdown on an interception at the most timely of moments for Maryland.
“It gets back to the team concept,” said coach Randy Edsall. “Guys see things that happen during the game and the guys who have the abilities to make plays basically just do their job and make a couple moves here or there to make things happen. It’s great to have playmakers like Will and Stefon, like other guys that we have.”
After falling behind early, Maryland controlled the game through most of the middle before a stirring rally by the Hawkeyes (5-2, 2-1). Perhaps the most telling part of the Terrapins’ grasp on the game was forcing Iowa into a season high 56 passing attempts and their second fewest yards rushing (116) this season.
“We did really well on the run this game,” said Likely. “The first two drives were a struggle but we adjusted. We did what we’re supposed to do, get in the right gaps. We always feel confident but once we got them out of their game, they had to adjust to us.”
Maryland had to make some in-game adjustments, too. When quarterback C.J. Brown went down with a horrible looking back injury that looked like a concussion or worse early in the third quarter, Perry Hills stepped in and made enough plays to keep the Terps rolling. He was in because backup Caleb Rowe was lost for the season to a knee injury in practice Tuesday.
“It had been awhile but once you knock the rust off everything starts to slow down,” said Hills, who hadn’t had a play since 2012. “The coaching staff did a great job getting me reps and preparing me in the meeting room this week. I give them a lot of credit for that but I just had a lot of rust to knock off.”
“Perry didn’t really get any reps until Wednesday because Caleb went down on Tuesday in practice,” said Edsall. “To come in and lead us to a touchdown, it's great when you have guys who can make plays and those guys step up and make plays.”
Iowa was moving the ball to start the third quarter but a Sean Davis blitz forced a third down incompletion and punt. Disaster struck for the Terrapins when C.J. Brown was injured scrambling, taking a hit to the head and upper back as he was tackled on a third down, Maryland leading just 17-14.
But the defense, bouncing back from uneven performances the last few games, stepped up big. Linebacker Matt Robinson was the hero on the ensuing possession, tipping a third down pass to force another punt. Hills, replacing Brown, threw three straight incompletions from his end zone, but when Nathan Renfro punted, Desmond King muffed the ball right to Davis and Maryland got the ball back at the 35, out of danger.
The two teams exchanged punts and Hills started to warm up. He hit Juwann Winfree for eight, then ran for 12 on the same read-option up the middle on which Brown had success. The Terrapins ground out 212 yards rushing, their best effort rushing since the season-opener.
Hills hit Diggs for 15 and then on a beautifully crafted screen, threw to Diggs in the flat, and behind some good blocks, Diggs did the rest. Silvano Altamirano and Marcus Leak got big hits and Diggs went 53 yards for a 24-14 lead at 4:18.
“I saw a lot of blocking, great blocking, and then I saw Marcus Leak come out of nowhere and give me another one,” said Diggs, who had game highs of nine catches for 130 yards. “I try to think every play has the potential to be a touchdown but this one, with the blocks I got and I saw some green grass and I knew. I want my quarterbacks to know I got their back.”
The Terrapins scored at least 24 points for the seventh time this season, owing to that big-play offense. They had 418 yards total offense. Brown was 12-of-23 for 120 yards and two interceptions but Hills ended up 5-of-10 for 86 yards and the big touchdown.
“It says a lot about our team and the quarterback position,” said Brown, just out of an ice bath to meet the press following the game. “We’ve been through this before. Guys are ready, they’ve got experience and we’ve got confidence in them.”
Jonathan Parker took the kickoff back 46 yards to midfield for Iowa. Six-foot, 240-pound tailback Mark Weisman blew through a big hole up the middle for 38 yards, and then capped the six-play drive with a two-yard scoring run to make it 24-21 at 1:46 of the third period.
The Terrapins couldn’t move the ball on the next possession and Renfro, punting into a stiff breeze, could only get off a 35-yarder, setting up Iowa at the 48-yard line. The defense came up with another key stop when Davis batted away a third down pass intended for tight end Ray Hamilton.
“We were able to figure out what kind of plays they were going to run and make the personnel adjustments,” said nose tackle Darius Kilgo. “That definitely helped us throughout the game. Our goal was to get off the ball and be active on the line of scrimmage.”
Farrand led the defense with 11 tackles and L.A. Goree added eight. Robinson, back for the first time in four games, had seven stops and Yannick Ngakoue had one of his best games with seven tackles.
“We just executed and worked this whole week on 11 guys flying to the ball,” said Ngakoue, the weakside linebacker. “This was big. We had a chip on our shoulder coming into this game (from Ohio State loss).”
Fateful Final Quarter
Maryland would punt but the defense was ready to turn in its biggest play. On a third-and-six, Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock took a quick drop and fired in the flat to Damon Bullock but Likely stepped in front and dashed 45 yards for a touchdown and a 31-21 Maryland advantage with just 12:29 left to play.
“What triggered it was them in trips (three wide receivers) and the running back was on the outside,” explained Likely. “When he didn’t get the ball, I knew what it was. Soon as I saw the d-line get to the quarterback I knew (I had a touchdown).”
“To me that was the biggest play in the ballgame,” said Edsall. “We didn’t have a lot of momentum at that point in time and I was on the sideline hoping we would get a defensive score or turnover.”
But that defense wasn’t done. Roman Braglio sacked Rudock on the game’s next play and then Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil knocked down a pass. Iowa punted for the fifth time in the first seven second-half possessions.
Brown returned at quarterback but the Terrapins couldn’t move the chains and Renfro uncorked a 53-yard punt. Helped by an Iowa holding penalty, one of seven penalties for 65 yards against the Hawkeyes, the Terrapin defense recorded the sixth three-and-out of the second half. Iowa came in as the Big Ten’s least penalized team.
And Brown didn’t squander this chance. He drove the Terrapins 54 yards in nine plays for the clincher. He hit Amba Etta-Tawo for 13 yards and against for 26 to move inside the 10. Brown carried twice for three yards then hit Wes Brown for four yards to the one. After a timeout, Wes Brown hurdled into the end zone to make it 38-21 at 3:08.
“We just came in with the mindset that we were going to run the ball and be physical,” said C.J. Brown. “Iowa is a physical team and everyone was saying preseason that we couldn’t compete and I think we came out here today and took care of business.”
The Hawkeyes then went 75 yards on Rudock’s arm. The finale of an 11-play drive was his four yard slant to Jake Duzey to make it 38-28 at 2:58. Rudock was 32-of-56 for 317 yards and two touchdowns but Maryland also sacked him four times.
Things got more interesting when Jacob Hillyer recovered a well-executed onside kick at the 50. Ten quick plays later, and after Farrand nearly had a game-sealing interception, Marshall Koehn kicked a 24-yard field goal and it was 38-31 at 1:18.
The Hawkeyes lined up for another onside kick and Koehn tried to kick it to himself. Reserve tight end P.J. Gallo pounced on it and the Terrapins took over at the Iowa 42. Three plays netted four yards and three Iowa timeouts. Renfro punted it out of the end zone and the Hawkeyes had one more chance but after one first down, the drive stalled and the Terrapins had their first Big Ten home win.
“I’m just so proud of these kids,” said Edsall. “The thing that I was very impressed with is the fact that we did it as a team. All three phases contributed and did their end. A bunch of guys stepped up that maybe haven’t been playing a whole bunch and it just seems like this group really grasped the team concept, that team pride and they love each other.”
Sloppy First Half Makes for Tight Game
The Terrapins led 17-14 at the end of an unusual first half, the Terrapins scoring 17 unanswered points after falling behind by two scores. The two teams also combined for seven flags, 80 yards on penalties, two C.J. Brown interceptions and a big Iowa fumble.
Maryland’s first play was a precursor of the proceedings early, Brown’s slant pass to Deon Long intercepted by defensive end Drew Ott at the Terrapin 32. It took the Hawkeyes five plays but burly tailback Weisman scored untouched from four yards for a 7-0 lead just 2:15 into the contest, the first meeting ever of the two teams.
The Terrapins nearly tied it up on the next possession but Brown’s perfect pass to Leak on a post slipped through the receiver’s hands at the 10-yard line on what could have been a 47-yard score. Renfro ended up punting into the end zone.
The Hawkeyes got a big play in the passing game on the very next play, Rudock faking to Bullock and then hitting the wide-open tailback in the flat for 52 yards. Inside the 10, Rudock converted a fourth-and-five with a seven-yard strike to Bullock to the 2-yard line. One play later, Rudock hit tight end Henry Krieger Coble for a 14-0 lead at 6:29.
This time the Terrapins had an answer. Finding some running lanes on the edge, Maryland went 75 yards in seven plays. Brown had a 19-yard run on the march and then Veii made an incredible run. He banged into the middle of the line up but spun loose to his left and zipped around end untouched for a 23-yard score at 3:40 to cut the lead in half.
C.J. Brown led Maryland with 99 yards on 21 carries. Brandon Ross, who was knocked out of the game with a leg injury, had nine rushes for 35 yards and Veii finished with 33 yards on two carries. Weisman led Iowa with 78 yards on 10 carries.
Though a squib kick ended up with Iowa in possession at midfield after a Krieger Coble 26-yard return, the Maryland defense rose up. Defensive end Andre Monroe tackled tailback Parker for a 5-yard loss, and then Keith Bowers ran Rudock right into Monroe who stopped him for no gain, just missing his 20th career sack.
Early in the second quarter, Goree and a host of Terrapins hit Duzey to force a fumble that Kilgo pounced on near midfield. Nixon picked up an unsportsmanlike penalty in the ensuing scuffle to move Maryland back 15 yards and a holding penalty negated a 20-yard run by Ross.
But Brown hit Diggs for 27 yards and the Terps got a 41-yard field goal from Craddock, his 18th consecutive successful attempt. Maryland was within 14-10 with 10:46 left in the half.
Kilgo came up big on the next series. He stopped Jordan Canzeri for a one-yard gain and then got a 12-yard sack on Rudock. When Ngakoue stopped Bullock for no gain, the Hawkeyes had to punt and Likely made a fair catch at the 44-yard line.
A facemask penalty on a Winfree 6-yard reception took the ball to the 23. On a third down, Brown looked sacked beyond the 30 but somehow broke away and dashed 13 yards, where another facemask penalty moved the ball to the four. Two plays later, Wes Brown cracked over from one yard for a 17-14 lead at 6:47.
The Terrapins mounted another march late, again aided by a Iowa personal foul, but Brown was hurried on a blitz and Sean Draper picked him off with 17 seconds left to end the threat.
The Terrapins travel to Wisconsin next Saturday for a game that has big implications in the conference. A road game follows at Penn State before another by week.
“This is a big stretch for us,” said Brown. “This was a big win for us against a very good Iowa team. They were 5-1. This is a big one.”
Terps Take It to Hawkeyes in Pivotal Win
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