When/Where: Saturday September 19th at Noon ET- Byrd Stadium (College Park, Maryland)
Radio: USF-IMG Network (820 AM)/www.GoUSFBulls.com
All-time series: Maryland leads 1-0
Last meeting: 2014. Maryland won 24-17 in Tampa.
Week 3 Storylines:
Even with South Florida’s 34-14 loss at #9 Florida State last week, several positives could be taken away from the contest to build up Willie Taggart’s ball club for upcoming weeks. For starters, despite Dalvin Cook’s monstrous 266 yard day on the ground, the Bulls defense showed signs of their ability and what they could do for the rest of the 2015 season, limiting the Everett Golson and the rest of the Seminole offense for the better portion of three quarters. Now with two of their main starters back, the Bulls look to inflict damage upon Randy Edsall’s Maryland squad.
The aforementioned defensive pressure has been the story so far in the early stages of this season. The pressure of Tom Allen’s 4-2-5 and the ability to get into the backfield have landed the “Bull Sharks” second in the nation with 11.0 TFL per game. The Terrapin offense certainly knows the capability of the Bulls disruptive nature. In last year’s early season matchup, USF forced six turnovers in a tight contest that ultimately ended up with a 24-17 Maryland victory. The Bulls will receive an even further boost with the season debuts of LB’s Tashon Whitehurst and Nigel Harris, who were suspended for the first two games of the season for violation of team rules. Harris was a force to be reckoned with last season, leading the entire nation in forced fumbles, while Whitehurst emerged as one of the premier defensive playmakers for spring and fall camp.
Offensively, Quinton Flowers and the spread offense have shown early signs of production, but the Maryland game will give an accurate detail of where they are. In two games, Flowers has gone 24-40 for 266 yards, 4 TDs, and 2 INTs, while accumulating 101 yards on the ground. While the connection between him and D’Ernest Johnson through the air has been a welcome surprise for the USF offense, the sophomore must find ways to get more yards of his actual receivers moving forward. So far, freshman Chris Barr leads all USF receivers with only 38 yards on four receptions.
Coming off a 48-27 home beating at the hands of Bowling Green, Randy Edsall’s Terrapin squad looks to gain momentum before heading into the meat of their schedule which includes matchups with West Virginia, Michigan, and #1 Ohio State.
Offensively, junior Perry Hills comes in as the new starting QB for Maryland this season. In a similar stat line to Quinton Flowers, Hills has 306 passing yards, 4 TDs, and 2 INTs through the air, while rushing for 119 yards on the ground. Without playmaker Stefon Diggs, the Terrapins have relied on the rushing attack of two headed running duo Brandon Ross and Wes Brown, who have combined for 287 yards rushing in the first two contests.
Defensively, Maryland has adopted a new 4-3 scheme under new defensive coordinator Keith Dudzinski in 2015. Under the 3-4 with former DC Brian Stewart, the Terrapins ranked 95th in the nation in total defense in 2014, which included being ranked in the bottom three of the Big Ten in both rushing and passing yards allowed per game. After giving up 48 points last week, Dudzinski’s unit will look to sharpen up as the season progresses.
Keys to Victory
This matchup is a critical venture for the Bulls early on in the season, as playing a foe like Maryland will give an accurate barometer of where they stand moving forward. Defensively, the Bulls will look to replicate their turnover party from last year with an even more aggressive 4-2-5 base. However, as is always the case, the question remains if the USF offense can consistently move the ball through the air and secure enough points for victory. Quinton Flowers must get Ryshene Bronson, A.J. Legree, and other Bulls receivers heavily involved early on for a chance to leave College Park with a win and momentum.