Lies, Darn Lies, Statistics

Maryland has, thus far, disproven the adage that turnovers are the one most deciding statistic in the game. The Terps, 2-0, have seven in the first two games -- a statistic they want to reverse vs West Virginia.

That stat is somewhat hedged by the Terrapins being only a minus-three in turnover margin, meaning foes have partially negated the seven UM turnovers with four of their own. Add in that, through two games, Maryland’s defense has allowed just 24 total points, the average of 12 good enough to rank second in the Big Ten and 17th nationally, and head coach Randy Edsall’s team sits undefeated, as expected, after contests against James Madison and at South Florida.

“We are happy about being 2-0,” Edsall said. “There are not any times you can turn the ball over six times (against USF) and still come out with the win. We only gave up seven points off those turnovers and when we were turning the ball over nobody panicked. Our defense did its job and we found a way to win in a tough road environment in the heat. We do ball security drills every week. It’s just guys understanding the situation and getting two hands on the ball in the hitting zone. Putting the ball where you have to put it in terms of guys being able to catch the ball.

“The good thing is we had those turnovers and we found a way to win. We gutted it out on the road. That tells me something about the character, heart, the guts and grit this team has. We have a lot of experience coming back, and they are doing a good job of communicating on the field and running to the football. They are doing the things they are coached to do. The thing we have to get better at is that we are still giving up too many big plays, but we have kept people out of the end zone. Last week, (USF) got seven on a retuned fumble for a touchdown. If we just execute the fundamentals and run to the ball and do what we are coached to do, we will have a chance.”

Maryland struggled to run against South Florida, getting 116 yards on 40 attempts. The Terps allowed, however, just 83 on 37 carries to the Bulls, and were able to ride Avery Thompson’s blocked punt return and Ben Craddock’s 23-yard field goal to a 10-0 fourth quarter to rally for the win. UM was shutout in the second and third quarters, and seemed offensively stagnated at times, even discounting the turnovers. Quarterback C.J. Brown was flustered, and threw two interceptions in the 17-for-28 effort. Brown also connected for a pair of touchdowns, one a 44-yard strike to emerging wideout Marcus Leak.

Brown’s tendency to force throws and panic a bit when pressured is key to West Virginia’s game plan. Coordinator Tony Gibson will bring varying blitz packages considering situation, down and distance, and try to hurry Brown’s progressions and his release of the ball. It’s a concern for Edsall, who has attempted to calm his quarterback headed into this weekend.

“I told C.J. that the quarterback always gets too much credit when you win and too much when you lose. You can’t worry about that,” Edsall said. “C.J., as I talked to him, what I saw, and I have some experience because I played the position, was that he is trying to be perfect. He is thinking too much and not going out and letting it happen. He isn’t playing the game he is capable of. I think we will see somebody a little different (against WVU).

“He has had a tremendous impact on our program and he is a guy who has accounted for 4,700 yards of total offense, which is seventh in school history. We are converting 53 percent of our third downs, and he’s a big part of it. He’s a leader. It’s my job as a head coach to get him to go and play and have fun. I don’t want him to put any more pressure on himself. He’s a smart kid, he knows what he is doing. Just go play and have fun.”

Brown certainly has the weapons. The Terrapins return four of five along the offensive line, and have a trio of above-average receivers in Leak, former WVU commit Deon Long and 20113 All-ACC selection Stefon Diggs. Diggs leads the team in all-purpose yards at 113.5 per game, and is an excellent kickoff returner as well. Long and Leak both average at least 15 yards per reception, and backs Wes Brown and Brandon Ross have essentially split the carries at 26 and 22, respectively. Brown, a mobile quarterback, has rushed 17 times for 58 net yards after being sacked three times.

Edsall noted that he believes his players feel too much anxiety about their performance, and are trying to press certain plays instead of getting into the flow of a game. That was, along with basic lack of execution, what allowed West Virginia’s early misfortunes against Maryland last season to snowball into the 37-0 whitewashing.

“I think the thing is that there are a lot of people who put a lot of pressure on these kids,” Edsall said. (Diggs) is another kid, like Leak, who didn’t start practicing until fall. I think there were unfair expectations put on these guys. It’s my job to minimize it. Don’t worry about all these outside stimulus things. He’s getting better. Sometimes there aren’t going to be big plays, and I don’t want him to start pressing and think that he has to make these catches or make these big plays. Go play and take what’s given to you and trust everybody that’s doing their job. Just do what your job is for that particular play.”

“Now we have a very tough opponent this week in West Virginia, who is playing very well and getting great quarterback play and they have the ability to score fast and they have a lot of talented payers on defense. (Last season) was a game where they turned the ball over, and we returned a pick for a touchdown. We got a short field on a couple of them and that’s what happens. We were the recipient of six turnovers in that game and there was heavy rain and we took advantage. I know this, I’m not counting on that this year. It’s a much different West Virginia team that we are playing this year than what we played last year. We respect the heck out of them and know that they are a much better football team than the one we say last year.”

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