Coming into the season, 1-2 was not an unreasonable expectation for Maryland’s record heading into the Towson game. Miami and West Virginia were both solid teams, and the Terrapins would probably have an adjustment period to their new coaching staff. After defeating the Hurricanes at home in a great game in the season opener, however, expectations rose. A comeback attempt against West Virginia fell short, but hope still remained. All of it is now gone, however, as the Temple Owls came in to College Park and destroyed all positive momentum with a 38-7 drubbing.
Now Maryland welcomes in-state rivals Towson to College Park, and the game isn’t looking as much like a walk in the park as it once did. The Terps stand at 1-2 and demoralized. Towson is one of the big surprises of the FCS this season, starting out 3-0 with wins over Morgan State, Villanova, and Colgate – and their closest game was a 21-point victory. They rank in the top ten in scoring offense and scoring defense in the FCS, and in the top fifteen in total offense and total defense. Let’s run down the game, unit by unit.
Maryland Passing Offense vs. Towson Passing Defense:
The Terps get a big boost with the returns of suspended wide receivers Ronnie Tyler and Quintin McCree, which should help an offense that completely sputtered last week after a very strong performance against Miami and a great second half against West Virginia. Danny O’Brien is currently third in the conference at about 270 yards per game through the air, but clearly struggled to find a connection with receivers not named Kevin Dorsey during Tyler and McCree’s suspensions. Matt Furstenburg had a great start to the year as well, but Gary Crowton seemed unwilling to call plays to him in the game against Temple.
Towson is giving up 134.67 yards per game through the air, good for ninth in the FCS, and has allowed a pass efficiency rating of 99.42 to opposing quarterbacks, tenth in the FCS. They have three returning starters in the secondary in cornerback Justin Harris (11 tackles, one forced fumble) and safeties Nick Oates (eight tackles, one interception) and Jordan Dangerfield (25 tackles, one interception). They are joined by sophomore cornerback Corey Ford (11 tackles).
Off the edge, the Tigers have preseason All-CAA selection Frank Beltre (2o tackles, one for a loss, one sack) along side junior Romale Tucker (20 tackles, four for a loss, two sacks).
Regardless of Towson’s strength in the pass defense, the return of Tyler and McCree makes the difference here. Advantage: Maryland.
Maryland Rushing Offense vs. Towson Rushing Defense:
Gary Crowton’s insistence to run a continual zone read option running offense with a quarterback who will obviously never keep the ball on the play is beyond idiotic. It’s a miracle that the Terps have been able to manage 128 yards on the ground per game, led by Davin Meggett’s 75 per game – good for seventh in the conference. Like every other asset of their game, Maryland was completely unable to get the running game going against Temple, in large part due to the fact that the other team knows what play is being called every damn time.
The Tigers’ one “weakness”, if you could call it that, is in their rushing defense – they’ve given up over 150 yards per game on the ground. That’s in part due to two new starters at linebacker – Danzel White (15 tackles) and Brian Boateng (five tackles). Returning starter Chris Patterson (18 tackles) anchors the unit, and Trevor Walker started last season, but has yet to be seen this year. Marcus Valentine (five tackles, four for a loss, two sacks) is one of the stars on the defense at defensive tackle, and is joined on the interior line by Arnold Farmer (three tackles, one for a loss).
Not for a lack of trying to lose (looking at you, Crowton), Maryland gets the advantage here just due to Towson’s inexperience in the middle. Advantage: Maryland.
Towson Passing Offense vs. Maryland Passing Defense:
Towson lost starting quarterback Bart Blanchard and leading receiver Hakeem Moore to graduation, but their passing offense has actually improved from last year by about 50 yards per game. Junior Grant Enders, a transfer from Holy Cross, has been fantastic at quarterback this season (44/60, 527 yards, five touchdowns, 113 yards rushing, two touchdowns), but he doesn’t really have anything in terms of consistent options at receiver. Instead, Enders relies a lot on his legs, which has worked out quite well for the Tigers so far.
Maryland has been terrible on defense, and stopping the pass is no exception. They rank 84th in the nation in pass defense and 97th in pass efficiency defense, and the season-ending injury to strong safety Matt Robinson will not help. That means redshirt freshman Titus Till will get the first start of his young career Saturday, joining Eric Franklin, Dexter McDougle, and Cameron Chism as starters in the secondary. Off the edge, Maryland starts sophomore David Mackall and true freshman Keith Bowers; neither have been overly impressive this year.
Regardless, Towson doesn’t really have anyone to throw to. Advantage: Maryland.
Towson Rushing Offense vs. Maryland Rushing Defense:
The five-headed attack of Dominique Booker, Terrance West, Sterlin Phifer, Enders, and Tremayne Dameron has combined for 246 yards per game on the ground for the Tigers, good for tenth in the FCS this season. Dameron is a returning starter but has seen limited carries this year, and it has been Booker and West who have carried most of the load, with Enders providing relief out of the pocket and Phifer getting some key carries as well.
Maryland is allowing nearly 183 yards per game on the ground in Todd Bradford’s revolutionary “let them score on us” defense. With injuries to linebacker Darin Drakeford and defensive tackle Andre Monroe, two of Maryland’s better defensive players this year, this will not get better soon. Instead, former offensive lineman Maurice Hampton joins Joe Vellano up the middle, and Lorne Goree will make his first career collegiate start at middle linebacker, joining struggling Kenny Tate and Demetrius Hartsfield to make up the linebacking corps.
This one finishes up 3-1 Maryland. A fantastic defense and a strong running game? Where have we seen that before? Be wary of Towson, folks, they are nearly the same kind of team that Temple is. The talent disparity, however, will be too much to overcome, as after struggling in the first half (think a half-time score within four points), the Terps finally break out in the second half. Maryland wins, 35-10.