The Maryland Terrapins have started their second straight season at 2-0 after their week two win against Old Dominion. While they may have indeed held the same record last season at this time, the two teams are not remotely in the same category. After two weeks last season, the Terps were still very much a team in flux. A freshman quarterback who managed more turnovers (five) than touchdowns (three) at the helm wasn’t eliciting much confidence about the coming weeks. The team as a whole had committed eight turnovers in two games, and even though both games were victories, they were a far cry from awe-inspiring in nature (Maryland had a scoring margin of +10). The spotlight was more on Stefon Diggs accomplishments than whether or not the team itself could accomplish anything significant.
What a difference having a veteran quarterback like C.J. Brown can make for a team. Through two weeks with Brown at the helm, the Terrapins are much more veteran-like in their approach in-game. Composed is the first term that comes to mind, but it’s so much more than that. To call Brown simply a “game manager” through two weeks is to almost do him an injustice, because he’s been one of the best quarterbacks in the nation through two games.
Nine total touchdowns (five passing, four rushing) have him tied for first in the nation aside Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville, 556 yards through the air and 135 on the ground, a staggering 12.4 yards per passing attempt and 9 per rushing attempt. Oh, he’s also completing 75.6% of his attempts. But the one statistic that Brown likes to hang his hat on (and rightly so) is the one that plagued Maryland so much last season through two weeks: zero turnovers. Because even when Brown doesn’t have the Mike Vick experience performance that he had in week one, the biggest thing is that the offense isn’t making unnecessary errors.
“I had a couple bad balls, but it wasn’t anything too drastic…The big thing was we didn’t have any turnovers today,” Brown told me after Saturday’s win. “We went out there and we were efficient on the offensive end and we put points on the board.”
Putting points on the board is an understatement, because Brown’s offense has been among the best in the nation. Among teams that have played two games already, the Terps are 22nd nationally in scoring offense, tied with Clemson. Within the same parameters of having played two games, they’re also eight in the nation in total offense at 581 yards per game. Had the Terrapins decided to leave their starters in (both games), they’d likely be ranked even higher than that. But again, the most important statistic is that turnover margin, to which they’re in the positive (and nationally ranked so far).
For a quarterback who, prior to 14 days ago, had not taken a single in-game snap in over 300 days, these two weeks of scoring 90 points has been a major boon for the team’s confidence level. Eliminating the costly turnovers that hindered last season’s scoring output (largely attributable to youth), has had a nascent effect on the squad.
“It feels great,” Brown said. “It’s definitely building confidence for the offense and the defense when you come out and put points on the board and the defense plays well. The improvement from week one to week to has been crucial and I think we did that…we went out, played well, and did what we needed to do.”
What’s even better is that, even with the eye-popping early statistics, Brown still looks to improve further on what he feels can be an even better offense. Speaking about the first interception early that resulted in a field goal, Brown had this to say:
“We had good field position again, but we have to punch in that first touchdown. We gotta go down and we can’t put three on the board. We need seven, and we have to continue to harp on that. But the defense did a heck of a job.”
The stability that Brown brings to the table both from a leadership standpoint and in the passing game has helped so much in allowing the Terrapins to accomplish the goals they set out for themselves. And while it is most definitely a team effort (Brown will be the first person to credit the offensive line on any question), Brown is the catalyst for this team’s success early on.
Though you likely won’t hear him say much about Connecticut until later this week, there is no doubt that he’s going to harp on limiting turnovers and capitalizing on the turnovers the defense creates. Like most great captains do.