Consider that on September 9th, 2013, Matt Fortuna of ESPN.com wrote about C.J. Brown these words:
The Heisman dark horse. Don’t look now, but C.J. Brown has been downright brilliant so far for Maryland. He threw for 275 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 30 yards and two more scores in the Terrapins’ 47-10 win over Old Dominion. Brown became the ninth quarterback since 2004 to post a total QBR of 95 or higher in each of his team’s first two games.
CJ Brown has had his fair share of misfortune come to him this season. He has gone from a nearly perfect quarterback rating and a 4-0 start that had Maryland back in the rankings for the first time since 2010, to an injury plagued season marred by losses to Florida State (understandable), Wake Forest (off a bye), and last week Syracuse (both off a bye week and inexcusable). He’s not won a game in the second half of the season, and his offenses haven’t broken double digits in points at all. To say the least, the ACC has not been kind to Brown.
For his career, he’s got zero wins in seven starts against ACC opponents. Brown’s play has been sporadic at best; one week he goes from looking like a lethal dual-threat guy, the next his decision making goes sour. Perhaps the most damning for fans, he doesn’t have any marquee moments save for putting a scare in Clemson back in 2011 with his legs. No signature wins to his name, only close losses.
Brown’s struggles during conference play are documented and unfortunate. His legs just seem to lose their luster against the ACC; out of conference this season, he ran 45 times to the tune of 283 yards. In conference? His 23 carries have amounted to -27 yards. When Maryland is losing by 1-to-7 points, Brown hasn’t thrown for a single touchdown, and rushed for only one. Nothing stands out as dominant.
Perhaps the worst part for Brown has yet to come.
His next attempt comes against a Virginia Tech team that is finally rounding into form. After nearly losing to Marshall back on September 21st, the Hokies have been playing sound football in conference play, as they always tend to do. Even though they followed up their six game win streak with a two game skid against Boston College and Duke, they just walloped a #11 Miami team that most commentators thought was “back.” Virginia Tech is still here, and the Coastal Division is still theirs.
Worse still, Virginia Tech has been doing well with their offense just as much as their highly touted defense. Logan Thomas was a laughingstock through five weeks. Numerous times the media started calling for his head, hitting the panic button and believing a QB change was necessary. It’s a good thing Frank Beamer didn’t, beccause entering Maryland he looks like a hardened quarterback. His statistics may not jump out at you, especially with those interceptions pointing to poor performance, but Thomas looked good against Miami, not merely serviceable. Thomas is what CJ Brown should be: an offensive machine who does the brunt of the scoring for his team, be it with his arms or his legs, and regardless of weapons at his disposal.
Indeed, the two’s roles seemed to be reversed for awhile, with Brown receiving the accolades and glamor. Then Florida State happened, and now it’s Brown who is being told to take a seat on the bench in favor of just about anyone. Right now, the fan base wants a win. They want that “bowl game” accomplishment after a three year hiatus from the postseason. There’s no doubt that Brown has to be feeling a little bit of that pressure.
The only way for him to alleviate most of that is to win, and win in a decided fashion. When Caleb Rowe has more victories in two ACC starts than Brown has had his entire conference career, and when Perry Hills has equaled his win total (4) for Maryland, it doesn’t matter if you beat West Virginia. It doesn’t matter that the offensive line has been terrible and the wide receivers are banged up, either. What matters is doing the most with the offensive threats you have. And six points (the number of points scored when CJ Brown runs the offense in conference play) just isn’t going to cut it.
Should Brown go out and orchestrate a victory against Virginia Tech, on the road, to stop the bleeding from this program and catapult the team to a bowl game, all is forgiven. That’s what winning does. That’s what would quiet the questions about whether or not he should be leading the offense in 2014, and it will definitely silence the critics. Virginia Tech won’t be remotely easy, but doing it short handed on the road? That’s what would get the fan base behind your back.
If not, all they’ll see is 0-8 in ACC play for CJ Brown, and the mob will only get louder. For both the Terps and CJ Brown, it’s a win and you’re in game, and one that can get both player and program over the proverbial hump.