On Maryland’s third possession against Virginia Tech last Saturday, the Terrapins offense looked stagnant and was facing a 3rd-and-8 at their own 22-yard line.
Quarterback C.J. Brown couldn’t find anybody, so he took it upon himself to move the chains and pick up 38 yards. It reminded Maryland fans of Brown’s play from earlier this season.
The Maryland signal caller ended up rushing for 122 yards on 23 carries (5.3 yards-per-carry) and a pair of touchdowns. He also threw for 135 yards (12-of-25) and a touchdown. Part of the reason for the tremendous amount of success is the fact that Brown is finally healthy for the first time since ACC play began.
Despite a battered offensive line, Brown was still very accurate with the football. He developed a nice rapport with wideouts Nigel King and Amba Etta-Tawo, who each had some big catches for the Terps. King’s snag was one of the biggest of the game as it was a touchdown in the corner of the end zone that put Maryland ahead 21-7 in the third quarter.
Brown just played with that swagger that every quarterback has when he’s at the top of his game. Early in the game, the Pennsylvania native did look a tad hesitant as the Terps were less than productive on their first two drives. He did have a few turnover-riddled drives (an interception and a King fumble) after his big run, but he looked pretty efficient overall.
After leading Maryland to one of the program’s biggest wins in recent years, what does this mean for Brown and the Terps going forward?
First of all, the obvious: Maryland is bowl eligible for the first time during the Randy Edsall era. It’ll mark the Terps first bowl game since 2010 when Maryland defeated East Carolina 51-20 in the Military Bowl. Bowl eligibility has a trickle down effect in terms of recruiting. Recruits want to see schools that can have a good amount of success, which would warrant them committing to a particular school. With Friendship Collegiate Academy cornerback Jalen Tabor and Bishop McNamara offensive lineman Damian Prince set to make their decisions early on in the new year, this is a huge accomplishment for the Terps. If they’re able to win the last two regular season games, that sends an even stronger message to recruits in the 2014 class and beyond.
In terms of on the field, Maryland has a chance to win those final two games with a healthy and lethal Brown. Both games are extremely winnable with Boston College on the slate this coming Saturday and North Carolina State the following weekend. Brown has the ability to win these games with his newly-found health and playmaking skills. The Terps signal caller has shown that he has a great arm and can easily find open receivers, even if they aren’t named Stefon Diggs or Deon Long. Brown can sit back in the pocket and pick the opposing defense apart when he has ample time.
Obviously, that’s a big question mark with the makeshift offensive line that Maryland is currently working with. However, the group of Ryan Doyle, Michael Dunn, Sal Conaboy, De’Onte Arnett, and Andrew Zeller performed remarkably well against the Hokies last week. They showed that they have the experience and pulled together as a unit and held the fort for Brown. As a result, Brown had his best game since September and truly looked like the quarterback we were accustomed to seeing.
The most lethal part of Brown’s game is his ability to run the football. When running the read-option, he can be exceptional and showed that against Virginia Tech. That also means the potential for more success from running back Brandon Ross. Ross has been banged up this year, but has had some decent showings through the year. He only carried the ball 11 times last week, but did total 73 yards on the ground. It was his highest rushing total since rushing for 88 yards against Virginia on Oct. 12. If Brown continues to show that he is always a threat to run, it will keeps defenses on their toes and could mean more production for Ross.
The fact that the old Brown is back, means a great deal to the Maryland offensive attack. When he’s running the read-option, few offenses look as good as the Terps. Since Brown will be in College Park for another season in 2014, this success is a welcome sight to see and it needs to continue for Maryland to reach the eight-win plateau.