2013 Final Stats
2013 Final Stats

2013 Maryland Football In Review: CJ Brown


2013 Final Stats


The Year In Review

For C.J. Brown, 2013 was the 2012 season that should have been. Injuries kept him out the season prior, but Brown entered 2013 with no one knowing really what to expect. Was he going to be a better passer? Did he still have that amazing 4.3 speed from 2011? Would he lead the team to unprecedented success and utilize all those offensive weapons? There were a lot more questions than answers to start the year, and with 2013 finally in the books, we can dissect them in total.

Brown was definitely different, to say the least. Having a quarterback with his speed really changes how you can run an offense, and the zone read at Maryland was certainly (at times) effective. Brown showed how potent the offense could be when he was tied with Teddy Bridgewater for total touchdowns through four weeks; his play had him being thrown into the ring for Heisman darkhorse.

Brown decimated everything that came through his path — until he played eventual national champ Florida State. The Seminoles essentially put CJ Brown in flashback mode, as he was injured on a big hit in 2011 and then again on a pretty clear helmet-to-helmet this year. The concussion essentially derailed his healthy season — big time.

After that game, Brown’s stats — and overall play — got clobbered in no small manner. He missed a week against Virginia, then came back and had his worst performance of the season against Wake Forest before being yanked. When he finally came back after missing another week against Clemson, he threw up another dud in the 20-3 loss to Syracuse.

Then the Virginia Tech game happened, and Brown seemed to get back on track. Brown finally passed the 100 yard plateau for the first time since week 3, he threw a touchdown, and led his team to their first victory in Blacksburg in about 75 years to become bowl eligible. The rest doesn’t matter, because that was the biggest thing — becoming bowl eligible with CJ Brown.

That Maryland got beaten up pretty handily in the bowl game surprised Maryland fans, but not Vegas. Brown didn’t have an amazing game, and the offense looked pretty bad at times, but Maryland wasn’t expected to beat a Marshall team that was dominant all year.

What We Liked

1.) Brown looked better as a passer

If we’re going to talk about positives, let’s just start with that one. Outside of the Wake Forest game, Brown looked like he improved both his arm strength and accuracy greatly from his sophomore season. His deep balls may have floated a bit, but I’m not even sure he could make those in 2011 without opposing DBs picking them off like food at an open buffet.

Brown’s intermediate routes were where he made his money, though. Slants across the middle to Stefon Diggs and Deon Long were what made this team extremely potent at times. With those two wide receivers, you need only give them the ball in open space and let them work, and the slant routes worked wonders for the team. Brown’s ability to connect on those passes consistently were very big for this team.

2.) His leadership

If the Terrapins were Transformers, then Brown was Optimus Prime; the consummate leader who rallies the troops and fights until his body wears out. There’s absolutely no denying what an impact Brown had on his team compared to 2012. Brown is just a stand up guy who comes to work every single day prepared and ready to play. He’s far from a stoic, but Brown relies on cool assertiveness at all times on the field. You’ll never see him get an excessive celebration penalty, but you’d better believe he’ll be screaming on the field.

If you love one thing about Brown, love that he guides this team and they rely on him completely. The entire team mantra is about never giving up and letting the next man play, and Brown buys into the system entirely. He loves his coaches, and it has an infectious effect on the team around him. For that, you have to praise Brown.

3.) Those legs are still there

Brown was fourth in the ACC in rushing touchdowns this season, and fifth in total yardage thanks to 576 yards (a career high) on the ground. That added dimension, when used correctly, gives Maryland something most other schools don’t have. Brown just has a nose for the end zone, and 12 rushing touchdowns from your quarterback cannot be understated.

We can put Brown under a microscope and dissect every failure in his game down to a molecule, but you can’t take away those 12 touchdowns.

What we didn’t like so much

1.) Brown struggles against stiff competition

Brown hasn’t been terrible against ACC competition, but his play hasn’t been particularly awe inspiring either. Consider that against non-conference opponents, Brown threw for 1,240 yards, rushed for 321 yards (5.0 AVG), threw for 9 touchdowns to 4 picks, and rushed for 6 more. But against conference opponents? He threw for 1,002 yards and 4 touchdowns (to 5 picks), rushed for 255 yards (3.4 AVG) and 6 touchdowns on the ground.

The difference is startling, and it’s a reason why Brown has only won two conference games throughout his career. Virginia Tech was his first, and North Carolina State his second. One was an overtime victory where he played his butt off, the other was against the worst team in the ACC. Other than those two games, Brown’s play left you wondering whether he could keep up against the better teams.

His legs just weren’t there against quicker ACC opponents, and his rushing yards per attempt plummeted by almost two yards. He just didn’t look dominant for the most part, and his arm was put on blast during a lot of contests.

The question still remains whether he can be a factor in conference games, and right now the answer is no. Fortunately, he’s playing in the Big Ten next year.

2.) He was a bad quarterback in the fourth quarter of games

Worse still, he played significantly less effective in the second half of games. Brown only threw one touchdown and rushed for one touchdown in the fourth quarter of games — for the entire season. That’s not good for a quarterback, and it suggests that either teams are figuring him out by the end of the game or he just doesn’t perform.

In the first through third quarters, his completion percentage hovers around 62%. In the fourth, though, it drops ten percentage points to 52.8%. He only threw for 276 yards total in the fourth quarter of games, and his QB rating is 99.0 (compared to 150.3, 125.8 and 174.4 in quarters 1 through 3). Those aren’t stats you can brush over.

Even his running ability disappears in the fourth. Brown averages 2.2 yards per carry in the fourth compared to his 4.5 yards per carry in the other three quarters. He only rushed for 1 touchdown in the fourth as well (one in overtime, if you want to count that). His 65 yards total in the fourth leave you wondering what’s going on there.

3.) His health

Try as we might to get around it, Brown’s health is what will always limit both his performance and the team’s. Brown has been hurt every season of his college career, and it remains to be seen whether he’s ever going to stay healthy all year. Until then, the team is going to live and die by his ability to stay healthy.

It isn’t his fault, to be sure; a makeshift offensive line and his reckless style of play lends itself to injuries. Still, until Brown can stay 100% all year and Maryland has to rely on a stable of backups, how is this team going to improve? If your offensive centerpiece can’t play a full season, the answer is “You can’t.”

I’d like to see Brown healthy all year, just to see what he could do when he isn’t staving off concussion symptoms or a jelly arm or bruised ribs. Sadly, I don’t think that’ll happen.

Final Grade: B

Brown definitely gets a passing grade for being the most dynamic player on the roster not named Stefon Diggs, but I have to give him the harsh B without a plus or minus because of his health and poor conference record. Regardless of all that, with Brown health and at the helm, Maryland made it to a bowl game once again. Unfortunately, they lost it.