Nov 22, 2014; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Maryland Terrapins running back Wes Brown (4) rushes in the second quarter against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
After a deflating home loss against Michigan State last week, the Maryland football team needed a bounceback performance in order to pad their bowl resume for the upcoming postseason. Behind a truimphant comeback, the Terrapins were able to edge the Wolverines in Ann Arbor on Satuday. Below, I take a look at what we can take away from the game as Maryland looks ahead to the season finale against Rutgers this Saturday.
- C.J. Brown re-emerges – The Maryland signal caller was under a ton of heat from his performance against the Spartans resulted in a bad loss for the Terps. However, much like the 2013 season, Brown had his moment of redemption. In 2013, the Pennsylvania native had an abysmal game against Syracuse, and rebounded by leading Maryland to a heart-pounding victory over Virginia Tech in overtime. Obviously, the drama wasn’t quite as intense, but Brown did score the game-tying touchdown on a beautiful misdirection play in which he found paydirt. Brown completed six of his last ten passes, including a 36-yard completion to wideout Amba Etta-Tawo that put the Terps at the Michigan three-yard line. The key completion eventually resulted in a one-yard touchdown by running back Wes Brown, which gave Maryland a 23-16 lead that they would never relinquish. The play calling was very much a mixed bag, which is a great sign. C.J. Brown carried the ball 18 times for 8.7 yards (4.8 yards-per-carry), and Wes Brown had seven of his 11 carries on the final clock-killing drive. If Maryland is able to keep riding Wes Brown, especially late in games, they could see a tremendous amount of success against Rutgers and whatever bowl opponent they are matched up with.
- Andre Monroe is one of the best DEs around – It’s been awhile since Maryland has had a dominant pass rusher that wreaked havoc on opposing quarterbacks. Obviously, guys like Joe Vellano and A.J. Francis were extremely talented and had great careers at Maryland, but they weren’t quite at that level when it came to chasing down opposing signal callers. In the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game, Monroe picked up another sack to give him a team-leading 9.5 for the season. It also tied Monroe with Mike Corvino (1979-1982) for the all-time sacks record with 24. It also tied a single-season career-high for Monroe individually as he had 9.5 sacks last season as well. Monroe now has two games left to break the record. In terms of this season, Monroe is arguably one of the top defensive ends in the Big Ten. The St. John’s College product is second in the conference in sacks, only trailing star Ohio State pass rusher Joey Bosa who has 11.5 sacks. Monroe has had at least one sack in all but three games this season. Along with Keith Bowers and Darius Kilgo, Monroe establishes an extremely strong pass rush for the Terps. While the offense has had their fair share of struggles, the defensive line’s play has been a constant all season.
- Brad Craddock could be unstoppable – With the Maryland offense sputtering in the first half against Michigan, kicker Brad Craddock was called upon to give the Terps some points. Once again, Craddock was automatic from 21, 38, and 41 yards. With those three field goals, the Australian kicker has continued the longest active FBS kicking streak. Craddock has connected on all 17 of his attempts this season. It also moved him into second place all-time in the Big Ten as he tied former Iowa kicker Nate Kaeding. The longest Big Ten streak was 24 consecutive field goals by former Ohio State placekicker Mike Nugent. Craddock is just the definition of cool under pressure. It’s very impressive considering how much Craddock struggled during his freshman season (we all remember the North Carolina State game in 2012). The junior kicker would’ve tied Nugent’s record if not for a roughing-the-kicker penalty early in the fourth quarter. Maryland ended up getting an automatic first down, and scored on the very next play. Craddock had a big year in 2013 (21-of-25), so the success is definitely not a surprise. The argument can definitely be made that Craddock has been Maryland’s MVP this season.
- Underrated pass defense – The Terps held Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner to just 106 passing yards on the afternoon, which was Maryland’s lowest total of the season. The combination of Gardner and running back Drake Johnson paced the ground attack, but the lack of a passing game doomed the Wolverines in the end. Maryland got a big boost with cornerback Jeremiah Johnson returning to action, and making his presence known. Johnson’s return also allowed Sean Davis to go back to his natural safety spot. For the first time in a while, the Terps are healthy throughout the second and the front seven as well. Maryland’s secondary is allowing 226.5 passing yards-per-game this season, so this is a huge statement for the Terps. With a potential top 25 team waiting in a bowl game, Maryland’s defense getting stronger is definitely a huge bonus.
- Establishing a running game – The words Maryland and a strong rushing attack haven’t exactly gone hand in hand during the 2014 season. However, with a slim lead and the clock winding down, Maryland rode Wes Brown to victory. Brown looked like he saw the field extremely well, and helped Maryland run out the clock. However, he wasn’t the only Brown that saw success. C.J. Brown had a nice day through the air as well as on the ground. The Terps ran the ball 35 times, which is really saying something considering that they are 12th in the Big Ten in rushing offense. Keeping opposing teams on their toes is very important for a team like Maryland that relies so heavily on the pass at times. If the duo of Browns can build off this solid performance, Maryland could win the final two games.