Maryland suffered a deflating loss against West Virginia on Saturday. Check out our five observations from the game:
- Caleb Rowe looked lost – It’s been well-documented that the Maryland quarterback has struggled in the turnover department. However, things got even worse against West Virginia when Rowe threw four interceptions. Rowe looked to be out of sync with his wide receivers, and because of that, only threw for 67 yards in three quarters. It was easily the worst outing that Rowe has had during his Maryland career. Several of the interceptions were passes that were forced. He does have a gunslinger mentality, and can really throw the football at an effective rate when he’s on top of his game. Coach Randy Edsall clearly is confident that Rowe is the right quarterback for the Terrapins as he left him in the game for quite a while on Saturday, and confirmed that he will be the starter against Michigan. Rowe is going to have to put this game behind him and move forward. After all, the Terps will be facing a talented Michigan defense that is coming off a shutout of BYU.
- Secondary struggled – Much like Clint Trickett did in 2014, quarterback Skyler Howard picked apart Maryland’s secondary. Howard threw for 294 yards and four touchdowns against Maryland’s highly-touted secondary. Aside from the South Florida game, the Terps have really struggled to defend the opposing team’s passing attack. Maryland is giving up 234.3 yards-per-game through the air, and that’s facing three mediocre defenses in Bowling Green, Richmond, and South Florida. The Terps secondary was supposed to be one of the team’s biggest strengths, but it has been incredibly inconsistent through the first four games. During the next few weeks, we’re really going to find out what this team is made of with Michigan and Ohio State on tap.
- Running game continues to impress – Despite a lot of inconsistencies throughout the roster, Maryland’s ground attack has been very successful during the first four games. Yes, the Terps did struggled to establish the run against Bowling Green, but then again, not a whole lot went right for Maryland that afternoon. Brandon Ross continued his strong senior campaign as he rushed for 130 yards on 15 carries. The running game looked solid on Maryland’s opening 10-yard drive, and was the only reason that they found themselves in West Virginia territory. Wes Brown and Ty Johnson got some work as well, so the burden to keep the ground attack churning isn’t all on Ross.
- Pass rush stays consistent – While it’s hard to find positives on the defensive side of the ball in a loss of this magnitude, Maryland did a decent job of getting after Howard and establishing the pass rush throughout the game. The Terps recorded sacks with the likes of linebacker Jefferson Ashiru, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, and defensive lineman Azubuike Ukandu getting their hands on Howard. Maryland was in Howard’s face quite a bit on Saturday, but the Mountaineers signal caller did a good job getting the football out for the most part. It’s good to see the pass rush doing its job with Big Ten play about to begin.
- Gashed on the ground – West Virginia certainly had their way with Maryland on the ground. Wendell Smallwood and Rushel Shell combined for 224 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns against a lackluster Terp front seven. This wasn’t a lone afternoon type of performance as Maryland is allowing 200.2 yards-per-game on the ground and 4.3 yards-per-carry, both of which put them last in the Big Ten. Aside from the Richmond game, the Terps can’t seem to contain the running game whatsoever. Things are only going to get more difficult with Big Ten play set to begin next week. There’s not a ton of veterans in the group, so learning on the job continues to be what the team is dealing with. Maryland is going to have to figure out how to keep opposing teams on their toes and force them to throw. If the defensive effort doesn’t improve, it could be a very long season in College Park.