Maryland gave No. 1 Ohio State a hard-fought battle on Saturday in coach Randy Edsall’s final game. Here are our five observations:
- Perry Hills has historic day – Perry Hills started the first two games of the season, but was replaced by Caleb Rowe against Bowling Green. The main knock on Hills was that he looked like a guy that was just playing to keep his job. However, coach Randy Edsall‘s decision to go with Rowe proved to be a brutally bad one. Rowe threw seven interceptions against West Virginia and Michigan, and as a team, Maryland only six points in those eight quarters. In relief of Rowe in those two games, Oklahoma State transfer Daxx Garman didn’t fare much better. Edsall decided to go back to Hills for Saturday’s game. The Pennsylvania native certainly didn’t disappoint. In a game that very few people thought the Terrapins could stay competitive in, Hills rushed for a career-high 170 yards, and was really the reason that Maryland hung around. While he didn’t have a banner day through the air, he made several strong throws, including completing passes to Levern Jacobs and Avery Edwards to start the second half and set the tone. When plays broke down, he showed that he wasn’t afraid to run. Maybe he’s not C.J. Brown, but Hills gives the Terps a fighting chance going forward.
- D.J. Moore is a huge asset – When Stefon Diggs announced his plans to forgo his final season at Maryland, the Terps were thought to be losing their only true deep threat. However, it’s been very evident that true freshman D.J. Moore is stepping into that role quite nicely. On Saturday, Moore caught a 52-yard deep touchdown pass from Hills to get the scoring started. It was the second touchdown receptions of 40-plus yards on the season for Moore. Ironically, both connections were between Hills and Moore. In the three games that Hills has appeared in, Moore has caught six passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns. His performance against Ohio State tied a career-high in receptions (three) and set a new career-high in yards (64). It was unclear whether or not Moore would make an impact as soon as he arrived in College Park. However, Moore is second on the team in both receptions (11) and receiving yards (193). This kid is going to be a big-time producer for Maryland going forward.
- Stopping the run – Maryland definitely hasn’t had a ton of success defending the ground attack this season. However, the front seven really came to play against the Buckeyes. Ohio State has a lethal running game that features arguably the top running back in the nation in Ezekiel Elliott. Despite coming off a 274-yard performance against Indiana, Elliott carried the football 21 times for 106 yards. While that is good for five yards-per-carry, holding the Big Ten’s top back in check is a solid accomplishment. Maryland’s front seven, led by linebacker Jermaine Carter, continues to show improvement, and is definitely a unit that has been battle-tested thus far.
- Third down efficiency – Things definitely couldn’t get much worse after a 28-0 loss to Michigan. In that game, the Terps were a horrifying 1-for-18 on third down attempts. Against Ohio State, Maryland were much more productive as they went 5-of-14 on third down. Part of the reason for the success was Hills’ ability to run with the ball when facing the Buckeye pass rush. Maryland’s offensive continues to show improvement. Offensive tackle Damian Prince had a few false start penalties, but housekeeping issues like that will work themselves out as the season rolls along. If the Terps continue to excel in the trenches, third downs will become a lot more manageable.
- Too little, too late for Edsall – While there was plenty of reports pointing to Edsall’s imminent firing, the Maryland coach still was on the sideline on Saturday afternoon. I’ll be blunt with how I feel about this whole situation. I’ve been a supporter of Edsall throughout the large portion of his tenure in College Park. The beginning of his tenure was bleak with only six wins in his first two years, but things got better. Maryland had seven-win campaigns in each of the past two seasons, which resulted in two bowl games for the Terps. Edsall also got the job done on the recruiting trail and in the classroom. The former Connecticut coach has landed several four-star recruits with one of the most notable ones being Bullis School quarterback Dwayne Haskins. It was widely known that this season would be a complete overhaul with a good amount of talent being lost on both sides of the football. Edsall just needed to win five or six games with an upset or two being icing on the cake. However, things went horribly wrong. Maryland dropped their second game to Bowling Green, and things began to go downhill from there. In games against West Virginia and Michigan, some uninspiring football was played. It appeared that Edsall was a guy that was on thin ice. It just looked like it was time for a change at Maryland. While the basketball program has had some phenomenal years, the football program has never really reached that elite status. It’s really a shame because I thought Edsall did a solid job during his first four years in College Park. He valued the concept of “Maryland Pride,” and that’s something that needs to be continued no matter who the next head coach turns out to be.