The Maryland football team returns to the field on Saturday after their bye week.
After a tune-up game against Towson on Sept. 9, the Terrapins should get a tougher challenge in Central Florida.
The Knights are in a situation that not many teams have been through in the past. Hurricane Irma left the state of Florida in chaos, so the school was forced to cancel games against Memphis and Georgia Tech.
There isn’t a lot of tape to go through in terms of the offense up to this point. Central Florida defeated Florida International 61-17 in their season opener on Aug. 31.
The Knights put up 587 yards of total offense against the Golden Panthers. 439 of those yards came through the air, so the potential for big plays definitely exists for Central Florida.
Let’s take a closer look at the key components.
Central Florida quarterback McKenzie Milton is a player that Maryland should be very familiar with.
Milton threw for 260 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-24 double overtime loss at the hands of Maryland. However, his turnover in the second overtime period ended up helping clinch the win for the Terps.
Just two plays later, Tyrrell Pigrome broke off a 24-yard touchdown run to win the game for Maryland.
Milton ended up having a solid freshman season in 2016 as he completed 57.7 percent of his passes and threw 10 touchdowns in 10 games. He had three games in which he threw multiple touchdown passes.
When you watch tape of Milton, it’s pretty obvious that he is a gunslinger. He’s not afraid to try to fit the ball into a tight window in order to make a big play.
Milton definitely can chuck the ball down the field like nobody’s business. The Knights do have athletic wideouts, so that benefits his style of play.
One of his other attributes is his mobility. Oftentimes, Milton can climb in the pocket or even run the ball if he has to.
Milton is a very talented signal caller that will challenge Maryland’s front seven. The Terps will need to have a spy on him at all times.
A large majority of Central Florida’s offensive success came via the pass against Florida International.
Still, the Knights do have a very talented running back in sophomore Jawon Hamilton.
Hamilton, who rushed for 495 yards as a freshman, is the team’s lead back and has shown plenty of potential early in his collegiate career. The Miami native Dontravious Wilson behind him to steal carries this season.
The sophomore tailback may not be the biggest player in the world at 5’9, but he has excellent vision as a runner. Hamilton is a versatile player that can run between the tackles while also possessing the speed to bounce it outside when he has to.
Hamilton didn’t have a ton of eye-popping games last season, but the potential to break off big runs is certainly there. When the offensive line opens up holes, he is the type of back that shoots right through the tackles and is incredibly dangerous if he gets into the open field.
Maryland has done a better job stopping the run than they did in 2016. The Terps are currently yielding 98.5 yards-per-game on the ground, which is good for seventh in the Big Ten.
In addition, Maryland is also one of just four Big Ten teams to be giving up less than 3.0 yards-per-carry.
The Terps were tested earlier this season with Texas’ combination of Kyle Porter and Chris Warren III. However, the Longhorns got behind early and were forced to throw football, thus limiting Texas backs to just 98 rushing yards and 3.1 yards-per-carry.
The key for Hamilton is going to be if he can get going early in Saturday’s game. If he breaks off a few big runs, Maryland could be in trouble.
As was mentioned above, Milton is a quarterback that isn’t afraid to take chances.
One of the biggest reasons that he is able to do that is the play of wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith.
In Central Florida’s lone win, Smith hauled in three passes for 72 yards and two of those receptions went for touchdowns. Both scores came at opposite ends of the spectrum, which showed the versatility of the Knights’ star wideout.
In the first quarter, Milton got plenty of time to set and throw. Because of that, he was able to loft a deep pass that Smith caught for a 50-yard touchdown after getting just enough separation from the Florida International defensive back.
In the third quarter, Milton and the Knights were at the Golden Panthers’ three-yard line. Smith ran a slant route and had plenty of room to catch the ball and snuck into the end zone for the short touchdown.
Smith has the ability to be a threat down the field while also being a possession receiver underneath. The Delray Beach (Fla.) native has great hands and a large frame at 6’1, which allows him to flat out make plays in traffic.
Maryland found that out firsthand in last year’s game when Smith made a leaping catch over cornerback Will Likely and took it in for a 31-yard touchdown to send the game to double overtime. Smith caught eight passes for 114 yards against the Terps, which was one of his best performances of the 2016 season.
There’s no question that Maryland’s secondary has been very productive through two games this season. However, it’s a unit that is going to have to be on their toes when trying to defend Central Florida’s top receiving threat.