What we learned: Terps demolish the Dukes
The Maryland Terrapins opened their 2014 season on Saturday when they hosted the Dukes of James Madison. As expected, the Terps pulverized the Dukes, winning by a score of 52-7. There were a lot of positive things to take away from the victory, including the play of the running backs and front seven of the Maryland defense. Here is what we learned from the opening day victory:
1. The defense is strong and will keep Maryland in games.
While the final stats seem to tell the story of a lot of yards being given up, it is fair to point out that the Terps were missing some key cogs to the defense on Saturday. When the starters were on the field, the front seven got consistent pressure on quarterback Vad Lee and stuffed the running game of the Dukes. The secondary notched two interceptions in the game and gave little to no room for receivers to catch the ball and make a play. After losing star corner back Dexter McDougle to the draft and graduation, some wondered how the secondary would fair in his absence, but if Saturday is a sign of things to come, the secondary will be okay heading forward.
2. Sean Davis is getting better and is poised to have a breakout season.
Safety Sean Davis was flying all over the field, making his presence known on nearly every play. Davis showed a knack for being around the ball when it was in the air and on the ground, flashing his strong tackling ability to pair with his ball-hawking instincts. Kenny Tate was a similar player, as they are both big-bodied players who can tackle and play the ball in the air. Before Tate was plagued by injuries, many thought of him as an NFL prospect at strong safety. Davis will draw similar comparisons and hopefully injuries will not hold him back.
3. While the running game is strong, the passing game is still a work in progress.
Quarterback CJ Brown showed his strength in the running game Saturday, but his arm left a lot to be desired. Brown finished 11 of 24 passing for 111 yards and a long touchdown to Deon Long. Brown consistently overthrew receivers, never giving them a chance to make a play on the ball in the air. If the Terps want to maximize their offense, they will need more from Brown through the air.
On the flip-side, the running backs for Maryland put on a show. Starting running back Brandon Ross was tough on the ground while he was in the game, carrying the ball 16 times for 86 yards and a touchdown. In his return to college football after a year away for off the field issues, Wes Brown showed that he will be a force to be reckoned with, racking up 81 yards on 13 carries. Brown was the more heralded recruit coming out of high school, but Ross has supplanted him on the depth chart to take over the starters role after a breakout season in 2013. The two should combine to help even the offense for the Terps, so expect big seasons from both.
Maryland was impressive overall in their season debut. While there is room for improvement, the team should get stronger as the season rolls on, barring injuries. Unfortunately, Taivon Jacobs has been lost for the season already, assuring that the Terps cannot get through an entire season without losing a key player.
The Terps will take on the Bulls of South Florida on Saturday, September 6th. This contest will be the first road test for the team on the season, but should help send them off into the season with a sense of confidence when all is said and done.