Maryland is all too familiar with Temple’s ground game. A school-record five touchdowns and 144 yards in last season’s game will do that.
But to get a little payback, something the Terps’ players have spoke about at length this week, Maryland will need to establish its own rushing attack.
“Well that’s something obviously that would make our lives easier as coaches,” offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said Wednesday. “For a young quarterback the run game can be his best friend. I thought we were too inconsistent last week in the run game, and for us to be the team we need to be this week, we’ve got to find a way to run the football a little bit.”
With projected starter Brandon Ross still sidelined with a hamstring injury, Justus Pickett will get the start after he rushed for a team-high 45 yards and one touchdown in a 7-6 win over William & Mary at Byrd Stadium. True freshman Albert Reid, who started and had one more carry than Pickett (12 to 11, respectively) Saturday, will spell him at times. Wes Brown, who never saw the field against the Tribe, could get some action, too.
“We could have done a better job up front sustaining the blocks,” Coach Randy Edsall said. “I felt that the backs could have hit the hole in some different spots.
“I thought Justus did some good things. We will see as he goes on and as he runs, he gains some experience, and that experience made a difference when he was carrying the ball, not that Albert didn’t do a good job, but I think experience is the best teacher.”
During his postgame press conference, Edsall said he went with Pickett, whose six-yard touchdown run with 9:52 left provided the winning points, in the fourth quarter because of that experience from last season, when Pickett ranked third on the team with 74 carries and 274 yards.
“Even as of last week going into the game, obviously Albert started the game, and I think for us that may have been a little motivation for Justus,” Locksley said. “I thought when we needed a run game down the stretch, and the drive in which we scored our touchdown, I thought Justus ran the ball really well. It’s good to see the production out of him, I think having that competition has taken away some of the stuff that people saw last year. I was pleased with how he ran the football.”
In scouting Temple’s defense, Locksley focused on a veteran group, especially in the secondary, that could put pressure on Hills as they “try to rattle or shake up the mentality of a freshman quarterback.”
During their mid-week meetings, Locksley and Hills talked at length about the pace at which Hills made his in-game adjustments against the Tribe.
Just before the half, receiver Kevin Dorsey was open in the end zone on a slant, but Hills checked to Marcus Leak in the bubble for a three-yard gain. They discussed the adjustment at halftime, but on the interception Hills threw in the third quarter, he “threw it to the slant when he should have thrown it to the bubble.”
“Those are the little nuances of coaching a young quarterback, making sure he can stay up with the adjustments,” Locksley said. “To me, he’s a smart kid, he has a pretty good grasp now that we’ve seen him live under fire, we’ve got a better idea of what he can handle. We have to get the run game going to help him, be able to play action pass, and get some guys involved.”