Sunday review: Terps RB Brandon Ross cures ‘dancing’ problem, rushes for career high against Old Dominion

September 8, 2013

Brandon Ross, shown here last year against Wake Forest, didn’t hesitate against Old Dominion. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

The fancy feet. The first thing Randy Edsall noticed were the fancy feet. When he cued up footage of Maryland’s season-opening win over Florida International, he saw running back Brandon Ross juking too much. East-west dancing, rather than north-south running. “I thought he was hesitant,” Edsall said Saturday. “He wasn’t hitting and going.”

They discussed it. They talked about how Ross, the Terrapins’ starting running back, should start with the afterburners, how he should approach holes with authority and purpose. The Terrapins needed more than 21 rushing yards from their starting running back, so Edsall hoped his advice would take.

His answer came toward the end of Maryland’s 47-10 drubbing of Old Dominion on Saturday. With the game firmly secured, Ross approached Edsall on the sideline. “Did I hit it a little bit quicker today?” he asked. “I didn’t think I was dancing as much today.”

Maybe he was. Maybe Ross invented a new dance, the bulldoze-straight-ahead-and-don’t-look-back shake. On Maryland’s second possession of the second half, his 46 yards more than doubled his output against the Panthers. He ripped off seven carries of at least 10 yards. He finished with 149 yards, a new career high. After the game, Ross hadn’t checked the stats. He wasn’t certain he topped 100 yards.

“Really just want to thank my line for that,” he said. “I didn’t have no choice but to run through the holes today, they were opening up so wide. As far as last week, I was doing a lot of tip-toeing. I felt like I hit the hole harder, got the yards I could get, I just let the game come to me. I didn’t try to force anything. I think I made a change from week to week.”

Dating back to Nov. 10, 2012, when Ross started against Clemson in place of injured teammate Wes Brown, the current sophomore has gained at least 100 yards in three of five games, including against Clemson and North Carolina last season. He’s averaging 5.8 yards per carry during that span, and has evolved from an edge rusher relying on turn-the-corner speed into a durable back with surprising burst through the A-gaps.

“I know we had a great week of practice, especially the O-line,” he said. “The way you practice is the way you play. The line had a great week of practice, I felt I had a great week of practice. We worked on running the ball a lot this week, hitting the holes harder, making sure we can get as much yardage as we can get.”

For Maryland, that meant topping 300 combined rushing yards for the first time since Nov. 29, 2003. It meant two rushing touchdowns from quarterback C.J. Brown, giving him four on the season. It means backup running back Albert Reid, on his first carry, busting loose for a 27-yard touchdown. And it meant Ross silencing those who after last Saturday asked whether the rushing game would become a mounting concern.

“There’s always improvements you can make,” Ross said. “I’m not really satisfied.”

Okay, sure. But are you ever satisfied?

“Not really,” he said. “There’s always something you can work on to be better. You don’t want to hang your hat on one game.”

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Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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Alex Prewitt | September 8, 2013