BALTIMORE — They huddled together late in the game, a blowout win already in the cards, and demanded to score one more time. Coach Randy Edsall wanted Maryland’s offense to finish on its own terms, rather peter out with two lost fumbles. So with the Terrapins taking possession at their 11-yard line following another West Virginia turnover, Edsall gathered the unit and told his players, “I want you to go down and score.”
The result? A 12-play, 89- yard drive that ate up eight minutes of clock, certainly the offense’s most impressive possession of a rain-soaked afternoon in Baltimore. The Terrapins pounded running back Brandon Ross up the middle on first and second down, and when Maryland needed a third-down conversion, quarterback C.J. Brown found wide receiver Deon Long on three separate occasions. Ross danced into the end zone from three yards out for Maryland’s final points in a 37-0 rout, one final blow dealt on an already miserable afternoon for the Mountaineers.
“I felt good for the offense,” Edsall said. “I challenged them pretty good in that huddle. They responded, and that was good to see. You get into these situations, you have to be able to finish them. With the way the weather was, we didn’t do a good enough job in the third quarter with that offensively.”
Or, for that matter, in the first half. Maryland’s two offensive touchdowns before intermission were aided by short fields gifted through interceptions. Three straight drives stalled in West Virginia territory, resulting in Brad Craddock field goals. An offense that breezed to 500-yard games against Florida International, Old Dominion and Connecticut suddenly found trouble against a Mountaineers bunch not quite known for its defensive prowess.
Yet that Maryland could endure Stefon Diggs’s least productive game in a Maryland uniform and still dismantle West Virginia in this fashion speaks not just to the offense’s diversity, but to the team’s balance at large. When the offense needed a jump start, safety A.J. Hendy returned an interception into the end zone. When Ross and Brown lost fumbles, the defense forced turnovers within seconds. Maryland’s offense has proven its worth. But for one afternoon, it needed – and got — support.
“It’s great to have both sides of the ball being able to do their own part,” said tight end Dave Stinebaugh, who finally caught his first career touchdown pass in his fifth year at Maryland. “In the past couple years, it’s usually one or the other between different games. To have both teams, both offense and defense being able to do things throughout the game, not having to rely on one or the other, is definitely huge.
“It’s definitely one of the main focal points this year. This is one of the closest teams I’ve been on in a long time. Everyone’s gelling together pretty good. When you can count on both defense and offense in the same game, you can’t ask for much more than that.”
Long caught six passes for 98 yards. Ross carried 20 times for 67 yards and a touchdown, and Brown accounted for just 243 total yards, his lowest output of the year. Maryland’s defense, by any measure, carried the team to a fourth straight win and its biggest blowout against West Virginia since the Korean War.
But when Edsall gathered the team and pressed for more, they responded. Ross ripped off rushes of 12 and 15 yards, downhill and straight up the middle. Brown hooked up with Long for third-down conversions of 13, 17 and 29 yards, one game after finding first downs proved so difficult at Connecticut. Then the goal-line package came in and Ross atoned for his earlier fumble, stamping a victory that, thanks to the defense, was never in question.
“We’re going to enjoy this one first,” Edsall said. “I’m a firm believer, we can be a really good football team. There’s things we have to clean up, again every game gets a little bigger. If we prepare the right way, and play hard and take care of the football and do the things that give us a chance, we’re going to continue to be a good football team. We’re nowhere near where we can be. That’s the thing I like.”