Maryland football vs. Virginia: Previewing the ACC home opener

October 11, 2013

(Associated Press)

THE INFO

Who: Maryland (4-1, 0-1) vs. Virginia (2-3, 0-1 ACC).
When: 3:30 p.m.
Where: Byrd Stadium.
TV: ESPNU.
DMV radio: WTEM (980 AM), WJZ (105.7 FM).
Satellite radio: Sirius channel 135, XM channel 191.
Coaches: Terps – Randy Edsall (third season, 10-19). Cavaliers – Mike London (fourth season, 18-24).
Series: Seventy-eighth meeting, Terps lead 43-32-2.

THE SCRIPT

Maryland roundly flunked last weekend’s big test against No. 8 Florida State. The 63-0 loss was its worst in two decades, and tied for the worst defeat by a ranked team ever. Now the Terrapins have two chances to rebound, beginning with their ACC home opener against Virginia. At 4-1, Maryland has strung together its best five-game start in the Randy Edsall era and can attain bowl eligibility with wins against the Cavaliers and Wake Forest next weekend before No. 3 Clemson comes to town. The Cavaliers enter off a similarly deflating 48-27 home loss to Ball State, and Coach Mike London’s job security is a topic of conversation. This is the final in-conference matchup between the border-state rivals before Maryland jumps to the Big Ten, but all eyes turn to more pressing matters, chiefly the Terps’ ability to come back from that pounding they suffered at Doak Campbell Stadium.

THE QUESTIONS

1) Rebound? These Terrapins have never faced adversity quite like this. Either they will leave Byrd Stadium further reeling from a second straight loss, or they will beat a struggling Virginia team – facing its own crossroads – and reroute the ship toward bowl eligibility. Maryland’s coaches have said called this weekend a learning experience for the players, an opportunity to turn the confident talk of forgetting about Florida State into actual on-the-field action.

So how will the Terps respond? Maryland is favored even with quarterback C.J. Brown doubtful because of the concussion he suffered last weekend, and Virginia is 1-4 in its past five ACC road games. Suffice to say, even with sophomore Caleb Rowe under center, the Terps are expected to win, so the game is not about proving they belong – as the story lines read leading into Florida State – but taking care of business.

2) What happens at quarterback? If Brown is indeed out, as expected, signal-calling duties fall to Rowe, who started Maryland’s 20-17 loss at Boston College last season, then promptly joined the ACL-tearing party and was lost for the season. Few have questions about Rowe’s attributes. He has a cannon arm, a fearless pocket-presence and the support  of teammates. But he’s prone to overzealous decision-making, as evidenced by his three interceptions against the Eagles, who intercepted just 10 total passes all of last season. Brown may dress for the game as a decoy, but it sounds like Maryland has prepared to be without its dual-threat quarterback, at least for one game.

3) Let Diggs loose? The suits and ties had barely taken their traditional seats on the Scott Stadium lawn last season before Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs sucked the jubilation straight out of homecoming afternoon. The then-freshman took the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, helping Maryland build a 17-0 lead before the first quarter ended. He finished with four catches for 89 yards and 239 all-purpose yards, earning ACC specialist of the week honors. But Diggs has been mostly silent over the past two weeks this season, with just four combined catches for 37 yards. What’s more, Diggs returned two punts for minus-one yards against West Virginia and never even lined up on returns at Florida State. So will Edsall let Diggs loose against the team he burned last season? At the very least, Maryland needs a productive Diggs against ACC defenses. With Brown or Rowe under center, the Terps must get him involved early.

THE STATS

14.98: Yards per completion for the Terps this season, which ranks 12th nationally.

12 and 10: Tackles for safeties Sean Davis and Anthony Nixon, respectively, against Florida State. Both were career highs, and both speak more to Florida State’s ability to break free into the secondary.

2,228: Total yards through five games for the Terrapins, their most since 2000.

THE QUOTES

“Talking about it like you said is one thing but going out there and do it. We’ll find out a lot about ourselves on Saturday.” – Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley.

“I mean it’s already been said, they think they’re better than us. They have the lawn and all that hoopla and I mean they had Thomas Jefferson go to their school. That’s all fine and dandy, but at the end of the day, we’ll work hard, people here at Maryland and I mean the school overall as an institution has become one of the top institutions worldwide. You can just tell by talking to somebody from Virginia that they think they’re a little bit better. And I mean, that’s not the case.” – Maryland offensive lineman De’Onte Arnett.

THE SONG OF SATURDAY

“Flesh and Bone” by The Killers

MORE ON MARYLAND-VIRGINIA

Brown doubtful | Robinson out.

Edsall says Diggs can’t get frustrated.

After injury, Riser finds his footing.

Locksley says Rowe will be ready.

Cavs’ defense suffered letdown against Ball State.

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