New emphasis on illegal-formation penalties hurt Terps vs. Syracuse

November 13, 2013

(Associated Press)

The tackles should have known better. Each week, Maryland Coach Randy Edsall listens to an ACC-issued referee tape, which reviews past calls and discusses rules that will be emphasized in upcoming weeks. Before the Syracuse game last Saturday, Edsall relayed a message to his offensive line: The officials will be flagging teams for having five players in the offensive backfield. This would prevent tackles from gaining an extra edge in pass protection by lining up off the football, almost taking a full step into the backfield before the snap.

“We made a point to our guys, ‘Hey, that’s a point of emphasis this week, we need to make sure we’re up,’ ” offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said Wednesday. “They warned you to tell you. We need to do a better job making sure we get them up on the line of scrimmage. Once it’s warned, that call will happen more times than not if they warn you.”

Maryland was flagged for the infraction — listed as “illegal formation” in the box score — three times against Syracuse. One came in the red zone, on first and goal from the Orange 10-yard line, and backed up the Terrapins so far that they only managed a chip-shot field goal.

One of the culprits was freshman left tackle Moise Larose, who started his first career game after Mike Madaras left the program for personal reasons. Barring any setbacks or injuries, Larose should start again on Saturday at Virginia Tech.

“For a freshman, I thought he did okay,” Locksley said. “I thought for a guy who was thrown out to the wolves for his first start, I thought he didn’t do too bad. Like any freshman you hope to see him improve each day. We feel like we’re getting that from all our freshmen, including Moise.”

>> After a three-turnover outing against Syracuse, Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown’s will look to bounce back against one of the conference’s best defenses. The Hokies lead the ACC in total defense and rushing defense and rank second in pass defense. Brothers Kyle and Kendall Fuller rank first and sixth, respectively, in passes defended.

“There’s no quit in C.J.,” Locksley said. “He’s a guy who still has the ability. I thought he looked as healthy as he has been. Maybe the time off, we’ve been able to knock some of the rust off. I expect him to have a big week this week.”

Despite finishing his first full game since September, Brown threw two interceptions, lost one fumble and posted by far his worst quarterback rating this entire season. His raw QBR, a metric devised by ESPN ranked on a scale from 0 to 100, has steadily dropped since the first game. Against Syracuse, it was 6.0.

Yet Locksley, like Edsall, remained steadfast in his support of Brown, even as Maryland limps into the weekend on a three-game losing streak.

“He’s a veteran player who’s played in a lot of big games,” Locksley said of Brown. “I expect him to be prepared. I expect him to go out and perform to his abilities. We all need to find a way to put together and go out and execute the way we need to win ball games. Thus far, I’ve liked what I’ve seen out of him this week. We have to transfer it over to game-like situations.”

>> Two weeks ago, the Terps took one backup quarterback option off the table when Ricardo Young moved to wide receiver. Depending on the health of slot receivers Levern Jacobs and DeAndre Lane, Young could see time against Virginia Tech, his former school.

“The big thing is his knowledge of the system,” Locksley said. “When you play quarterback, you pretty much know all the route concepts, what everyone’s going to be doing. It gave us the ability of an emergency guy who can line up, finish games. He’s a skilled athlete. He runs well, handles the ball all the time as a quarterback. From a technical standpoint there’s obviously a learning curve there, but the knowledge of the system, knowing what to do isn’t an issue for him because he knows the system well.”

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