The heroes of Maryland’s season opener became supporting cast members on Saturday, deferring to the familiar faces of 2012. C.J. Brown and Deon Long starred during the Maryland football team’s bludgeoning of Florida International last weekend, but when a new visitor arrived at Byrd Stadium, Old Dominion came prepared to limit their production.
The conundrum, as future defenses will soon learn, lies in the diversity among the Terrapins offense. Spy Brown during zone reads and lanes open for running back Brandon Ross. Want to double Long? Well, that means leaving Stefon Diggs, Maryland’s most dangerous playmaker, in single coverage, never a wise move.
“I think that’s how it’s going to have to be,” Brown said after Maryland’s 47-10 pounding of Old Dominion. “They can only shut down one or two guys, if that.
“They tried to take me away from running the ball today, so we threw and Brandon ran. … Guys understand that. When your opportunity is called, you have to step up and make plays. That’s what guys did today.”
During the whipping of the Monarchs, who received a rude introduction to the Football Bowl Subdivision before a Byrd Stadium crowd of 38,377, Brown managed just 30 rushing yards, though he did sneak in two touchdowns. Long, despite receiving six targets, caught just three passes for 24 yards and had one drop. They took a back seat, if only because the alternatives are just as dangerous.
Ross rushed for a career-high 149 yards, averaging 8.3 yards per carry. Over his past five games dating back to last season, the sophomore has reached the century mark three times. Maryland’s offensive line opened gaping holes against Old Dominion and, well, it would have been rude for Ross not to oblige. “I 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.”
And then there was Diggs. The sophomore brought his typical magic, turning a short go-screen into a 41-yard jaunt, capped off by a somersault into the end zone. Earlier in the first half, he snared a 41-yard reception that Brown turned into a five-yard touchdown. His 179 receiving yards were a new career high, despite ending his day early following an awkward, non-flip-related landing in the end zone. Nothing Diggs does, it seems, surprises anymore.
“Not at all,” Brown said. “He’s a crazy kid. He’s crazy talented. Like I said, put the ball in his hands on a little go screen and he takes it the distance. It’s always exciting.”
Last week, Edsall described Maryland’s offense as a “pick-your-poison” scheme, where playmakers are legion and any can stand out. Florida International and Old Dominion, while not exactly exemplifying sound defense, couldn’t cover all the bases. Perhaps once ACC play begins, other teams may. But so long as Brown’s protection holds up and gaps open for Ross, scheming against the Terps might be a nightmare.
“With all the weapons we have, anyone can shine on any given day,” Ross said. “That’s really how you want it. I was happy to have a good game today, but it could be different next week. It could be Nigel [King] having a 100-yard receiving game. But as long as everyone’s stepping up to help us win the game, that’s the most important thing.”