Brandon Ross took the handoff and burst through the tackles, surging through the gap downfield for an 11-yard gain, before being tripped up in the Georgia Tech secondary at midfield. The Terrapins were behind 20-0 after a sluggish first half with just 61 total yards, but Ross popped up, let out a celebratory yell and stomped back to his teammates.
The playmaking ability was always there for Ross, but Maryland’s redshirt freshman running back struggled to process the Terps offense, making mistakes on runs, routes and protections. Everything has come together for Ross in the past week, and his improvements and execution during practice gave Coach Randy Edsall the confidence to slot him into Saturday’s game plan.
Ross was supposed to rotate in every this series, then Wes Brown nicked his ankle, and he wound up playing the entire second half, finishing with a team-high 66 yards on 12 carries in Maryland’s 33-13 loss.
“He’s done a lot better,” Edsall said during his Sunday teleconference. “He’s seen it in practice, done some things, been able to execute the plays that we have, and by doing that he gained himself the opportunity to go in yesterday.”
Ross’s most productive series set up Stefon Diggs’s 16-yard touchdown reception with 15 seconds left in the third quarter, when Ross rushed five straight times for gains of nine, six, eight, 15 and three yards.
“I was told I was going to play this week, but I didn’t know how much,” Ross said after the game. “It was definitely good to get back out there, start playing. Felt good. It’s been a while. I was just glad to help the team move the ball.”
Brown assumed the starting role after topping 100 yards against North Carolina State while Ross disappeared, relegated to the bench with injuries and a lack of production. But the consistency he flashed against the Yellow Jackets could propel him back into the rotation, especially if the Terps want to ease Brown back from what he described as a “very minor” ailment.
— Edsall spoke with Diggs about his unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, when Diggs lost his cool and got flagged for throwing the football at a Georgia Tech defensive back following a small dust-up on a tackle. By far Maryland’s biggest offensive weapon, Diggs channeled his emotion into two second-half touchdowns, including a soaring grab as time expired in the fourth quarter, so Edsall turned the frustration into a teaching moment.
“He can’t go do and do what he did there,” Edsall said Sunday. “He’s got to understand with him, there will people who will try to get inside his head and get him to react in that situations, which is a negative impact on us with the team. He’s got to keep a full head and learn to walk away from those things.
“If people figure out they can get under your skin, they’ll keep nagging you and get you to hurt your team. All Stefon has to do is continue to go out and play hard each and every way, and if he does that, he’s got the ability to make the plays and keep playing with the same enthusiasm and emotion that he plays with.
“He has to understand, he can’t react negatively to what people might do to him. He’s just got to stay calm, cool, collected. That way, he won’t put himself in those situations as long as he gives his best effort and won’t get caught up with what people are saying to him.”
— Edsall thought Shawn Petty got behind early while adjusting to the speed of the college game, but settled down in the second half, especially as the Terps started calling more plays they “felt he would do well and he could handle and execute,” Edsall said.
— Per usual, Edsall declined to give any updates on Brown and linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield, both of whom left the game with injuries, but later shook off the notion that it was anything serious. Don’t expect anything on these two until Thursday.
— Injured offensive linemen Bennett Fulper and Sal Conaboy both received time against the Yellow Jackets, and Edsall said he will “have some decisions to make there this week.” True freshman Evan Mulrooney has held up very well at center in Conaboy’s stead. Fulper has steadily progressed back from a turf toe injury after missing the Boston College game.