The avalanche happened fast, the game spiraling out of control as Jameis Winston fired snowball after snowball at the stunned faces of the Maryland defense. By the end of the third quarter on Saturday, a 21-0 halftime deficit had suddenly turned into a runaway 42-0 rout, and Florida State would score three more times before the game mercifully ended.
Before Saturday, Terrapins defensive coordinator Brian Stewart last was on the wrong side of a 60-point blowout as Missouri’s defensive backs coach in 1999, when the Tigers lost 66-0 to then-No. 9 Kansas State on the road.
But Stewart, like Coach Randy Edsall, preaches rigid routine above all else, which is how he could sit inside Gossett Team House on Wednesday afternoon and shrug off the Florida State defeat.
“Yeah, for the most part, once Sunday hit, we look at the tape from last week’s game, the good, the bad, the ugly, get it corrected and then we practiced on Sunday, and when we practice on Sunday it’s Virginia,” Stewart said, referring to the Terrapins’ opponent on Saturday.
The Cavaliers pose far less threatening a challenge than the high-powered Seminoles and their Heisman Trophy-contending quarterback. Still, running back Kevin Parks averages 4.5 yards per carry in Virginia’s zone-read scheme and quarterback David Watford can scramble, too.
But as Virginia struggles to find its footing after two straight losses — 14-3 against Pittsburgh in its ACC opener and a 48-27 debacle at home against Ball State last weekend — Stewart has tried to ignore the varying personnel changes and focus on offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild’s scheme itself.
“The offensive line was different,” Stewart said. “They’ve been changing, moving around the offensive line. They did shuffle in some receivers we haven’t seen. Their scheme has stayed steady. What we have to do is look at the scheme with what they’re doing, different formations and attack.”
Whatever Virginia brings to Byrd Stadium on Saturday, one thing remains certain: After Sunday’s film review, Stewart hasn’t allowed his mind to reflect on the Florida State game.
“I’m trying to move onto Virginia,” he said. “I think that if I go back and try to analyze that, I won’t be able to analyze Virginia, to tell the truth. That’s where our attention has been, that’s what the focus has been. As soon as we got back Sunday, we have to beat Virginia to get to 5-1.”
>> Backup defensive lineman Andre Monroe has been Maryland’s most consistent front-three pass-rusher this season, with 3.5 sacks and 6.0 tackles for a loss to rank second on the team in both categories. This week, Monroe moved to backup nose tackle behind Darius Kilgo on the depth chart, allowing Zeke Riser to slide in behind Keith Bowers at defensive end.
“He’s experienced, he’s played before,” Stewart said of Monroe. “He’s a good player for us. We can see something that we can use him, to take advantage of the center, we’re going to do that. We thought he did a good job for us.”
A bubbly, relatively undersize pass rusher who wants to pursue a post-graduate career in music and likes calling himself a “fireball,” Monroe suffered a preseason knee injury last season that kept him sidelined throughout the year. But the former freshman all-American has come on strong, used most often in nickel and dime packages with two-man fronts on passing downs. But Stewart balked when asked whether Monroe’s move meant he would see more time at nose tackle over defensive end.
“Every game presents its own different challenges,” he said. “Whatever we think we can take advantage of, we’re going to use him, whether it’s at end or nose.”