Terps Football: 5 Thoughts Before Maryland/Towson
Opponent: Towson Tigers (1-0, 0-0 Colonial Athletic Conference)
Location: Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium (51,802)
Date: Saturday, September 9, 2017
Time: 12:00 PM ET
TV/Radio Broadcasts: Big Ten Network, Maryland Sports Radio Network
Series Record: 1-0 Maryland
After a spectacular upset victory over #23 Texas last weekend, the Maryland Terrapins will host Towson in their 2017 home opener. They’ll do so for just the second time in the programs’ histories, despite being separated by less than 50 miles. The Tigers also won their season opener, beating Morgan State in a 10-0 defensive battle. Here are my 5 thoughts before the Terrapins face Towson on Saturday afternoon.
1. The Kasim Hill Era Begins
On Tuesday afternoon, Maryland head coach DJ Durkin announced that starting quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome suffered a torn ACL in the game against Texas. It was a big blow for the team, as he had performed extremely well in the game, accounting for 3 total touchdowns. However, highly-touted freshman Kasim Hill entered the game and didn’t miss a beat, completing all 3 of his pass attempts (including an incredible 3rd-and-19 conversion) and rushing for a crucial touchdown. He showed poise well beyond his years, and his arm was as good as advertised.
Hill will start his first career game for the Terrapins against Towson, just over a month after arriving on campus. With Pigrome out for the remainder of the season, this is now Hill’s team. Look for offensive coordinator Walt Bell to boost his confidence early with some high-percentage passes. In fact, the primary goal for this game ought to be to keep Hill’s confidence high heading into the early bye week and the game against UCF in two weeks.
2. Big Line Advantage
As is typically the case when an FCS team like Towson moves up a level to face an FBS team like Maryland, the FBS team has a significant advantage on both the offensive and defensive lines. The Terrapins’ lines will be bigger and stronger than Towson’s, which should allow them to dominate in both facets. Look for Maryland’s offense to take advantage of this by running the ball early and often, and for their defense to play coverage and attempt to get pressure along the defensive line.
3. Special Teams Must Improve
One of the only weaknesses shown by Maryland in last week’s game was special teams. Kicker Adam Greene had a 31-yard field goal attempt blocked, and missed a 50-yard attempt while double-clutching behind the line of scrimmage. Greene had been in a battle for his job with Mike Shinsky during the off-season, and Durkin suggested that he is open to making a change at the position during his press conference earlier this week.
4. How Much Run Can the Backups Get?
This game will likely be Durkin’s only opportunity to see his backups in extended playing time this season. The sooner that the team can put Towson away, the sooner that he can dig into his depth chart before the bye week. Durkin played plenty of freshmen in the team’s opening game against Howard last season, so will we see the first of Anthony McFarland, Cam Spence, Deon Jones, etc. on Saturday? It was against Howard that Maryland fans witnessed the breakout of Lorenzo Harrison and Tino Ellis, so keep your eyes open for some stars of the future in the second half against the Tigers.
5. Run Defense Must Remain Strong
After a dismal 2016 season, Maryland’s run defense was phenomenal against Texas. They allowed under 100 yards on the ground, and held starting running back Chris Warren III to just 31 rushing yards. The team utilized a heavy rotation along the defensive line in the Texas heat, with 23 different players recording tackles. While Texas ran a spread offensive attack, Towson brings a more traditional pro-style scheme with them this weekend. While the Tigers’ offensive line has a large size disadvantage, their bread-and-butter play is power between the tackles. After playing well against a spread running attack last weekend (similar to what they’ll see against Ohio State, Penn State, and Northwestern), watch for how they respond to a more traditional attack (similar to what they’ll see against Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin). Look for them to base out of a more traditional 4-3 defensive scheme, bringing more players into the box to force Towson to throw the ball.