The Terrapins football team, ranked for the first time since coach Randy Edsall arrived in College Park in 2011, had an opportunity Saturday to capture the program’s most significant win in at least three years.
But the No. 25 Terps didn’t ever challenge No. 8 Florida State and suffered their first loss of the season, 63-0, in rather humbling fashion. Here’s some takeaways from the shellacking in Tallahassee, Fla., as watched on TV back in College Park:
1) OFFENSIVE DEFICIENCIES EXPOSED
The Terps were undoubtedly the underdogs heading into Saturday, but it would have been hard to predict that the offense would fall as flat as it did. A week earlier, Boston College hung 34 points on the Seminoles, and the Terps had scored at least 30 in each of their first four contests.
There was nothing pointing toward a shutout prior to the game, but once quarterback C.J. Brown and the Terps offense hit the field, it was evident the group was overmatched.
The biggest deficiency was on the Terps offensive line, where they were regularly pushed around. The Terps couldn’t generate any leverage up front, making their zone-read running game virtually in effective.
The team totaled 33 rushing yards on the game and averaged a measly 1.3 yards per carry.
The rest of the Terps didn’t fare much better against a more talented Florida State team. The receivers dropped passes, the backs failed to hit holes and the quarterbacks struggled.
Brown was knocked out of the game in the second quarter with a concussion after taking a hit, but even before that he didn’t look comfortable. He finished 6-of-14 for 82 yards and had three carries for three yards.
Backup Caleb Rowe took over after Brown walked to the locker room and finished 9-of-17 for 112 yards through the air.
Nothing was good for the Terps. And if the can’t get solidify the issues on the offensive line, it won’t get too much better.
2) DEFENSIVE DEFICIENCIES EXPOSED
As good as Florida State’s offense is, 63 points is a bit much, don’t you think?
The Terps really couldn’t match up with the Seminoles in the secondary, where they are missing two starting cornerbacks due to injury in Jeremiah Johnson and Dexter McDougle. Florida State redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston was phenomenal, completing 23-of-32 passes for a career-high 393 yards and five touchdowns.
As good as Winston was, though, it’d be foolish to overlook the problems in the Terps secondary. From about midway through the second quarter until Winston left the game in the fourth, Seminoles receivers were routinely wide open.
Florida State typically runs a lot of pro-style offense, but against Saturday they often employed spread formations to take advantage of the overmatched Terps’ defensive backs.
That was a terrific decision; the Terps secondary just couldn’t keep up.
3) IMPORTANCE OF PASS RUSH
After the Seminoles scored on their first possession and before they posted a string of eight-straight touchdown drives, the Terps forced three consecutive punts.
The key to those rare defensive stops was the Terps ability to put pressure on Winston. Though they didn’t always bring him down — the Terps had one only one sack — Winston was constantly under duress and couldn’t get into a rhythm throwing the ball during that stretch.
That pressure was able to briefly disguise the Terps lack of talent in the secondary. When the Terps weren’t getting to Winston, though, he was ridiculously efficient. So for the remainder of the season, the pass rush is going to be key.
The Terps entered the game ranking second in the nation with 4.25 sacks per game, but they’ll need to bother quarterbacks more consistently than they did Saturday if they hope to provide a banged up secondary some relief.
4) MOVING FORWARD
There are no obvious positives to take from the Terps’ loss. Still, the season continues and the team can accomplish plenty in the coming months.
Saturday’s loss was embarrassing, but the Terps’ 37-0 victory over West Virginia on Sept. 21 proved that they have the capability to beat solid teams. So the rest of the season, one in which winning seven games is a legitimate and realistic goal, will depend on how the Terps respond from this loss.
The Terps aren’t 63 points worse than Florida State; they just folded once things turned for the worse Saturday. If the team can’t bounce back from week-to-week they’ll be in trouble.
Conversely, if the Terps avoid crumpling and remain upbeat moving forward, they have the talent to win seven or eight games and reach the program’s first bowl game since 2010.