With Maryland’s dynamic performance this season, the outcome of Purdue’s game against the team this Saturday is still up in the air.
The Terrapins are in their first season under new head coach Mike Locksley. Locksley was previously the offensive coordinator under Nick Saban at University of Alabama before he decided to take the head coaching job in College Park.
The bar wasn’t set super high for Locksley’s first season, but the narrative quickly changed after the first two games.
Maryland opened up the season against FCS opponent Howard University, and it shocked the college football world. The Terrapins won the game 79-0 and broke numerous school records along the way. They hoped to continue their success against No. 21 Syracuse University. Syracuse was expected to be Clemson University’s challenger in its division, but the Orange did not play well. The Terrapins put up 63 points against the Orange and cruised to a 63-20 win and earned an appearance in the AP poll. Maryland had arguably the best offense in the country at that point.
The Terrapins took Syracuse’s spot at No. 21, and expectations were starting to go through the roof.
Their next game was a road game against American Athletic Conference opponent Temple University. Maryland could not get its offense going, and Temple’s defense made two goal line stands. Maryland lost 20-17. It was a tough break for Maryland, but it had a bye week coming up to fix the issues.
The following Friday, the Terrapins were set to play No. 12 Pennsylvania State University. Maryland not only struggled on offense but surrendered 59 points on defense in the shutout.
Last week, the Terrapins rebounded against Rutgers University and won the game 48-7.
Maryland now sits at 3-2 overall with a 1-1 record in Big Ten play. It has been wildly inconsistent on offense this season, and fans will be interested to see which offense shows up against Purdue.
Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm had high praise for what Maryland’s offense can do.
“Offensively, they try to spread you out and at skill, go to work and create plays,” Brohm said. “I think when you look, the Syracuse game was a statement game they made. This team knows how to play football.”
Just like Purdue, Maryland will have to rely on its backup quarterback to win the game after Josh Jackson suffered an injury in the game against Rutgers. In his place, junior quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome will start. Pigrome isn’t an inexperienced player, however, as he has started games on and off during his four years.
If Pigrome plays, he is more of a dual-threat quarterback, and Maryland will look to use him in the run-pass option game. Purdue struggled to defend the RPO against Texas Christian University and University of Minnesota.
“They are going to continue to run the run-pass and have an athletic quarterback,” Brohm said. “We have to be smart in our design and our approach and also how we attack and fit what they are doing.”
The running back position is arguably where Maryland’s best players are. The one-two punch of freshmen Anthony McFarland and Javon Leake have been nothing short of impressive this season. McFarland already has 336 yards and seven touchdowns on the season, and Leake isn’t far behind with 262 yards and four touchdowns. Running backs have given Purdue’s defense trouble as of late, and it’s possible Maryland could have another big day on the ground.
On the receiving end, Maryland lost its best player, sophomore Jeshaun Jones, but have seemingly found his replacement with sophomore Dontay Demus Jr. He leads the team in receptions with 13, yards with 279 and is tied for touchdowns with three.
Maryland also has a very dynamic offense in which two tight ends play a major role in the system. Sophomore Chigoziem Okonkwo and fifth-year Tyler Mabry have a combined 21 catches and four touchdowns on the year. Purdue has already locked down the two star tight ends they have played against this season — Vanderbilt’s Jared Pinkney, senior, and Penn State’s Pat Freiermuth, sophomore — so it will be interesting to see how they defend two at a time.
The offensive line has also struggled to protect the quarterback, as the unit has allowed 11 sacks on the season, but it do have its strengths.
“They can move — they move really well. They can pass set well. It’s a well-rounded offensive line,” redshirt freshman defensive tackle Lawrence Johnson told GoldandBlack.com.
On the defensive side of the ball, Maryland has not been steady.
The defense is led by sophomore linebacker Ayinde Eley and senior defensive back Antoine Brooks Jr., who have made 35 and 31 tackles respectively on the year. They have done a good job forcing turnovers as they have five interceptions and four fumble recoveries so far this season.
Overall, they have also struggled to defend the passing game, and they give up a lot of yards to opposing teams.
Where Maryland ranks:
Total Offense: 402 (64th)
Points allowed: 26.5 (53rd)
Total defense: 440.8 (87th)
Matchups to watch:
Anthony McFarland vs Purdue’s Defensive Line
Tyrrell Pigrome vs Purdue’s Secondary
George Karlaftis vs Maryland’s Offensive Line
Jack Plummer vs Maryland’s Secondary