The Purdue Boilermakers are rearing up to play the Maryland Terrapins this Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium. Terps Watch, a branch of Maryland’s independent newspaper, The Diamondback, reports on all things Maryland sports. Alex Murphy, a Terps Watch contributor, shared his thoughts on the upcoming matchup.
With a two-quarterback system like Maryland has been using, who seems to be the favorite and why?
For the longest time, it was more of a one-quarterback system than a two-quarterback system. (Head coach Michael) Locksley and the coaching staff had a lot of faith in Josh Jackson, the transfer from Virginia Tech, to thrive in the starting quarterback spot. Had Tyrrell Pigrome completed that pass at the end of the Ohio State game last season, quarterback camp would’ve been much closer. It’s been Jackson for the most part until last week, when he was injured with around 30 seconds left to play in the first half of Maryland’s 48-7 win over Rutgers. It wasn’t a smart move to keep him in and now, he has been diagnosed with a high ankle sprain, so expect Pigrome to take over. Jackson, for what it was worth, wasn’t an accurate passer, thanks to Maryland’s last two games against Temple and Penn State, where he was 25-for-59 with 248 passing yards, one passing touchdown and three interceptions.
Maryland hasn’t had a winning season in a while, but now has a chance to go 4-2 against a weakened Purdue team. What is different this year, and how can those differences help Maryland against Purdue, as well as in the long run?
The Terps haven’t had a winning season since their first in the Big Ten in 2014. Maryland came out of the gate with an explosive offense. Jackson was touted to be Maryland’s best quartback since C. J. Brown, someone who can thrive in the pocket, throw for 3,500 yards and 25 to 30 touchdowns. While he is sidelined now, Pigrome can throw the deep ball much better than a few years ago, and he can run. The explosive offense is still there, though it was stunted greatly by Temple and Penn State. Losing wide receiver Jeshaun Jones was a big blow to the offense, but they’ve made up for it with the running back core, led by Anthony McFarland Jr. Maryland’s firepower has been lost with the losses of Jake Funk and Lorenzo Harrison III to injury, but McFarland and Javon Leake have both rushed for over 250 yards, and Tayon Fleet-Davis is hovering around 200 rushing yards for the season. Plus, Maryland has an offensive-minded coach in Locksley, who was the offensive coordinator at Alabama last season and won the Broyles Award for top collegiate coaching assistant. There are holes on the offensive line and on the defense, but overall, this team seems ready to break out, and watch out for that offense. It’s going to thrive on weakened defenses.
How much more confidence is there surrounding the team considering Purdue is missing multiple stars?
The vibe around the team has to be positive and upbeat considering Purdue’s biggest offensive asset, Rondale Moore, and Elijah Sindelar will be sidelined on Saturday. That’s big for the defense, who will be ready to pounce, especially the secondary, who will have a much easier assignment with Moore out of the mix. Maryland might be missing Jackson at quarterback, but the Terps have experience on offense and there’s always that expectation to play up for conference games. Purdue is banged up, and this is Maryland’s opportunity to capitalize and steal a road win in a tough environment against a good team that has been unlucky this season. Never waste a good opportunity, which is exactly what Maryland has.
Who are a few players to watch out for on either side of the ball? Who will have big roles in this game as well as this season?
He might not be unknown after his performance against Rutgers, but Leake might be one of the most underrated running backs in the country. Leake is fast, as showed by his 100-yard kickoff return touchdown against the Scarlet Knights. He had two rushing touchdowns against Rutgers and when teams scout Maryland, all the eyes are usually on McFarland Jr., who has made himself into an elite back. They don’t look at Leake, who is averaging around nine yards per carry this season, and expect him to get more carries as the season progresses. Someone else to look at is grad transfer Tyler Mabry, who is currently tied for the most receiving touchdowns on the team this season with three. Mabry, who came over from Buffalo, (New York,) hasn’t gotten a significant number of passes, but he’s made them count. Mabry shares time at tight end with Chigoziem Okonkwo, who has more receiving yards, but there’s a good chance you’ll see him in the red zone.
Maryland will win if...
Maryland will win if the offense train keeps rolling and Locksley can get the running game going. The Terps go where the run goes, and if McFarland Jr. and Leake can have big games, the field will open up, allowing Pigrome to pass freely and utilize more field. Maryland running downhill is extremely dangerous and can carve up any defensive line.
Purdue will win if…
Purdue will win if it can apply pressure on Pigrome in the pocket and not allow the run to penetrate the line. The Boilermakers need to stand tall, preventing Maryland from gaining momentum from their offense. Purdue doesn’t have the firepower it normally has, so it will need to improvise in order to pull out a home win because it’s been a rough year so far for the Boilermakers. This is a must-win game for both sides — especially Purdue playing at home.