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November 15, 2013

Terps limp into Blacksburg

The Terrapins have run nearly the entire gamut of possibilities on this three-game losing streak. They were torched as a road favorite against Wake Forest. Clemson took care of them at Byrd Stadium when they were underdogs at home. Last week, they managed a measly three points after they were favored at home against Syracuse.

Tomorrow in Blacksburg, the Terps will complete the circle as underdogs on the road against Virginia Tech. Big underdogs -- more than two touchdowns according to Vegas. The Hokies are coming off their biggest win of the season - a 42-24 thrashing of then No. 11 Miami in Sun Life Stadium.

Freshman tailback Trey Edmunds piled up four rushing touchdowns and senior signal caller Logan Thomas had perhaps his best game of the season, completing 25 of 31 passes for 366 yards and two scores. The vaunted Hokies defense held down a Miami attack that was averaging over 36 points per contest heading into the game.

Virginia Tech allows only 17.6 points per game, good for ninth in the nation. The win opened the door for a shot at the ACC title game for Frank Beamer's bunch, who are now 4-2 in conference.

Randy Edsall described the Hokies as an "outstanding defensive team" this week, adding, "Their statistics really paint the picture of who they are. And offensively, you have an outstanding quarterback in Logan Thomas. And again, when you take a look at their roster defensively, eight seniors total, so very experienced group and same thing on offensive side of the ball."

The Maryland team that will line up against that battle-tested group tomorrow is a shell of the squad that was 4-0 two months ago. Thursday's injury report revealed more bad news. The Terps will be without Moise Larose, who made his first career start last week at left tackle, as well as both of their remaining healthy slot receivers in Levern Jacobs and DeAndre Lane. Linebacker Abner Logan is also out.

Edsall indicated that Larose injured his foot in the Syracuse game. His absence means the Terps will start their third left tackle in three games, though the team has yet to convey who will get the nod. The receiver situation is even more muddied. The team is out of slot receivers and will dress only five guys at the position, one of whom is converted quarterback Ricardo Young, who once played at Virginia Tech. Nigel King, Amba Etta-Tawo and Malcolm Culmer are the only Terps receivers who have recorded a catch in their college careers.

One position that isn't in question, at least for this week, is quarterback, where C.J. Brown will make consecutive starts for the first time since October 5. Brown made some horrendous decisions last week in his return, but apparently showed enough for his coach to plug him in against the Hokies. If Brown's struggles continue, however, Edsall hinted that he would consider going back to Caleb Rowe, who piloted the Terps to their only victory since starting the season with four straight wins.

"Every week we evaluate every position, and the quarterback position is no different," Edsall said. "If guys don't play well, we have the ability to do that, because we have confidence in Caleb and what he can do. To me, C.J. gives us the best opportunity to win against Virginia Tech."

After breaking down the Syracuse film with his quarterback, Edsall saw bits of promise in Brown's otherwise poor performance. The senior barely completed half of his passes (21 for 40) and threw two picks and lost a fumble, but managed to lead the Terps into Orange territory on eight of 13 drives.

"Just recognizing what they were trying to do," Brown said when asked what he did well. "Protection wise with their disguises, especially last week they were showing it one way and bringing it the other to try to fool us with the younger guys on the offensive line. To be able to see that, get it picked up, knowing where our quick throws are going. Yeah, we had a few drops, but I thought I knew where the ball needed to go minus the two bad decisions I had."

Brown and his teammates spoke a lot this week about leadership and turning this season around. As the quarterback, Brown needs to return to form on the field if this offense is to do anything against a stingy Hokies defensive unit. Maryland's defense played well enough to win last week against Syracuse. It's the offense's turn to return the favor.

"I think we just got to come out early with that fire and intensity from the first half of the season," Brown said. "Putting points on the board, that's the big thing."


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