Terps QB putting defenses on the run
As Marshall's defense brushes itself off after giving up 41 points in the Conference USA championship game two weekends ago, it has to ponder another mobile quarterback.
But Maryland's C.J. Brown isn't just another QB with shifty feet. He is the most mobile passer on the Thundering Herd's schedule — that's what the numbers say, anyway.
"He's the second-leading rusher; you take away the sack yardage and he's probably the leading rusher," said MU defensive coordinator Chuck Heater. "They design the offense around him running the ball and there are plays they run that are difficult to defend.
"They get advantages on you, angles and numbers. When he's been healthy, and that hasn't always been the case, they're pretty good. And when he hasn't been healthy, they've struggled."
Heater has it right about Brown's statistics. The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder from Cranberry Township, Pa., gained 708 yards on his positive plays, but lost 170 on losses, mostly sacks. That leaves his net yardage at 538, just behind team leader Brandon Ross' 660 — and bear in mind that Brown missed two games with injury.
Brown has scored 12 rushing touchdowns. Throw in his 11 passing scores and he is responsible for 23 of the Terps' 37 scored in any manner.
That's what Marshall must cope with when it takes the field at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium against the Terrapins on Friday, Dec. 27 in the Military Bowl. Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m.
There aren't many statue-in-the-pocket passers in the college game anymore, and the Herd hasn't faced many. Brown will be the 10th passer the Herd has faced who at least has netted positive yardage for the season, and he's second in yardage. Only Florida Atlantic's Jaquez Johnson has more net yards, finishing with 772.
Marshall had its troubles with Johnson, who led the Owls in rushing with 78 yards and a TD that October evening. A 22-yard run ignited a touchdown drive to start the second half, giving FAU a 10-7 lead, and he scored on an easy 1-yard run to put FAU up 23-14.
Still ahead 23-21, Johnson gained two first downs before the Herd finally stopped him and got the ball back for a game-winning field-goal drive.
Johnson is a beefier runner, much like Virginia Tech's big Logan Thomas, who gained 58 yards and scored twice against the Herd. But Brown isn't small or shy of contact himself, and he seems to have regained his speed from a torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered in the 2012 preseason.
"They run all the zone-read plays, all the spread offense plays, all the 'cute' plays," Heater said. "Of course, he can scramble when he's back in the pocket and it all breaks down."
Ross is a 5-10, 210-pound sophomore who averages a solid 4.5 yards per game. The Terrapins lost their two top receivers in the seventh game, Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, so Levern Jacobs (40 receptions, 540 yards, 2 TDs), Nigel King (31-428, 4 TDs) and Amba Etta-Tawo (29-449, 2 TDs) have had to pick up the slack.
Kevin Goins (5-9, 225) and Tyler Cierski (5-11, 260) provide punch in two-back formations behind a line with veterans in guard De'Onte Arnett (6-4, 295, senior) and center Sal Conaboy (6-4, 285, junior).
"They're a pretty salty, seasoned group," Heater said.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.