De­fense helps Terps pick off Scar­let Knights

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

TERPS, to­day.”

Mary­land (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten) held Rut­gers (1-6, 0-4) to a 179 to­tal yards — 107 rush­ing by fresh­man run­ning back Isaih Pacheco, who scored his team’s only touch­down with 43 sec­onds left to ruin what would have been the Terps’ first shutout in five years — and ha­rassed the two Scar­let Knights quar­ter­backs into 2-for-17 pass­ing for 8 yards.

“When you strug­gle to run the ball and pro­tect the quar­ter­back, we strug­gle to get open against the man cov­er­age, we ob­vi­ously had five turnovers, it’s go­ing to be tough to win a game,” said Rut­gers coach Chris Ash, whose team has lost six straight by an av­er­age of 29 points a game.

Much of it had to do with Mary­land’s op­por­tunis­tic de­fense. Af­ter be­com­ing the first Mary­land player to have two in­ter­cep­tions in a game since Sean Davis in 2015, se­nior safety Dar­nell Sav­age Jr. said the over­all im­prove­ment of the de­fense has to do with the con­fi­dence each player has in the en­tire unit.

“As a de­fense col­lec­tively, we’re all bought in,” Sav­age said. “I think we all go on the field trust­ing each other. It’s not like we go out on the field and I’m wor­ried, ‘Is this guy go­ing to get his job done, so I’ve got to slack on my job to help him a lit­tle bit?’ I think we’re just in it to­gether. We’ve got a lot of trust and love for each other and we don’t want to let our brother down.”

While not as con­sis­tent on of­fense as on de­fense, the Terps still made more than enough plays to move com­fort­ably ahead, 24-0, by half­time, and avoided sec­ondguess­ing them­selves for the plays they left be­hind, par­tic­u­larly by Hill. De­spite throw­ing for a ca­reer high in touch­downs, the red­shirt fresh­man quar­ter­back fin­ished just 8-for-17 for 76 yards.

John­son’s 65-yard touch­down run late in the first quar­ter helped over­come a slow start of­fen­sively.

Mary­land couldn’t take ad­van­tage of Rut­gers’ gaffe on the en­su­ing kick­off, where it let Mary­land fresh­man line­backer Chance Camp­bell (Calvert Hall) cleanly field it at the Scar­let Knights 23, set­tling for a 39-yard field goal by fresh­man Joseph Petrino. Hill then showed why Canada is ex­cited about and con­fi­dent in the former Gil­man star.

Af­ter Sav­age’s first in­ter­cep­tion, Mary­land moved from the Rut­gers 35 to the 14 mostly on the ground be­fore a hold­ing penalty pushed the ball back. On sec­on­dand-19 from the 23, Hill threw over the head of grad­u­ate re­ceiver Taivon Ja­cobs in the end zone. He then threw a bul­let to Ja­cobs for a touch­down on third down for a 17-0 lead. On Mary­land’s next pos­ses­sion, Hill pro­vided some in­ter­fer­ence for John­son’s change-of-di­rec­tion 39-yard run to the Rut­gers 20. Af­ter the long run, John­son was stuffed at the line of scrim­mage. But Hill then di­rected sopho­more run­ning back Tayon Fleet-Davis to run toward the back of the end zone, where Hill thew a per­fect lead pass for a touch­down and a 24-0 lead.

Hill’s third touch­down went to fresh­man wide re­ceiver Je­shaun Jones in the third quar­ter, an 8-yard pass that was fit be­tween and be­hind three de­fend­ers. Ear­lier in the game, Hill missed on what might have been a long touch­down by badly over­throw­ing a wide-open Jones on what should have been an easy 20-yard throw.

Aware of his quar­ter­back’s er­ratic play this sea­son, Canada said, “When the lit­tle man gets on your shoul­der [and] says, ‘I missed a throw,’ you can’t lis­ten to that guy. Play the next play. The only play that mat­ters is the next play. Win, lose or draw, you’ve got to move on. That’s the same way on the field. … Any­thing that doesn’t work is my fault. Kasim’s work­ing re­ally hard.”

Said Hill: “Af­ter ev­ery sin­gle game, you al­ways go back and watch the film and learn from the things that you could’ve done bet­ter . ... I would say that, af­ter ev­ery game, I want to have the feel­ing of win­ning and we have that feel­ing to­day. It’s the best feel­ing you can have."

Com­ing into the game as 23-point fa­vorites — a role the Terps have rarely played and strug­gled with in their 35-14 de­feat to Tem­ple ear­lier this sea­son, when they were fa­vored by 15 — Mary­land equaled its win to­tal from last sea­son and moved within two vic­to­ries of bowl el­i­gi­bil­ity.

Though the sec­ond-half sched­ule is tougher, start­ing with next week’s game at Iowa and fin­ish­ing with ranked Ohio State and Penn State, Canada said he feels good about the di­rec­tion Mary­land is go­ing.

“Our play­ers are ex­cited to play,” Canada said. “I think our kids are play­ing hard. That’s the bot­tom line.”

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