Five things to watch for in today's Military Bowl game

Will Terps employ a nickel or dime defense against prolific Marshall passing attack?

December 27, 2013|By Jeff Barker | The Baltimore Sun

Here are five questions as Maryland plays Marshall in the Military Bowl this afternoon (2:30 p.m. on ESPN):

** Will the Terps regularly remove a linebacker and add a defensive back to defend Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato? The Terps have often employed that strategy against other prolific passing teams, going to five – or even six – defensive backs. But here’s the difficulty: Marshall can run the ball, too. It has a back, Essray Taliaferro, who topped 1,000 yards this season.

** Will quarterback C.J. Brown continue his late-season success, particularly as a runner? Brown is most valuable when he is healthy enough to be a true dual threat. He was just that in the regular-season finale against N.C. State, when he accounted for five touchdowns (three rushing, two passing). No Terp had accounted for more since quarterback Scott McBrien’s six in 2002.

** How much can the Terps pressure Cato? Sacks are a good litmus test for Maryland’s success. Consider that  Maryland had zero in its 20-3 loss to Syracuse and seven in the following game – the overtime victory over Virginia Tech. The pass rush has been the strength of Maryland’s defense this season.

** Will the Terps show early rust? Nothing prepares a team for football games like other football games. And it’s been nearly a month since Maryland’s last game. Marshall got an extra game – the Conference USA championship, won by Rice, 41-24.

** Can Jeremiah Johnson return from a fractured toe to provide help in the secondary? It would provide his teammates an emotional lift to see him back. Maryland coach Randy Edsall said Johnson was battling another minor injury this week, so his status is uncertain. By the way, Maryland’s other injured cornerback, Dexter McDougle, got good news when an examination showed his fractured shoulder socket has all but healed. But McDougle – who won an award from the team for his assistance during his months-long recovery – can’t play in the game.

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