Shortly after Maryland escaped with a 24-17 win over South Florida on Saturday, Terps coach Randy Edsall stood in front of his team inside the visiting locker room at Raymond James Stadium and was blunt with his offense.
“I told them afterward that we were awful offensively,” Edsall said.
There were plenty of issues. But one thing is undeniable: The Terps need more from quarterback C.J. Brown as a passer.
Brown was just 11 of 24 for 111 yards during Maryland’s 52-7 season-opening win over James Madison. He followed that with a subpar showing against a South Florida defense that gave up 375 passing yards to an unheralded Football Championship Subdivision quarterback, Western Carolina's Troy Mitchell, a week earlier.
Brown completed 17 of 28 passes for 201 yards against South Florida, and he threw two first-half touchdowns. However, he had two interceptions and a fumble that South Florida returned for a touchdown. He also admittedly held onto the ball too long at times, which contributed to the Bulls recording three second-half sacks.
“Hopefully we'll get him on track,” Edsall said. “He's a battler. He's a competitor. And he'll learn from it. But it's not only C.J. It's other people out there as well, so we can't put everything on him.”
True. But the Terps have three proven playmakers at wide receiver in Stefon Diggs, Deon Long and Marcus Leak, and Brown is the man responsible for getting them the ball. The problem is that Brown has not looked capable of consistently doing that during the first two games.
Accuracy has been an issue. Brown had Diggs open for a potential go-ahead touchdown late in the third quarter against South Florida, but his throw was behind Diggs on a short crossing route. And instead of a big play for the Terps, the ball deflected off of Diggs' hands and was intercepted by Bulls linebacker Auggie Sanchez.
Brown also continues to have problems connecting on passes down the field. He was off-target on two deep attempts to Leak against James Madison, and he missed out on a potential long touchdown to Diggs early against South Florida.
Diggs was wide open down the middle of the field, but Brown was late getting the ball out, failed to lead his throw toward the middle of the field and hung the ball long enough that a Bulls defensive back was able to cover ground and intercept the pass.
“Just silly things I can't do,” Brown said.
“He threw the ball better from a percentage standpoint,” Edsall said. “But just like everybody else, he needs to be more consistent play in and play out, and that's what we're going to continue to work with him on as well as everyone else.”
Maryland doesn’t have time to be patient, though.
The Terps play West Virginia next week, a Mountaineers team that beat Towson, 54-0, Saturday and lost by 10 points to No. 3 Alabama in Week 1.
Edsall and Maryland players believe the Terps have the talent to be competitive in the Big Ten. But whether Brown can become more productive in the passing game likely will go a long way in determining how successful of a season this turns out to be.
“I think everything was a lot better [than Week 1],” Brown said. “But there's always room for improvement.”
One thing is clear, though: Edsall said he never considered pulling Brown in favor of backup quarterback Caleb Rowe during Saturday’s game against South Florida.
“That did not cross my mind at all Saturday,” Edsall said.