Maryland impresses in season opener
COLLEGE PARK--When waking up on Friday morning, it looked like Towson, a 20-point FCS underdog, beating Connecticut, 33-18, would be one of the bigger storylines of college football’s opening weekend.
But then it just kept happening.
In all, eight FCS teams pulled upsets in Week 1, ranging from the big boys, like Eastern Washington’s win over No. 25 Oregon State, to the little guys, like Southern Utah beating Southern Alabama.
It was news that didn’t go unnoticed in College Park, as Randy Edsall’s Maryland Terrapins prepare for former FCS powerhouse Old Dominion on Saturday.
The Monarchs are in a transition to FBS during the 2013 season, in which they will play five FBS schools, but are ineligible for the postseason.
By 2014, they will join Conference USA and be bowl eligible (with some restrictions), then gain full bowl eligibility in 2015.
“We have a tremendous challenge ahead of us,” Edsall said at a press conference on Tuesday.
“I know our players, they watch scores and see the things that happen. We tell them all the time that it’s all up to us. We’re good enough to beat anybody on our schedule but if we’re not doing the things we’re supposed to and preparing properly, anybody on our schedule can beat us.”
Old Dominion finished last season 11-2 behind one of the most potent offenses in the country, a wicked four-wide set that helped quarterback Taylor Heinicke rack up more than 5,000 yards passing and 55 total touchdowns.
Heinicke is back this season after winning the Walter Payton Award, the FCS’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, and Maryland has taken notice.
“We’re not going to take this game lightly,” Terps QB C.J. Brown said Tuesday. “They’re a great team and they had an excellent year last year...They’re going to come in here and try to knock us off the list.”
That becomes the potential stumbling block for a team like Maryland, still emotionally high from its season-opening 43-10 win over Florida International.
The Monarchs will bring an up-tempo offense attack, one paired with a talented quarterback who can attack both through the air and on the ground.
“All you’ve got to do is you’ve just got to put on film and watch them play,” Edsall said. “Our guys will have respect for them because they’ve watched them on tape. We have a tremendous respect for them and we know that we have to go out and have a good week of practice.”
There is no official word or reason to speculate, but cornerback Jeremiah Johnson was on crutches with a walking boot on his left foot after Maryland’s win over FIU.
Maryland is not obligated to release week-to-week injury reports during the non-conference season and it has elected not to, so no further details on the apparent injury will be known until game time.
With or without Johnson in the secondary, Edsall is focused on Maryland’s substitution patterns against ODU’s up-tempo offense. East Carolina, who beat the Monarchs in Week 1, was penalized on more than one occasion when caught in the shuffle defensively.
“Those teams are getting better,” tight end Dave Stinebaugh said of FCS teams. “They’re not what they used to be. They’re not “gimme games” anymore. You’ve got to go out and compete like you’re playing the No. 1 team in the country every week, so that way you can’t be surprised or shocked by teams like that.”
Maryland is an 18.5-point favorite as of Tuesday afternoon. Kickoff is Saturday at 4 p.m. ET.