COLLEGE PARK — Maryland football coach Randy Edsall said he challenged his team to do two things Saturday: First, start fast. Then, with a sizable first-half lead, finish strong.
To Edsall, his Terps did both.
Maryland built a 24-0, first-half lead en route to a 52-7 win over James Madison before an announced 45,008 at Byrd Stadium.
Was it perfect? No, and the Terps will face much greater challenges later this year. But Saturday was a positive first step for Maryland (1-0) heading into a game at South Florida next Saturday.
“We did a lot of good things today,” Edsall said. “Very proud of our team for how they came out and started fast and were able to get out ahead of James Madison, put a little bit more pressure on them and then stayed focused throughout the game.”
There were some negatives: Quarterback C.J. Brown finished just 11-for-24 for 111 yards, Nate Renfro averaged just 34.5 yards per punt, and the Terps lost wide receiver Taivon Jacobs to a knee injury.
But Edsall said he was altogether happy with the result. Brown struggled as a passer, but he had 61 yards and three touchdowns on seven carries and threw a 41-yard touchdown to wide receiver Deon Long midway through the third quarter before exiting the game.
On one of Brown's touchdown runs, with Maryland facing fourth-and-goal from James Madison's 2-yard line, two James Madison defenders met Brown in the backfield. But Brown broke free, reversed field and ran through a crowd before diving into the end zone.
“I thought C.J. really did a lot of great things out there,” Edsall said. “If you take a look at those runs that he had, and that one on fourth down and how he got that in the end zone, man, I couldn't be more proud of how he conducted himself and how he handled himself.
“Maybe he didn't live up to his expectations and our expectations in terms of completion percentage and missed some things in the passing game ... but I'll tell you what, he's a competitor. He's a warrior, and he's a guy that [went] out there and did a good job.”
So much preseason attention focused on the Terps' wide receivers, a strong group led by stars Stefon Diggs and Long, but Maryland has three running backs it feels can make plays.
All three did so Saturday.
Junior Brandon Ross had a fumble, but he led the Terps with 86 yards on 16 carries and had a touchdown in which he, like Brown, broke a tackle in the backfield before reversing field and scoring.
Sophomore Wes Brown saw more action later, especially in short-yardage situations, and ran for 81 yards on 13 carries in his first game since 2012. Brown also had two catches for 27 yards.
Junior Albert Reid, meanwhile, had 23 yards and a touchdown on five carries to along with 17 yards on two catches.
In all, Maryland ran for 285 yards and five touchdowns while averaging 5.7 yards per carry.
That success helps “a lot,” Long said. “Obviously, that's going to bring people in the box. They're going to be trying to stop the run. They're going to send blitzes at us, and we can capitalize off that.”
The Terps' defense did good things as well. Maryland limited quarterback Vad Lee, a Georgia Tech transfer, to 16-for-37passing for 141 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.
James Madison, which was held to just 3.7 yards per carry, did not score until 10:56 was left in the fourth quarter, by which point Maryland led 45-0.
“This felt great,” said Maryland cornerback Jeremiah Johnson, who had one of the Terps' two interceptions. “This was what we set as our first goal, obviously, to come out and get a win. And to do it in this fashion is definitely encouraging, so we can use this same momentum and positive energy to go into South Florida next week.”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun