Don't let the 120 total points fool you: Maryland's spring football game on Saturday was won emphatically by the defense, which celebrated inside Byrd Stadium with high-fives and chest bumps while the offense was left to wonder how it surrendered late sacks and penalties.
As if defensive players need any more incentive to hit ball carriers, Maryland established a scoring system for this season's Red-White game in which points could be scored not only for touchdowns, but for turnovers (five points), three-and-outs (three points), stopping drives (two points) and other defensive achievements.
It was a defender's dream — hit and get points. Scoring is usually more the domain of running backs and wide receivers, but not on Saturday. The red-clad defense won, 67-53, and didn't give up any touchdowns or field goals after halftime.
The offense's only points in the second half came from first downs (worth one point) or long plays that had varying numbers of points attached.
"We just kept shooting ourselves in the foot with penalties and some of the guys weren't on the same page with signals," said quarterbackC.J. Brown(17-for-33, 199 yards, one interception). "We came out strong … developed a big lead. We just didn't come out in the second half with the same mindset."
Brown was sacked nine times. He wore the yellow "no contact" jersey, so the sacks were registered when the quarterback was in trouble and an official blew the play dead.
"They kind of blew a quick whistle at times," coach Randy Edsall said.
The defense — moving to a 3-4 this season and intent on proving itself after ranking last in the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2011 — appeared a little quicker and more in sync than the offense, particularly in the second half.
Among the memorable plays on a sunny day at Byrd Stadium: sophomore linebacker Alex Twine leveling Tyler Cierski as the fullback turned to catch a pass; tailback Brandon Ross being stopped twice attempting to score from the 1 (he got in on the third attempt); and junior cornerback Dexter McDougle, who also returned punts, intercepting Brown and returning it 30 yards.
"C.J. was so mad at me [after the interception]," McDougle said. "He said, 'Keeping sitting out there.' I said, 'I will if you keep throwing it to me.'"
Linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield finished with 12 tackles.
The defense's success came even with top defensive lineman Joe Vellano and talented linebacker Kenny Tate not playing in the contest. Vellano wore a boot to protect his injured foot. Tate, coming back from a knee injury, was in shorts and a red jersey with no pads.
Maryland is hoping to reap dividends this season from having played so many freshmen last year. Twenty-two freshmen entered games in 2011, 14 of them redshirts. Because of injuries, the Terps were forced to start as many as five first-year players on defense at once. Edsall is hoping the players' experiences — difficult as some of them were — have helped prepare them for this season.
"They got thrown into something they weren't ready to do — we didn't have any other options," Edsall said. "I take a look at Alex Twine. I see him out there [now] and I think you could see a guy who is playing a lot faster."
The game, played in front of perhaps 2,000 fans, was more defensive-oriented than in years past. Last season, then-quarterbackDanny O'Brienfaded back on the game's first play and lofted a 65-yard scoring pass to wide receiver Ronnie Tyler.
Tyler, a senior last season, is gone. O'Brien transferred to Wisconsin.
Edsall said he has faith in Brown, who showed his quickness with a 29-yard run around end in the fourth quarter.
"I think [Brown] had a good spring," Edsall said."There are things that all of us have to work on and he'll be working over the summer, but I was pleased with his development this spring."