It was last Saturday's opening kickoff, and freshman kicker Brad Craddock realized he was the last Maryland Terrapin standing between Temple returner Matt Brown and 60 yards of inviting, open field.

Craddock, the curly-haired Australian with the Down Under accent, squared himself for contact. Brown lowered his shoulder and rammed into Craddock's torso, knocking both players to the ground.

It was a violent collision — particularly for a kicker — and Craddock later showed off several purple bruises to prove it. "I have bruises in all the places where the pads weren't," said the kicker, who loves to talk about tackling. He said the contact reminded him of the slam-bang fun of Australian rules football — a rough-and-tumble game played without pads. "That [hit] was the best part of the game. I enjoyed that a lot."

He didn't appear to be kidding. Sometimes with kickers — and Craddock in particular — it's hard to tell.

As Maryland (2-0, 0-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) prepared to face Connecticut (1-1, 0-0 Big East) Saturday at Byrd Stadium, the Terps were still getting to know their new kicker and his unusual brand of humor.

Asked about converting a 45-yard field goal last Saturday, Craddock replied that he had no idea the attempt was so deep. He said he thought he was about 30 yards away.

How did he feel about hitting the upright on a successful, 26-yarder? "I was just trying to make it close," he said.

Presumably, he was kidding.

"Brad's definitely eccentric, man. Most kickers are," said Maryland defensive lineman A.J. Francis. "He's something else. He always talks about how he never put a helmet on until he got here. He said he thought he was being kind of soft tackling people with pads on."

Craddock is still getting used to the pads and helmet. He grew up near Adelaide, the capital city of South Australia.

He played Australian rules football, in which teams try to advance the ball and kick it through a goal. "Anyone that's over 10 yards away, you kick the ball to him," Craddock said. "If not, you handball the ball, which is holding the ball in one hand and punching it with the other."

Craddock was adept at kicking the ball, which he says is "just a little bit bigger and a little bit rounder" than an American football.

He practiced the skill, hoping to follow the example of Washington Redskins punter Sav Rocca, who was also an Australian rules footballer.

Maryland coach Randy Edsall heard about Craddock from Adam Coles, a former Connecticut punter from Australia. Edsall coached Connecticut for 12 seasons. Saturday's game will be the first time he has coached against the Huskies since he left.

Craddock, who is also a punter, sent a video to Maryland. He was accepted and won the kicking job in the preseason over senior Nick Ferrara, who has been out with a hip injury.

Craddock said his adjustment to American college life has been smooth. "We get all the American TV shows and everything" in Australia, he said. "Some things are different — like how people talk. I'd never really talked to many Americans back home.'

Craddock was wide left on his first field-goal attempt — from 25 yards — in Maryland's season-opening win over William & Mary.

But it didn't seem to faze him. He simply moved on to the next kicks, converting both attempts against Temple.

"He never really outthinks himself," Francis said. "He never really goes out there and says, 'This is 50 yards. I don't know if I can make it.' It's just like 'All right, there's the ball. There's the goal. Let's see what we can do here.'"

jeff.barker@baltsun.com