Players take motivation where they can get it. For Maryland safety A.J. Hendy, it has been about helping the Terps begin the season on a roll, but also about proving he can be a starter.
Hendy, a junior, was in a tight competition with sophomore Sean Davis during training camp for the starting safety spot opposite Anthony Nixon. Davis won the job, but Hendy was told that he would certainly play.
Hendy didn’t start Saturday against West Virginia, but he was used as a nickel back and took advantage of his playing time with an interception return for a touchdown and two fumble recoveries in Maryland’s 37-0 victory at M&T Bank Stadium.
After its first shutout since 2008, Maryland is 4-0 heading into a bye week. The Terps will play No. 8 Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla., on Oct. 5.
The Terps have yet to beat the Seminoles on the road in 11 attempts. Florida State redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston has completed 78.1 percent of his passes and has thrown eight touchdown passes and one interception.
For his play against West Virginia, Hendy was named the National Defensive Player of the Week by the Walter Camp Football Foundation and received a game ball from coaches.
Coaches have emphasized to Hendy his value to the team. They didn’t want him to feel defeated after Davis edged him out for a starting spot.
“I just had to man up and play for my teammates,” Hendy said.
Hendy said he never lost his confidence. He sounded defiant after Saturday’s game: “I feel like I’m good enough to start anywhere in the country.”
Terps coach Randy Edsall knows Hendy wants to start, but said he player has handled his role as he should.
“I know he might not agree with the decision that we made,” Edsall said Sunday. “That’s where he’s a great role model for other guys. He’s playing more. He’s doing things on special teams. He is contributing. I told the team it doesn’t surprise me. That’s the way he practices and that’s the way he prepares.”
Hendy’s preparation included studying the routes of West Virginia receiver Daikiel Shorts.
With Maryland leading 7-0, Hendy anticipated Shorts' out move and stepped in front of the receiver near the sideline. He took the interception 28 yards for a touchdown, then chest bumped Maryland receiver Stefon Diggs, who had run toward Hendy to celebrate.
“I seen the route on film,” Hendy said. “We repped it in practice. I didn’t expect the quarterback [West Virginia redshirt freshman Ford Childress] to throw the ball.”
Maryland had six takeaways against the Mountaineers -- the most for the Terps since they had six against Georgia Tech in 2001.
“The sky is the limit for us,” said Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown, who has completed 66.3 percent of his passes this season and has thrown seven touchdown passes and one interception.
“We have been saying that since fall camp,” Brown said. “[Our] offense has had a lot of explosive plays, and we have put points on the board, so for the defense to go out there and then they put points on the board with pick-sixes, they are really helping out the offense.”
Maryland has the top two sack leaders in the Atlantic Coast Conference -- linebackers Marcus Whitfield and Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil (Towson). Cudjoe-Virgil had his first career interception against the Mountaineers.
"I just wanted to do something in front of my hometown,” Cudjoe-Virgil said.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun