COLLEGE PARK - In last week's season-opening victory, Maryland's offense ran all over the place. On Saturday, it may be the defense's turn.
That's because the Terrapins (1-0) are playing host to an Old Dominion squad that features one of the most prolific, wide-open offenses on the East Coast.
The Monarchs, who will join the Football Bowl Subdivision next season, went down swinging in a 52-38 loss at East Carolina in their opening game.
Old Dominion coach Bobby Wilder uses four receivers at a time, with no tight end, and tries to spread defenses out in order to create passing openings. Last week against ECU Wilder called a whopping 68 passing plays.
"They throw the ball around, all over the place," Maryland coach Randy Edsall said. "It spreads [you] out. It's four [wide receivers] and they work to try to get the receivers in space and get them the ball. And the quarterback is very athletic. He is very elusive. He can extend plays."
Wilder's pass-happy attack has worked wonders at Old Dominion. He took over a start-up program in 2009 and put together a 38-10 record heading into this season while competing at the Football Championship Subdivision level (formerly Division I-AA). Twice, including last year, the Monarchs reached the FCS championship tournament.
In 2012, that attack piled up 587 points for an average of 45.2 per game. Only once were the Monarchs (11-2) held under 30 points and they scored as many as 63 in a game.
All that was made possible by quarterback Taylor Heinicke, who is back for his junior season. Last year, Heinicke's statistics read like something out of a dream - or a video game. He competed 68 percent of his passes for 5,076 yards and 44 touchdowns, winning the Walter Payton Award - the FCS equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.
He set Division I records for passing yards in a game with 730 and in total offense with 791 yards in ODU's dramatic come-from-behind 64-61 triumph over New Hampshire, going 55 of 79 on the day with five touchdown passes.
This season, ODU figures to be even more reliant on its record-setting quarterback. Right before the start of practice, leading rusher Tyree Lee (864 yards, eight touchdowns) was suspended for 2013 because of a violation of team rules.
Against East Carolina, Heinicke was up to the challenge. He competed 38 of 52 passes for 338 yards and three scores. He also ran for 52 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown.
"That was clearly one of the best games he's played here," Wilder said at his weekly news conference. "I was very impressed with his poise."
Heinicke may have to keep up that kind of pace, or at least until his defense can gain some experience. Wilder used 28 players on defense against East Carolina, 12 of whom were playing their first college game. It showed. East Carolina put up 52 points and scored touchdowns all six times it had the ball in the red zone. The ODU run defense limited ECU to 34 yards on 22 carries, but the Pirates passed at will, throwing for 447 yards.
If ODU cannot shore up its pass defense, Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown could enjoy another big day. Brown was no slouch himself in Maryland's season opener. He completed 20 of 23 passes for 281 yards and three touchdowns in a little more than a half in the Terrapins' 43-10 victory over Florida International.
But no matter how vulnerable the ODU defense looks, the Terrapins must be on guard. If Heinicke gets an opportunity to make plays, anything is possible. And if Maryland's players need any reminder of how capable FCS teams can be, they only need to look at last week's scores. Eight FCS teams knocked off FBS teams in Week 1. The victims included such high-profile programs as defending Big 12 champion Kansas State (which lost to North Dakota State), 25th-ranked Oregon State (which fell to Eastern Washington) and Connecticut (which was upset by Towson).
"I know our players," Edsall said. "They've watched scores and they've seen the things that have happened. 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, then anybody on our schedule can beat us."