COLLEGE PARK — The Maryland defensive line has made a second home in the opposing backfield in its first three games this season, harassing quarterbacks and racking up sacks.
Through three games, the Terps rank second in the nation with 14 sacks, one off Texas A&M's 15.
In Saturday's 35-17 victory over South Florida, Maryland's pass-rushing prowess was in full display. The Terps recorded six sacks and 11 tackles for loss as the line got after Bulls quarterbacks Quinton Flowers and Steven Bench all afternoon at Byrd Stadium.
While there were concerns about the front seven's transition from a 3-4 scheme to defensive coordinator Keith Dudzinski's 4-3 alignment, the Maryland pass rush has been a force to be reckoned with early on this fall.
"It's a team effort," defensive end Roman Braglio said. "Coach [Randy] Edsall was saying the whole week, play every play like it's your last and that's what we did. We came out, we worked hard and, you know, it takes everybody to get a sack. And that's what we did. We played very well."
Maryland's six sacks were its most in a game since the Terps had seven in an overtime victory at Virginia Tech in November 2013, and the most in a home game since 2005. The 11 tackles for loss were the most since the Terps had 13 in a win at N.C. State to close the 2013 regular season, and the most at home since 2011.
And the pressure helped the secondary hold South Florida to 60 yards passing, the first time Maryland had held an opponent to less than 65 yards through the air since a win over West Virginia in September 2013.
Braglio was a standout against the Bulls and set a career high with two sacks and 2 1/2 tackles for loss in the game. One of his sacks came on a fourth down in the third quarter, when South Florida was trying to respond to a Maryland touchdown that made the lead 28-10. His other came in the fourth quarter, after the Terps extended their lead to 35-17.
"Preparation during the week," Braglio said of what led to the defense's performance. "We were all very focused this week, watching film and everything like that. We took advantage of what we could. We thought we could win on the outside and the inside. [Flowers is] quick so we've got to keep him in the pocket, and that's what we did."
Braglio's career day came a week after defensive end Yannick Ngakoue had a career-high three sacks in Maryland's 48-27 loss to Bowling Green. Ngakoue ranks fourth nationally with 4 1/2 sacks after he added another 1 1/2 against South Florida.
Defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson's 3 1/2 sacks put him in a tie for 14th nationally in sacks.
Maryland's defensive line has been in sync for the majority of the season so far. Jefferson and defensive tackle David Shaw push the pocket from the middle, allowing Braglio, Ngakoue and defensive end Jesse Aniebonam (two sacks) to attack from the outside.
And if the defensive ends get to the edge, it forces the quarterback into the arms of the defensive tackles. Maryland's 23 tackles for loss this fall tie for 21st nationally.
The Terps' D-line will likely have another stiff test this week in West Virginia. In coach Dana Holgorsen's high-powered offense, the Mountaineers boast their usual complement of playmakers, which means Braglio, Ngakoue, Aniebonam & Co. will be counted upon to be disruptive forces.
"I think what happens is they understand just how hard you have to play, how hard you have to play each and every week, how the attention to detail has to be there each and every week and then what they know is this game's over with," Edsall said Saturday. "And now we've got to go and prepare for another really difficult team for next week and you can carry those things over."