It was the same message Maryland coach Randy Edsall has shared with quarterback C.J. Brown at different points this season: Relax.
That is what Edsall is emphasizing to Brown as the Terps enter a critical two-game stretch that will determine whether Maryland will be going to a prominent bowl game such as the Gator Bowl or one that is far less prestigious.
Edsall said he does not want to have to make a change at quarterback. But he will if Brown continues to struggle.
“I just think the biggest thing with [Brown] is just to relax and go through the process,” Edsall said. “Let the process take you where you're supposed to go with the ball. You want to take a pre-snap read and take a look at the coverage. But also you have to see what's happening with the coverage once the ball is snapped.
“You have to have enough vision, enough confidence and believe what you see. That's the biggest thing we're trying to get him to do. Don't predetermine things and think this is where you're going to go with the ball. You’ve got to go and read your keys and take what they give you. If he does that on certain plays, he does well. When he doesn't do that, he puts himself in some situations that aren't good.”
Brown has completed 47.4 percent of his passes or less in each of the last three games, which has contributed to Maryland averaging a meager 14 points per game during that stretch.
The sixth-year senior and third-year starter was just 12 of 31 for 136 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions during the Terps’ 37-15 loss to Michigan State on Saturday before leading a late scoring drive after Maryland was already down by 23 points.
The last of Brown’s interceptions was a turning point in the game. With the Terps trailing just 16-7 late in the third quarter, Brown made a bad read and threw the ball into a congested area across the middle. The pass was tipped by one Spartans defender and intercepted by another, who returned the interception for a touchdown that stretched Michigan State’s lead to 23-7.
“Just not hurt our team,” Brown said, when asked about his primary objectives heading into Saturday's game at Michigan. “I think not trying to do too much but letting it come to me. I think I’ve been pressing the last couple weeks, and unfortunately it’s not really paid off. So I’ve just got to get back to the fundamentals and understand that when the plays are there just make them and just take advantage of that. I think that’s the biggest thing. We’ve got a couple games left. We’ve got a lot to play for.”
Brown does not want to end his Maryland career on the bench. He took over as the Terps’ starting quarterback in 2011, bounced back from a knee injury to be Maryland’s starter last year and has started all 10 games this season.
It has been a six-year process that has included Brown making plenty of plays as a runner as well as with his right arm.
However, Brown is completing just 52.7 percent of his passes, has nine interceptions and just 11 touchdowns, and the issues the last three games have prepared Edsall to make a change if Brown continues to struggle.
“I’ve been in the position before,” Brown said. “I’ve come in and been in the quarterback battle, and you understand that you go out there every day and compete. There’s someone always chasing you. And obviously you want to be in front, and I’ve worked my tail off to be there, and I’m going to continue to do that, and I’m going to make sure I do everything I can to stay on the field.”