With Maryland trailing, 14-10, in Saturday's game and facing a third-and-9 at Iowa's 22-yard line, Terps quarterback C.J. Brown avoided a tackle attempt in the backfield, saw an opening in the middle of the Hawkeyes' defensive line and took off running for a 13-yard gain that helped set up Maryland's second touchdown.
At times this year, the sixth-year senior has passed up opportunities to make plays with his legs, preferring instead to sit in the pocket and try to make something happen in the passing game. On Saturday, Brown returned to being the aggressive-minded and dangerous runner that he has been, for the most part, since he first received extensive playing time for the Terps in 2011.
Despite missing a quarter after suffering an upper trapezius injury, Brown ran a season-high 21 times and led Maryland with 99 rushing yards in the Terps' 38-31 win.
"He played the way C.J. needs to play for him to be the most effective that he can be and also for us to be who we want to be offensively," Maryland coach Randy Edsall said.
Unlike other games this season, Brown was aggressive and looked to take advantage when he recognized an opportunity to run.
"Yeah. You guys like that?," joked Brown, who vowed earlier in the week to be more aggressive as a runner. "But yeah. It was there. It was a physical team, and I knew that was going to be kind of an option for us … and we took advantage of it."
In addition to the 13-yard run to set up the Terps second touchdown, Brown avoided another sack on a third-and-13 later in the quarter before spotting an opening up the middle and juking past Iowa defensive back Jordan Lomax on his way to a 25-yard gain.
Brown also used his legs to buy time with Maryland facing a third-and-10 in the fourth quarter. He rolled left but kept his eyes downfield and eventually completed a pass along the sideline to wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo for a 26-yard gain.
The Terps scored a touchdown four plays later to increase their lead to 38-21.
"He's a tough cookie," Edsall said. "He gets criticized, but the guy's a winner. The guy's a winner, and the guy's going to compete and do everything he can, and he went back out there [after the injury] and put it on the line to find a way to help his teammates get that fifth win."
He has completed just 57 percent of his passes, has been off-target on several deep throws that could have produced big gains, and he had a deflating interception late in the first half of Maryland's 52-24 loss to Ohio State on Oct. 4.
Even Saturday, Brown threw an interception on the Terps' first play from scrimmage, overthrew wide receiver Deon Long on a play that could have gone for a long touchdown and had an interception late in the first half that cost Maryland a chance at a field goal.
However, there was a lot of good from Brown's performance Saturday.
Even aside from his running, Brown made the big throw to Etta-Tawo and had what should have been a 47-yard touchdown dropped at the goal line by wide receiver Marcus Leak despite Brown's throw hitting the wide receiver perfectly in stride. There were other plays, too, like Brown's 27-yard pass to wide receiver Stefon Diggs during the second quarter to help put Maryland in position for a field goal.
Brown also further displayed his toughness. He was injured early in the third quarter and remained on the field for several minutes before walking off and eventually heading to the Terps' locker room for further evaluation.
Within a quarter, he was back on the field and later guided Maryland to its final touchdown, one that proved to be important as Iowa mounted a late run.
"That position, not everything is always going to go the way you want it to," Edsall said. "He made a lot of very good plays. I thought he ran the ball extremely well. There are some plays he would like to have back, as every player yesterday would like to have some back.