COLLEGE PARK — A week ago, unheralded Western Carolina quarterback Troy Mitchell sat back in the pocket and consistently found openings in South Florida's defense.
Many of Mitchell's 46 completions came on screens and quick slants, plays that didn't require Mitchell to do much aside from getting the ball in his receivers' hands and letting them take advantage of the Bulls' inability to get off blocks.
But there were some big completions down the field as well, with Mitchell and Western Carolina's receivers exploiting an inexperienced South Florida secondary that includes two sophomore starters and a converted wide receiver starting at cornerback.
Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown and the Terps' passing game will look to take advantage of that same secondary Saturday when they face South Florida in Tampa, Fla.
"I think the opportunity will definitely be there," Brown said. "Obviously they put up a lot of points as well [as passing yards], and we've just got to go out there and execute. We can't shoot ourselves in the foot and [we've] just got to play Maryland football, execute and not have the silly mistakes we had the first game."
For Brown, this appears to be an opportunity to get on track as a passer heading into next week's game against West Virginia.
Brown rushed for 61 yards and three touchdowns during the Terps' season-opening, 52-7 win against James Madison last week. However, he finished just 11 of 24 passing and threw for just 70 yards aside from a 41-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Deon Long.
Brown later described his passing performance as "unacceptable."
"You've got to be able to put the ball in the playmakers' hands," Brown said.
That's what Mitchell did so effectively against South Florida last week, despite the Bulls escaping with a 36-31 win over the Football Championship Subdivision opponent. Mitchell finished 46 of 66 for 374 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions after passing for an average of just 147 yards per game last season.
Facing that South Florida defense, Brown will aim to do a better job of capitalizing on big-play opportunities down the field. Against James Madison, Brown was off-target on at least two deep passes that could have produced long touchdowns.
"The thing we've got to be able to do is protect [Brown]," Maryland coach Randy Edsall said. "And then what we've got to be able to do is play throw and catch and take advantage of the opportunities that we'll have. … Hopefully that will happen."
South Florida returned just four starters from last year's defense. And Maryland may also be able to have some success in the run game against a Bulls front seven that has an undersized defensive tackle (the 6-foot-3, 248-pound Eric Lee), a redshirt freshman inside linebacker (Auggie Sanchez) and two other linebackers who weigh 225 pounds or less.
The Terps rushed for 285 yards against James Madison last week while averaging close to six yards per carry.
The primary challenge the Bulls pose is with their athleticism.
"Their front seven is a bunch of guys that can really run around," Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said. "They're a little [inexperienced] in the secondary, but you can definitely see the talent there."
The Bulls had four sacks last week.
They also have a freshman running back, Marlon Mack, who ran for 275 yards and four touchdowns against Western Carolina while averaging nearly 12 yards per carry.
But South Florida was just 2-10 last season, struggled against a Western Carolina team that was just 2-10 against mostly FCS teams last year, and Brown and Maryland's offense know they could have some success Saturday against that inexperienced defense.
"We just have to go out there and execute," Brown said.
NOTE: The Bulls will be without left guard Thor Jozwiak, who suffered a shoulder injury against Western Carolina. South Florida may also be without its top wide receiver, Andre Davis (sternum). Davis led the Bulls with 735 receiving yards last season.
MARYLAND (1-0) @ SOUTH FLORIDA (1-0)
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
Site: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio: 105.7 FM
Series: First meeting
What's at stake: The Terps have an opportunity to move to 2-0 before facing what's expected to be their first significant challenge of the season next week, when West Virginia travels to College Park. South Florida was a consistent bowl team as recently as a few years ago. Now, this is an opponent Maryland should beat. The Terps enter as 14-point favorites.
Key matchup: Maryland is focused on stopping South Florida freshman running back Marlon Mack, who exploited Western Carolina for 275 yards and four touchdowns while breaking three touchdown runs of 50-plus yards. The Bulls have issues at quarterback. Junior Mike White threw nine interceptions to just three touchdowns in six games last year and was just 9 of 26 last week.
Player to watch: Outside linebacker Reshard Cliett may be South Florida's biggest difference-maker defensively. Cliett ranked second on the team with 56 tackles last year and had seven tackles for a loss. He had three tackles and a sack against Western Carolina.
— Matt Zenitz