After two consecutive road games where they were able to put up 40+ points, the Hawkeyes return home this week to face a talented Maryland Terrapins squad that should provide them with a new test. Maryland is 4-2 at the halfway point of the season, with a big signature win against the Texas Longhorns in Week 1.
Iowa hasn’t played Maryland since the undefeated regular season in 2015, so to get to know the Terps a bit better, we enlisted some help from our friend Thomas Kendziora at SB Nation’s Testudo Times, one of the premier Maryland athletics sites on the internet. You can find our half of the Q&A here.
Without further ado, here are the Q’s and A’s.
Max Brekke: Dealing with a ton of adversity, the Terps have certainly had an interesting season, netting a huge win against Texas in Week 1, dropping a game to Temple a couple weeks later, and now they sit at 4-2 heading into their contest against Iowa. How has this team performed in comparison to any expectations that fans might’ve had coming into the season?
Thomas Kendziora: I think 4-2 is about where a lot of Maryland fans expected this team to be before the fallout in August in the aftermath of Jordan McNair’s death, although this isn’t how we expected it to happen. The Terps were double-digit underdogs against Texas again, and their Week 1 win looks even better now with the Longhorns sitting at No. 7 in the country. But they offset that in a lot of ways by losing to Temple in embarrassing fashion. Otherwise, every result makes sense. The second half of the schedule gets tougher, so six wins still isn’t a given, but it’s certainly nice to have equaled last year’s win total with half the season remaining, especially after everything that’s happened.
MB: Maryland likes to use Kasim Hill at QB while mixing in Tyrrell Pigrome, though neither seem to be threats in the passing game. Are either of these guys able to stretch the field, or will Iowa be able to load the box in preparation for the run?
TK: Both of these quarterbacks can, in theory, stretch the field, but Maryland doesn’t seem overly confident in either. Hill is more of a pocket passer, but hasn’t looked as confident this season as he did last year before his ACL tear. Pigrome is a certified weapon as a runner, and there are a few fans clamoring for him to see an expanded role, but he’s still just 7-of-14 through the air this season. Maryland’s offense struggled mightily last year when teams started stacking the box and stifling the run game, and it’ll be on these quarterbacks to prove during the next couple weeks that the same strategy won’t be as effective anymore.
MB: Speaking of the run game, Iowa LB Djimon Colbert described the Terrapin backfield as “three dudes” in the team’s media availability this week. Who are these dudes and what is their role in the Maryland offense?
DK: Those dudes would be Ty Johnson, Anthony McFarland and Tayon Fleet-Davis. The former is a senior who just became the fourth Maryland player ever to surpass 4,000 all-purpose yards (the other three had or will have long and productive NFL careers). Johnson is incredibly explosive; his last three games have included an 81-yard run, 98-yard kick return and 65-yard run for touchdowns. Good luck catching him from behind.
McFarland, however, is almost as fast as Johnson and might be shiftier. He’s the biggest receiving threat out of this group, and has really come into his own after redshirting his freshman year while rehabbing an injury. Fleet-Davis is more of a bruiser than the other two, but he’s surprisingly nimble in his own right. The Terps’ backfield actually goes beyond this trio, but injuries have turned this into Maryland’s big three.
MB: Iowa’s offense under Kirk Ferentz is traditionally run first, but this year, Nate Stanley has been lighting up opposing defenses to the tune of three 300+ yard passing games and 15 TDs, including nine to tight ends. Do the Terrapins have the defensive weapons to slow down Iowa’s surprisingly high-powered aerial attack?
TK: The secondary is certainly the strength of this defense. Cornerbacks Tino Ellis and Marcus Lewis have been great in coverage, while safety Darnell Savage has been a ballhawk all season, leading the Big Ten with four interceptions. Nickel corner Antoine Brooks will be all over the field; he’s probably Maryland’s best defensive player. Covering tight ends is still a viable concern for the Terps, who play a base 4-2-5 defense that has frequently left the middle of the field too open in recent years. Linebacker Tre Watson has been an all-around stud this year, but he’ll have his hands full this weekend.
MB: What does the injury report look like for Maryland heading into Week 8? Anything with significant ramifications on this game?
TK: The Terps were banged up earlier this season, with injuries all around the offensive line and in the backfield. But there aren’t a lot of serious question marks this week. We know Lorenzo Harrison III is out for the year; he was squarely in the mix at running back before going down in practice. Third-string quarterback Max Bortenschlager and defensive end Brett Kulka are out for the year as well, but neither was relied on for much. Another running back, Jake Funk, has missed most of the year with a broken hand, while rotational offensive lineman Marcus Minor should be ready to go if needed. Otherwise, the Terps appear as healthy as they’ve been this season (*vehemently knocks on wood*).
MB: What do you think it’d take for Matt Canada to be a legitimate candidate for Big Ten Coach of the Year this season?
TK: It’s hard to say where he stacks up now and how much credit he’ll get for keeping this team on track, but I think beating a team like Iowa and avoiding any further duds like Maryland had against Temple will really help his case. Canada remains insistent that he’s just an offensive coordinator with a few extra responsibilities, but he’s guided the ship about as well as anyone could have asked for, and it’ll be interesting to see what happens to him when a decision eventually gets made regarding DJ Durkin’s future.
MB: Prediction time - who ya got?
TK: I think Iowa has just a little too much for Maryland in just the right areas. The Terps’ biggest strength is its explosive run game, but Iowa’s among the best in the country at stopping that, and I don’t have enough trust in Maryland to win this game another way. I’m going with Hawkeyes 30, Terps 16.
Huge thanks to Thomas for joining us for a Q&A. Of course, I hope the Hawkeyes beat the Terps by a thousand. For more excellent coverage of Maryland athletics, check out Testudo Times. You can find them on Twitter at @TestudoTimes and Thomas at @TKendziora37. Go Hawks.