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Terps scramble to solve mystery
The seconds slipped away at a snail-like pace, 13 of them in all. N.C. State’s Russell Wilson stood in the middle of the field. And he stood. And he stood.
It was the first mobile quarterback Maryland saw all season, and his multifaceted skill set almost dealt the Terrapins a costly loss Oct. 25.
And now Maryland might have to contend with another quarterback like Wilson just 12 days later.
The Great Virginia Tech Quarterback Mystery will dissipate Thursday, when the Hokies (5-3, 2-2 ACC) trot out Tyrod Taylor, Sean Glennon or Cory Holt to start against the No. 23 Terps (6-2, 3-1) at Lane Stadium.
Taylor and Glennon are both questionable with left ankle sprains suffered two weeks ago at Florida State. Taylor, the regular starter, is perhaps more elusive than Wilson. Holt, a third-stringer who moved to wide receiver late last season, is also quick.
It leaves the Terps in a tight spot - preparing for three quarterbacks, two of whom possess the same traits as the player who recently confounded Maryland’s defensive line, ran past the Terps’ linebackers and left defensive backs in coverage for an eternity.
“It’s the fundamentals: Stay with your man while the quarterback is scrambling,” cornerback Jamari McCollough said. “At the same time, when you know the quarterback likes to run, it’s like a magnet trying to pull you. It’s like, ‘Is he going to run, or is he going to throw it?’ The main thing is to stay disciplined.”
It’s easy to say but hardly simple to follow through on when it’s something new.
The Terps’ struggles with opponents unleashing speed on the perimeter in recent years is well-chronicled, and Maryland planned to constrict the pocket with a greater reliance on bull rushes against N.C. State. When it didn’t work, it left Wilson with plenty of time to maneuver - a tendency the Hokies likely observed.
“We had some schemes set up to contain the quarterback, but some of them made it worse,” defensive lineman Dean Muhtadi said. “Live and learn. We’re better adjusted to them.”
Any schematic tweaks don’t change the problems the Terps encountered when they lost containment against Wilson. If Taylor’s high ankle sprain is almost fully healed, he could create havoc even if he can evade one or two defenders near the line of scrimmage.
Given the Hokies’ reliance on the run - Taylor is averaging 83.6 yards passing and 63.1 yards rushing - containing a quarterback could be the most significant task facing the Terps on Thursday.
“We just have to keep them inside the pocket,” linebacker Moise Fokou said. “I think this game is going to be a running game, a physical game. Pound, pound, pound ‘em. Hopefully they don’t get up like Florida State did to them.”
There’s also the matter of who will play for the Hokies. Coach Frank Beamer remained tight-lipped for more than a week on the subject, closing practice in Blacksburg, Va., and offering few meaningful details.
About the Author
Patrick Stevens has covered Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic college sports for more than a decade. You can reach him at email@example.com.
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