Maryland offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe believes quarterback Scott McBrien’s slump isn’t about X’s and O’s. The senior needs to relax.
“I told Scott, ‘You’ve gone from standing on the podium after the Peach Bowl holding the MVP trophy [last season] to answering a lot of tough questions after the [Florida State] game,’” Taaffe said. “You’ve seen the highs and lows, so let’s find somewhere in the middle.”
McBrien’s experience was supposed to help punch Maryland’s ticket to a major bowl game after the passer led the Terrapins to an 11-3 mark and a Peach Bowl victory last year. Instead, the Terps are 0-2, with the only offensive touchdown coming on their first drive of the season.
The poor start has coaches baffled as Maryland prepares for The Citadel at Byrd Stadium on Saturday. McBrien looks perfect on the practice field, hitting his targets consistently. Coach Ralph Friedgen believes McBrien could be the next Terps passer in the NFL although many scouts rate him as a late-round pick at best.
However, small problems have combined to produce an 111-minute touchdown drought for the Terps, with no scoring passes in the first two games. McBrien is still bothered by a strained groin after nearly three weeks. Three right guards have been injured, and Maryland’s six sacks allowed are the ACC’s worst. The inside running game sputtered with Bruce Perry barely playing because of a high ankle sprain. Returner Steve Suter missed the first game with a strained hamstring to diminish field position.
“We haven’t been in sync offensively for any consistent period of time,” Taaffe said. “The timing of the passing game depends on a lot of things. There’s a lot of issues that break down all over the place.”
McBrien knows he’s partly to blame. The senior’s downfield touch has been missing. Combined with several drops, the absent deep game has allowed defenses to single cover receivers and cheat closer to the line against the run.
McBrien expected better. So did the Terps. McBrien was the nation’s 12th-rated passer last season with 2,497 yards and 15 touchdowns. This season he’s 18 of 42 for 171 yards with two interceptions.
Friedgen pulled McBrien briefly twice in Saturday’s 35-10 loss to Florida State, with receiver Latrez Harrison running the option before backup Orlando Evans played the final nine minutes. McBrien seemed stunned afterward. Wondering if he had lost his confidence, coaches and teammates delivered steady pep talks Monday.
“Scott has handled this very, very well,” Friedgen said. “I’ve gained a lot of respect for him. There are a lot of guys that wouldn’t answer things the way he does. He shows great maturity. Scott is determined to get this right, and I’m going to stand right with him to make sure he gets it right.”
Said receiver Rich Parson: “Scotty needs to get off the losses and just get back into football. He’s taking our losses on as his fault instead of team losses. It’s a team game, not just about Scotty McBrien.”
The following two practices went well as McBrien and teammates began relaxing while Van Halen and 50 Cent tunes played on the speakers.
“It starts with me,” McBrien said. “If I don’t execute, 85 percent of the time the play has no chance to succeed. I put a lot of pressure on me. I have to learn to deal with that. I have total confidence in myself and the team. This Saturday should be fun. Once we get going and score some points, it will take pressure off.”
McBrien needs to stop second-guessing himself during plays, Friedgen said. The passer sometimes held the ball too long, not wanting to risk interceptions.
That reluctance to throw until a receiver appeared clear caused an interception against Florida State. Friedgen is trying to get McBrien to become more instinctive while reducing the 600-page playbook to core plays.
“He’s tentative,” Friedgen said. “That’s happening with quite a few of our players right now. They’re playing not to make a mistake. Scott’s one of the guys trying too hard. He’s afraid to make a mistake. You have to challenge people.”
Note — Injured right guards Ed Tyler (elbow) and Akil Patterson (ankle) practiced yesterday and will be available, but Ryan Flynn is still expected to start. However, the Terps may move left guard C.J. Brooks to the right side and start Russell Bonham.