- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Maryland running back Brandon Ross remembers Syracuse.

Specifically, he remembers its defense, which held the Terrapins to three points and 2.3 yards per carry last November.

“They’re a very physical defense. … They’re a very veteran group — a lot of players coming back,” Brown said. “It’ll be a tough team.”

A lot of players coming back doesn’t bode well for Maryland, which lost 20-3 to Syracuse in 2013. To be exact, Syracuse boasts seven returning starters. One of them is linebacker Cameron Lynch, who leads the ACC in tackles.

The Terrapins rode a loss into their matchup with the Orange last year. This Saturday at the Carrier Dome, they will do the same after suffering a 40-37 defeat to West Virginia last weekend.

For Maryland to avoid Syracuse extending another losing streak, its inconsistent offense must hit its stride against one of the best defenses in college football.

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“We’ve moved the ball, we’ve scored points and we’ve just shot ourselves in the foot,” Maryland coach Randy Edsall said. “That’s the thing that we have to correct. Whether it’s turnovers or whether it’s penalties and getting behind the chains, or not having the opportunity to finish some things by not converting third downs.

“Those are the things, we’ve done them in spurts, but we haven’t put them together for a full game. That’s what we want to continue to do, we hurt ourselves when we don’t do those things. But again, there’s been big plays and points scored. There’s been a lot of good things. But again, what we have to do is just be more consistent and more efficient for 60 minutes.”

The Terrapins converted just 4 of 15 third downs against West Virginia.

Offensive efficiency for 60 minutes is especially vital against the Orange. Syracuse’s defense has surrendered the 15th-fewest points per game in the nation. This puts more pressure on Maryland’s offense to take advantage of every opportunity.

Last year, Maryland squandered opportunities. Quarterback C.J. Brown completed just 21 of 40 pass attempts for 211 yards, threw two interceptions, lost one fumble and recorded a QB rating of 6.0. Syracuse also held the dual threat to five rushing yards on 15 attempts.

While Brown rushed for 161 yards and a touchdown against the Mountaineers, he remains susceptible to turnovers. He enters the rematch having thrown three interceptions in the last two games.

Helping Brown redeem himself will be a key weapon who was absent from his arsenal last year against the Orange: Stefon Diggs. A broken leg sidelined Diggs last October, but he enters this Syracuse contest having caught five passes for 127 yards last week, including a 77-yarder for a touchdown.

Wes Brown, who entered last week as the Terrapins’ leading rusher, is another a new face to Syracuse. Maryland suspended him for the entire 2013 campaign for violating the student code of conduct. He also sat against West Virginia because of a “head coach’s decision,” but Edsall confirmed that Brown is “good to go” this Saturday.

Maryland’s backfield missed Brown against the Mountaineers. The Terrapins’ running backs didn’t experience nearly the same kind of success on the ground as their quarterback, gaining just two yards on nine carries.

“We’re still working on getting our offensive continuity,” Ross said. “Really, we just need to work on maintaining drives. I feel like there were a couple times in the West Virginia game where we had the ball toward the end, the game was tied and we didn’t take advantage of it.”

The progression of Maryland’s offense will be revealed in what could be a season-defining showdown. No. 23 Ohio State will be Byrd Stadium-bound in two weeks. Two more nationally ranked schools in No. 19 Wisconsin and No. 11 Michigan State will soon follow.

Maryland believes it has the talent to compete, and getting revenge against Syracuse is a perfect way to prove it.

• David Daniels can be reached at ddaniels@washingtontimes.com.

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