Matchup to Watch: IU Defense vs Maryland Running Game

 Anthony McFarland has burst onto the scene for Maryland  Image: UMTerps.com

Anthony McFarland has burst onto the scene for Maryland Image: UMTerps.com

Written by Lauralys Shallow

Maryland (5-4, 3-3) is one win away from bowl eligibility, and its three remaining opponents are Indiana, No. 8 Ohio State and No. 13 Penn State. The Terrapins are going to do everything they can to leave Bloomington with a win because if they don’t it is likely they will not get a chance to go bowling. Both programs are in need of a win for a bowl, and how the IU defense handles Maryland’s running game could be the deciding factor in the game.

Maryland’s rushing attack is no joke. The Terrapins rushing offense is 27th in the country and third in the Big Ten behind Wisconsin and Illinois. Maryland has 1996 yards on 344 carries, averaging 5.8 yard per rush and 222.0 rush yards per game. Redshirt freshman Anthony McFarland is the Terrapins leading rusher with 75 carries for 535 yards (6.9 avg) and 2 TDs. Senior Ty Johnson is not far behind with 61 carries for 471 yards (7.7 avg) and 3 TDs. McFarland and Johnson are the two main backs, but Maryland has plenty of depth in its backfield with sophomores Tayon Fleet-Davis and Javon Leake. Fleet-Davis has 292 rushing yards and 3 TDs while Leake has 207 rushing yards and a team-high five rushing TDs.

The IU rush defense is ranked 67th in the country, allowing 1,458 yards on 336 rushes, (4.34 avg) 13 rush TD, and 162.0 rushing yards per game. In last year’s 42-39 loss at Maryland, the IU defense gave up 174 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns, allowing the Maryland offense to average 4.4 yards per rush. Johnson had 91 yards on 13 carries (7.0 avg) and Lorenzo Harrison rushed for 67 yards and a TD. The difference in the game, however, was junior Jake Funk. Funk had two TD on seven carries. Funk’s first rushing touchdown put Maryland up 35-33, and the following drive Funk scored again to make it a 42-33 game. Indiana was unable to cut the nine-point deficit, and Funk’s two rushing touchdowns in the fourth quarter gave Maryland the win.

IU struggled with Maryland’s running attack last year, and the IU defense is going to face another talented Terrapins rushing game.

On Monday, IU Head Coach Tom Allen said, “Really they force you to be extremely disciplined. Even though it's not an option offense, the way that they shift, move, adjust, motion, different things that they do, it forces you to be extremely disciplined. If you get out of position, they're very, very athletic. You make one guy miss, it's a big, big play.” 

The IU defensive line has to win at the line of scrimmage. If IU wants to limit the Maryland rushing attack, the defense has to make tackles for loss and hold Maryland’s average yard per rush to 3.0 or lower. The best way to get a run-first offense like Maryland off the field is to force the Terrapins to third and long situations. IU knows Maryland is going to try and establish the run early, and if the defense can hold the Maryland backs to 1-2 yard gains and/or losses consistently on first and second down, it forces Maryland to throw the ball in a long third down situation. Containing Maryland’s running game is tough, but IU defense has to win this week’s matchup against the Terrapin run if it wants to win and keep bowl hopes alive.