COLLEGE PARK -- After the first two weeks of the season, Maryland’s offense looked unstoppable. A 79-0 win over Howard and a 63-20 win over ranked Syracuse put the conference on notice. The team’s 142 points set a school record for most points in the first two games of the season. The offense was so prolific, in fact, that even if the Terps were shutout in their third game, they still would have set a school record for most points in the first three games.
Since then, however, the offense has suddenly dried up.
Maryland has gone from 79 points to 63 to 17 and then, on Friday, to 0 as they were shutout 59-0 in the conference opener against Penn State.
The humbling loss forced head coach Mike Locksley to take a deep look at the state of the offense.
“What I’m most disappointed in is I’ve got to figure out a way to get our quarterbacks having confidence and playing the way we played the first two weeks,” he said.
The lack of confidence from the entire offense, not just the quarterbacks, is a shocking development after the team’s hot start to the season. The loss to Temple seemed to linger, however, and when the offense struggled early on against Penn State, frustration mounted.
The decisive moment in the game came late in the first quarter when a 14-play drive into Penn State’s red-zone abruptly ended when quarterback Josh Jackson threw into double coverage at the edge of the end zone resulting in his second interception of the quarter.
“I think the air came out of us,” Locksley said. “We put together a good drive and it was not a great decision obviously – the interception down there in the red zone – we wanted to at least come away with some points in there.”
Jackson was not made available to the media after the game, but clearly his confidence plummeted as did the confidence of the entire offense.
Jackson looked uncomfortable in the pocket in front of Penn State’s pass rush, the offensive line could not protect the quarterback or create any holes for the running backs and suddenly an offense that could not be stopped early in the season couldn't get off the ground.
“It starts with our quarterback,” Locksley said. “This offense is quarterback-driven. To comment and say how Josh [Jackson] played other than I was disappointed and obviously the turnovers, but we’ve got to protect Josh, we’ve got to do a good job of mixing it up and making sure our best players are touching the ball, our running backs – which I feel is the strength of our offense – we need to make sure those guys are heavily involved in the game plan. We’ll go watch the tape, as a staff we’ll come together and put together a plan that will allow us to at least get back to playing with some confidence on that side of the ball.”
Jackson did not see much playing time after his second interception as Locksley leaned heavily on Tyrrell Pigrome after that point. Locksley, however, said he remained committed to Jackson, but he did at least leave the door open for a possible change in the future.
“He’s our quarterback,” Locksley said. “But just like any position, as we evaluate the position, we all have to do our job. Josh is our quarterback but we also feel like if a guy isn’t productive, we’ve got to figure out a way to get productive players on the field. Josh is our quarterback. I’ve got to do a better job of getting him playing back with the confidence that he played with earlier.”
The issue now for Maryland is to find a way to get over this loss and not let it linger in their minds. If a tough game against Temple can affect the offense as dramatically as it seemed to on Friday, a 59-0 loss to a conference rival could certain weigh heavily on the minds of the offense.
Locksley is determined not to let that happen.
“What comes out of it right now, the biggest thing for me is that we're playing with confidence on that side of the ball,” he said. “Whether it's our quarterback, whether it's our left tackle, whether it’s the tailback, whether it’s the tight end, we got to get the confidence back. To me, you’ve got to go back to the drawing board, look at the things we do well, make sure we're getting that game plan in cold so we can go back and have some confidence.”
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