The last quarterback, Caleb Rowe, was diagnosed with a season-ending ACL tear on Sunday, promoting freshman linebacker Shawn Petty into the starting quarterback job. Then Hurricane Sandy came through town, keeping the Terps from practicing.
“The hurricane would come the week we trying to prepare for a option team...,” cornerback Jeremiah Johnson tweeted on Monday.
Even without a true quarterback and even without a full week of practice, the Yellow Jackets will still be coming into town and the Terps will have to be ready for them. Georgia Tech owns a 14-6 advantage in the series, winning four of the last five games, including a 21-16 victory over the Terps last year in Atlanta.
One of the more dangerous aspects of Georgia Tech is their option offense which can confuse defenses that are not prepared for their running style of play. Maryland's top-ranked defense will have a tough time defending against Yellow Jacket quarterback Tevin Washington and the rest of the offense.
“You're not used to the speed and precision because it's difficult if you don't run that speed for the scout team to produce that in practice,” Maryland head coach Randy Edsall said. “As much as they try to do a good job, it's just totally different. One thing that's always concerning to me when you play an option team is that the first series is very critical because you want to get off on the right foot. You tell your guys, hey, it's going to be a lot faster in the game than what we saw in practice, and you've got to get used to it from the beginning. You can't wait, and that's easier said than done.”
The Terps' defense has been holding opponents to just 2.31 yards per carry, ranking third in the nation in that category. They will have their hands full against an offense that averages around 300 rushing yards and 35 points per game. Even so, the Terps feel they have a blueprint to stop the option offense from their last matchup.
“We did a good job of limiting points last year,” Edsall said. “I think they still had 370 yards or whatever it was. Again, I think the biggest thing you always have to do regardless of the scheme you play, everybody has to do their job. That's one thing: you can't be staring at things you're not supposed to be staring at. You cannot worry about someone else, you've got to make the proper read and make the block and take care of your responsibility.”
Petty will be leading the Terrapins offense after practicing on the defensive side for most of the game. Petty played quarterback last season in high school, passing for 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns while rushing for 550 yards and 10 touchdowns.
“Last week, when we knew were moving him to quarterback, we developed a plan for him to be able to go in and play if he needed to and to get him comfortable with some things,” Edsall said. “This week, what we've been able to do is take a look at some more things, we'll practice those and then take a look and see if he can absorb, digest and execute during practice. It's going to be a combination of what he can do, but we've also got other guys on the team that realize their skill sets as well. It's that balance we've got to find in terms of what's the best way to move the ball and score points utilizing Shawn, utilizing the other parts of our offense.”
“The way Petty shows himself is great,” freshman offensive lineman Evan Mulrooney said. “He is very mature for his age. He handles himself very well. He has been taking what Coach Locksley has been saying to him and taking it in stride. He is getting better and better. He is a great guy to be around and we all have a lot of confidence in him.”
The Terps will look to establish a running game in the absence of a pure passer with freshman running back Wes Brown leading the way for the Terps. The run game has been weak this season for the Terps, but games like the one against N.C. State have shown the Terps just how talented their ground attack can be.
“With the run game, I think some of the reasons we've been able to run the ball is we've been able to make some plays out on the perimeter with our screen game that come off of the run,” offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said. “That's something we weren't necessarily efficient at earlier in the year. It's always great when you can count on having a guy back there that has the ability to make something out of nothing and be able to win the one-on-one battle. Our running backs when they load the box up, they have unblocked guys. Wes [Brown] has shown the ability to make that guy miss or run over a guy. I think Wes has been a benefit of some of the change at the quarterback position that has given us different skill sets to allow us to do some things.”
“We have been practicing and focusing a lot on it,” Mulrooney said. “Individually we are working on technique and powering guys out of the hole. The running backs are starting to click with getting the reads down and their confidence. They are getting a lot of experience and it is helping them out a lot. We are all trying to get better.”
The Maryland Terrapins will host the Boston College Eagles at home in Byrd Stadium in College Park, Md. on Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.