Badger pass rush key against Maryland's inconsistent offense

Wisconsin's pass rush will be key in Saturday's matchup between Maryland and UW.

Image By: Gage Meyer

Maryland:

1. Get the Ball to your Superstars

To say Maryland has had injury issues at quarterback is an understatement. The Terrapins are on their third string quarterback, sophomore Max Bortenschlager, and while he’s performed pretty well, it’s been hard filling in the shoes for both freshman Kasim Hill and sophomore Tyrrell Pigrome.

Maryland’s offense should look to their consistent playmakers: Running back Ty Johnson and wide receiver DJ Moore. Johnson has racked up 488 yards with an average of 7.2 yards a carry. Maryland has been a top-40 rushing team thanks in part to the skills of Johnson and their huge and talented offensive line.

While their passing game has been featured much less, Moore has been a steady target for the Terps. The star receiver has 624 yards and a team-leading seven touchdowns, including two scores against Northwestern last Saturday. Look for Maryland to feature a heavy dose of running and leaning on Moore in the passing game.

2. Secondary Step Up

The Terps’ secondary has done well to create turnovers on the season. Junior defensive back JC Jackson leads the team with three interceptions, but four other defensive backs have interceptions on the year. They’ve been a disruptive force with seven picks on the year, and not just on the defensive side.

Sophomore defensive back Antoine Brooks Jr. had a key block kicked return against Texas in the Terps’ opener. After two picks last weekend against Northwestern’s Caleb Thorson, Maryland’s defensive backs might be smelling blood for turnovers, especially since Hornibrook has not been perfect with the football. After allowing 293 yards last week, the secondary will be hoping to shut down Hornibrook and cause chaos with their passing defense.

3. Consistency

Maryland’s season has been incredibly up and down. The Terps had a huge 51-41 win to open the season against the No. 23 Texas Longhorns, then lost two weeks later to UCF 38-10. Against the Longhorns, Maryland ran for 276 yards. In the UCF loss, the Terps only mustered 42 yards.

This type of inconsistency has plagued the Terrapins all season. From game to game, there seems to be no discernable identity in figuring out what exactly Maryland is good at. Last weekend, Maryland and Max Bortenschlager tossed for 255 yards against Northwestern, but Ty Johnson rushed for only 20 yards on 10 carries. The Terps’ offense needs to somehow crack the code and figure out their offensive identify against Wisconsin’s stout defense.

Wisconsin:

  1. Keep Pounding the Football

It’s kind of beating a dead horse at this point, but Wisconsin needs to keep running the dang ball. True freshman phenom Jonathan Taylor has turned the heads of every single Wisconsin fan, with 986 yards on the season and his ability to break off huge runs seemingly at will.

One of the best parts of the Wisconsin rushing attack is the stable of running backs able to spell Taylor, making their little drop-off in the running game when Taylor takes a break.

Bradrick Shaw has 4.2 yards per carry, Garrett Groshek has 5.2 yards per carry and Rachid Ibrahim has 4.9 yards per carry. This is one of the deepest rushing attacks in the nation, and while Taylor has been the star, the whole unit will need to keep playing well between the trenches for Wisconsin.

2. Pass Rush

Against Northwestern, the Badgers’ pass rush really came alive, sacking the quarterback a season-high eight times. Garret Dooley starred for the Badgers that day, getting a team-high of 3.5 sacks, dominating Northwestern’s offensive line and electrifying the crowd at Camp Randall.

Wisconsin’s pass rush has continued to perform well, getting three sacks against Purdue in key moments, and they will want to wreck havoc on Maryland, especially considering they’re onto their third-string quarterback who’s been dealing with injury in recent weeks. And if the Maryland running game sputters again –– they only managed to get 85 yards against Northwestern –– the Terps will be forced to rely on the pass.

Maryland’s offensive line has only allowed 10 sacks this season, but if Maryland gets pushed to obvious passing situations, expect Dooley and the rest of the Badgers’ front seven to get after the passer.

3. Keep Quintez Going

Sophomore Quintez Cephus has been the breakout star of Wisconsin’s passing game. The Macon, Ga. native has become an additional safety blanket target for sophomore quarterback Alex Hornibrook along with senior tight end Troy Fumagalli.

Against Purdue, Cephus racked up over 100 yards receiving for the first time in his career and all five of his catches came at clutch times, including his 14-yard touchdown pass to put the Badgers up 14-0 early in the game. Cephus is the team’s leading receiver, and with a team-leading four touchdowns, it seems he’s done better with every game.

With freshman Danny Davis III going down with an injury against Purdue and senior Jazz Peavy struggling at the start of the season, Cephus has been an important addition for the Badgers’ offense. Hornibrook will likely rely on him in the passing game against Maryland, and if he gets going, the Terps will be unable to stack the box for the running game, helping Wisconsin keep their offense slightly more balanced.

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