Marshall-Maryland Preview

A 7-5 record and an appearance in the Military Bowl may not have

been the ultimate goal for Maryland, but it certainly represents

progress.

The Terrapins’ reward is a bowl game just a short drive from

their College Park campus.

Maryland looks to put the finishing touches on the best season

of the Randy Edsall era when it meets high-powered Marshall in the

Military Bowl on Friday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in

Annapolis.

After losing 18 of 24 games in Edsall’s first two years as

coach, Maryland opened 2013 with four straight wins and even

cracked the national rankings in the regular season for the first

time since 2008.

Most of those good feelings, however, were erased after the

Terps ran into the Florida State buzz saw and were destroyed 63-0

on Oct. 5. Although it rebounded the next week with a one-point win

over Virginia, Maryland proceeded to lose its next three games as

quarterback C.J. Brown battled injuries and top receiver Stefon

Diggs was lost for the year with a broken right fibula.

At 5-4 and with two of its final three games on the road,

Maryland’s bowl hopes were dimming, but Edsall’s team recovered for

a surprising 27-24 win in overtime at Virginia Tech on Nov. 16

after blowing a 21-7 lead.

The Terps squandered an 11-point fourth-quarter lead the

following week against Boston College and lost 29-26 on a field

goal as time expired.

There were no such problems in the regular-season finale at

lowly North Carolina State, as Brown ran for three touchdowns and

threw for two more in a 41-21 rout Nov. 30. It was the program’s

final ACC game before heading to the Big Ten next season.

The Terps won’t have to travel far again for a postseason

appearance, with Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium about 27 miles

from their campus. Maryland’s last bowl game was also in the

Military Bowl in 2010, but that contest – a 51-20 win over East

Carolina – was played at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.

“One of the things we’ve talked about is Maryland pride and we

get a chance to play in our state capital,” Edsall told the

school’s official website. “For us to be able to get back and to

play in Annapolis will be great. We haven’t played there since

1965.”

This Military Bowl appearance promises to be a much greater

challenge with Marshall (9-4) bringing one of the nation’s most

potent offenses to Annapolis.

Led by quarterback Rakeem Cato, the Thundering Herd rank seventh

nationally in scoring (43.0 points per game) and 12th in total

offense (502.3 yards per game). They won seven of eight Oct. 5-Nov.

29 with the only loss coming on a last-play touchdown at Middle

Tennessee. Marshall averaged 53.8 points during a five-game win

streak before losing 41-24 to Rice in the Conference USA

championship game Dec. 7.

“I think it all starts with Rakeem Cato. He’s the guy that stirs

the drink in terms of 60 percent completion percentage, 36

touchdowns and only nine interceptions,” Edsall said. “When you see

a team that’s rushed for 3,000 yards and passed for 3,700 yards;

that’s pretty good balance.”

A victory in this game will give Marshall its first 10-win

season since Byron Leftwich led the 2002 team to an 11-2 mark.

Marshall makes its 11th bowl appearance after failing to quality

last season.

“Having a bowl means a lot,” Cato said. “It’s a chance for us to

go out and continue to make a name for Marshall football. We can

still win 10 games. It’s been a while since (the Herd) has done

that. It’s another opportunity we’ve earned.”

Cato was tied for third in the nation with 36 touchdown passes,

13 to senior Gator Hoskins, who led all tight ends in the country

in that department. His 44 receptions are second only to receiver

Tommy Shuler, who ranked among the national leaders with 97 for

1,097 yards and nine scores.

Marshall also has a strong ground attack led by Essray

Taliaferro, who averaged 81.5 yards and 5.2 per carry. That could

pose a problem for a Maryland defense that allowed 150 or more

rushing yards in six of the last eight games, and over 235 in four

of those.

These teams share two common opponents this season with similar

results. Maryland defeated Virginia Tech in overtime and routed

Florida International 43-10, while Marshall lost 29-21 to the

Hokies in triple overtime and beat FIU by 38.