Maryland expects UCF to be its 'toughest test' thus far
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) From the surface, it seems the Maryland Terrapins should be well on their way to 3-0 looking at their matchup with UCF.
But this game could present problems for the Terrapins.
The Knights (1-1) have become a big-play running team under first-year coach Scott Frost and their defense has been stout against the run.
UCF's strengths could make for a long night for Maryland (2-0), which is coming off blowout wins over Howard and Florida International coming into Saturday's road game. A victory over the Knights Saturday would equal Maryland's win total last season.
''You can tell that coach Frost has already put his imprint on the program,'' said first-year Maryland coach DJ Durkin, whose defense allowed FIU to run for 202 yards and average 5.1 yards per carry. ''He's done a really good job. They're an up-tempo team. They do a lot of things offensively that can give us problems on defense. On defense, they're playing physical at the line of scrimmage.
''We know we have our toughest test of the season thus far.''
UCF ran through Durkin's former Michigan defense for 275 yards last Saturday, though the Wolverines routed the Knights 51-14 win in Ann Harbor. The Knights, however, held Michigan to just 119 yards rushing.
Playing Frost's up-tempo offense has helped the Knights produce several big plays in their first two games this season. Five players runs of 26 yards or more yards last week.
Freshman running back Adrian Killins raced for an 87-yard touchdown run on his only carry.
''They have several running backs with big play capability,'' Durkin said. ''They're very talented and fast players. They had several big plays last week against Michigan.''
Frost, who took over a team that went 0-12 last season, likes the improvements the Knights have made.
''I think anytime you see a really good team and how they execute you learn a little bit,'' he said. ''We're young on offense … It takes a while and those guys are getting better all of the time.
''Those guys are getting better all of the time. We executed better in the last game than the first game and I expect that improvement to continue.''
Some other things to know about Saturday's Maryland-UCF matchup:
SETTING THE PACE: So far this season, dual-threat quarterback Perry Hills has been everything to the Terrapins offense. After throwing 13 interceptions last season, he hasn't thrown an interception in the first two games but has managed three touchdown passes and has an efficiency rating of 176.01.
PUTTING UP POINTS: Maryland has scored 93 points in its first two games under Durkin, which is the most in a two-game span for a debut head coach in program history. It's also the second-most combined points through the season's first two games in Maryland football history (106 in 1927).
QUARTERBACK DIEMMA: While Frost does not discuss injuries, signs are pointing to starting quarterback Justin Holman being available for Saturday's game after he was knocked out of last week's game with an apparent leg injury. Senior Nick Patti came in for Holman last week and could be the starter against Maryland on Saturday. Whichever quarterback Frost goes with there is a real need to improve the passing game. The Knights managed just 56 yards passing yards last week with Holman and Patti each completing three passes.
CLOGGING THE MIDDLE: UCF junior nose tackle Jamiyus Pittman has been huge for the Knights run defense through the first two games, commanding multiple blockers inside to give inside linebacker Mark Rucker a clearer path to the football.
LIKELY STAR: All-Big Ten defensive back William Likely continues to be a huge presence on the Terps' defense. He has six tackles, two sacks, one tackle for loss and a pass breakup in the first two games this season. But look for him to a little of everything including return kicks and jump in occasionally on offense.
AP College Football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org.