It was less than an hour after Maryland's 28-3 victory over Towson, but it wasn't too soon for the Terps and their coaches to begin preparing — at least mentally — for the daunting challenge of slowing down Georgia Tech's triple-option offense.
After two straight losses, Maryland's win over the previously unbeaten Tigers served an important purpose. "This makes us feel like winners again," said linebacker Lorne Goree.
But Maryland's celebration was fleeting by necessity. In Georgia Tech, the Terps face their first road game of the season against a team averaging a gaudy 587 yards per game.
Maryland players barely had time to shower after Saturday's win before being asked about Georgia Tech (5-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), which beat North Carolina State, 45-35, on Saturday.
"Everybody in the nation knows the triple-option is one of the hardest offenses to stop," Maryland linebacker Kenny Tate said.
Against Towson, Tate had seemed to kick-start the habitually slow-starting Terps (2-2, 1-0 ACC). With Maryland leading 7-3, Tate stepped in front of Peter Athens' pass on the second play from scrimmage of the third quarter. His interception led to a 45-yard Maryland scoring drive that made it 14-3. "He threw it right to me," Tate said.
Now Tate has to mentally transition from playing Towson, a Football Championship Subdivision school, to playing Georgia Tech, which moved up in Sunday's Associated Press poll to No. 13 in the nation.
"This is going to be hard work to prepare for it, but I know we're capable. I feel like we're putting the pieces together," Tate said.
Georgia Tech, under former Navy coach Paul Johnson, is averaging 51.6 points. Its average per game in rushing yards — 378.2 — is higher than three ACC teams' (Miami, N.C. State, Boston College) averages for combined passing and running.
"Playing a team like that with just one week does make it tough, but that's the way the schedule is," Maryland coach Randy Edsall said in his media conference call Sunday. "So we've got to make the best of it."
The Terps started three freshmen on defense against Towson. It complicates Maryland's task to be constantly substituting newcomers into the starting lineup. But injuries to starters — notably safety Matt Robinson (shoulder), who is out for the season — have pushed first-year players such as redshirt freshman Titus Till into prominent spots. Till, a safety, had 11 tackles against Towson.
"I would like to see more continuity of the same people out there all the time," Edsall said Sunday. "Anytime that you have youth and inexperience, maybe you don't progress as much as you would like from week to week," he said.
Senior Davin Meggett got the third 100-yard running game of his career as the Terps rushed for a season-best 198 yards. Justus Pickett became the first true freshman running back since Meggett in 2008 to score a touchdown. The Terps forced four second-half turnovers and are now plus-6 in turnover margin — best in the ACC.
Maryland has made a habit of starting slowly in games. The Terps were lucky to be leading Towson, 7-3, at the half after being outgained 2-1 by the Tigers.
At Georgia Tech on Saturday at noon (ESPNU)Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times