COLLEGE PARK – Caleb Rowe started the day off shaky. He threw an interception on his second throw of the game that led to a South Florida touchdown. But the redshirt junior rebounded nicely, as he threw for 297 yards and four touchdowns in Maryland’s 35-17 victory over South Florida on Saturday. Rowe’s performance was […]
COLLEGE PARK – Caleb Rowe started the day off shaky.
He threw an interception on his second throw of the game that led to a South Florida touchdown.
But the redshirt junior rebounded nicely, as he threw for 297 yards and four touchdowns in Maryland’s 35-17 victory over South Florida on Saturday. Rowe’s performance was a stark improvement over Perry Hills, who was benched this week for being ineffective through the air.
Maryland Head Coach Randy Edsall was pleased with his team’s ability to move the ball through the air, but the interceptions were concerning. Rowe threw three interceptions, all of which came at important times while South Florida was still in the game. Rowe’s final interception led to a South Florida touchdown that narrowed the Terps’ lead to 28-17 in the third quarter. All-in-all, the Bulls scored 14 points off those turnovers.
“Everybody wants to praise him because of the stats,” Edsall said. “He did some good things out there, but as a quarterback, you can’t throw three picks. Those picks led to points.”
Rowe was happy with both the end result and how way he played, but the quarterback acknowledged he needed to cut back on the turnovers.
“I’m expected to throw touchdowns,” Rowe said. “I’m expected to not throw interceptions. I just have to play better and be smarter with the football.”
After falling behind 7-0, Rowe seemed to settle down as he led a nine-play drive that ended with a one-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Goins. The drive also included a fourth-and-one conversion on a pass to freshman DJ Moore. Later in the first quarter, Rowe showed off his arm throwing a 70-yard touchdown pass to a streaking Tavion Jacobs, a Suitland High School grad, to give Maryland a 14-7 lead.
Following a South Florida field goal in the final minute of the half, the Terps got the ball back with 52 seconds. Rowe hit Levern Jacobs on back-to-back throws, the second of which was a 49-yard completion to the Bulls’ four-yard line. The next play was an option to running back Brandon Ross, however Rowe was hit as he made the pitch and the ball hit the turf. Luckily, Ross was able to scoop up the loose ball and run into the end zone to give Maryland a 21-10 lead at halftime.
South Florida gave the Terps great field position to start the second half when trying to avoid star returner Will Likely, as Ty Johnson was able to return a pooch kick to the Bulls’ 37-yard-line. Five plays later, Rowe connected with tight end Avery Edwards in the end zone. Edwards was draped in coverage and made an in-air adjustment to catch the back shoulder throw.
Rowe and Edwards connected again with ten minutes left in the fourth quarter on a 22-yard throw and catch. It was the Terps’ final score of the day and put them up 35-17.
Likely, who scored touchdowns on returns in each of the two previous games, was held in check by South Florida. He returned two punts for 22 yards and a kickoff for 24 yards.
South Florida was kicking itself for missed opportunities. Bulls’ wide receiver Rodney Adams dropped what would have been a sure go-ahead touchdown in the second quarter. Later, in the third quarter, running back Marlon Mack had 34-yard touchdown run negated by a holding penalty and the Bulls would later be forced to punt. South Florida Head Coach Willie Taggart said those plays played a big part in the loss.
“I think we all know what momentum can do in the game of football and those plays would have done wonders for us,” Taggart said.
Taggart made a quarterback change at the start of the fourth quarter. Steven Bench replaced starter Quinton Flowers, who had just led a 17-play drive to narrow the score to 28-17. Bench entered the game and didn’t complete a pass while throwing an interception. Maryland scored off the turnover and led by 18 at the time.
Taggart said the decision was made before the game, and they didn’t want to deviate from the plan.
“He was going to come in and start the second series of that second half,” Taggart said. “We told Steven that he was going to play at the end of the game and we stuck to it.”
Following that drive, Flowers returned to quarterback for the rest of the game.
The Maryland defense looked much improved after giving up nearly 700 yards the week before to Bowling Green. The Terps were able to hold South Florida to 300 yards of offense, while recording six sacks and two interceptions. Defensive lineman Roman Bragilo said the defense played more like a unit this week.
“We worked hard. It takes everybody to get a sack,” Bragilo said.
Maryland improved to 2-1 on the year. Next week the Terps take on West Virginia in Morgantown and will look to continue with the momentum of their new quarterback.