COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — The quarterback controversy at Maryland is over — at least for now.
Sophomore C.J. Brown will start Saturday at Florida State, based on his exceptional performance last weekend in a 56-45 loss to No. 8 Clemson. Brown has displaced Danny O’Brien, who started 10 games last season and the first five this year.
A week ago, Terrapins coach Randy Edsall waited until game time to name Brown the starter. Brown ran for 162 yards and threw three touchdown passes, so there was little mystery as to who would start against the Seminoles.
“C.J. played well. He’s the No. 1 quarterback as we go into Florida State,” Edsall said Tuesday. “He made a lot of good decisions, but we want him to improve, just like everybody else.”
It would be difficult for Brown to top his numbers against Clemson. In addition to setting a single-game rushing mark for a Maryland quarterback, he guided a no-huddle attack that ran 83 plays and rolled up 468 yards, including 291 on the ground.
Brown, a perfectionist, isn’t satisfied.
“After watching the game with the coaches and sitting down and critiquing yourself, you definitely want to improve some of the reads, the tempo of the offense,” he said. “It’s scary to think about, but we can still go faster.”
The ascent of Brown to the top of the depth chart seemed unfathomable at the beginning of the season. O’Brien, the incumbent, led Maryland to the Military Bowl as a freshman in 2010 and was set to continue his assault on the Maryland record book. Brown, conversely, was coming back from a disappointing season in which he missed the final 11 games with a fractured shoulder.
O’Brien launched the Edsall Era in style, throwing for 348 yards and a touchdown in a win over Miami on Sept. 5. But he was intercepted three times the following week in a loss to West Virginia and came out flat in a 38-7 home defeat against Temple. Brown produced Maryland’s lone touchdown against Temple and played well in relief the next week against Georgia Tech, running for 124 yards to fuel a second-half comeback.
Now the job is his to lose.
“Danny had a great year last year, but anything can happen,” Brown said. “I’m just fortunate I was able to make the most of my opportunity at hand. Nothing is guaranteed. This is just my job right now. I’ve got to go out and perform on Saturday, or who knows what will happen?”
O’Brien is probably the better passer, but Brown argues the assessment.
“I have full confidence in my ability,” he said. “I believe I’m a great passer, I’m a great runner, I’m a great quarterback.”
Because Edsall didn’t name his start against Clemson until shortly before kickoff, Brown took the Tigers by surprise. Clemson prepared for the right arm of O’Brien and instead got a heavy dose of Brown’s legwork.
“Brown at quarterback added a new dimension to their offense,” Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said. “We didn’t have much video evidence of some of the stuff we witnessed.”
The situation will be different for Maryland (2-4, 1-2 ACC) against the Seminoles (3-3, 1-2), who will spend plenty of time this week preparing for the slippery quarterback.
“Brown has given them a great lift,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “He’s extremely athletic, runs the ball, all the zone reads, can still throw it, scrambles around, creates plays with his feet. He’s given them some pep and life. They’re moving the ball and scoring points.”
Brown ran 22 times against Clemson, and Edsall said only about 15 of those plays were designed to stay on the ground. In the other instances, Brown read the defense and took off on his own.
“That’s a big part of their offense — the zone read,” Seminoles safety Nick Moody said. “We have to stop that. You have to make quick decisions, and whoever has him has to finish the play.”
Clemson can attest that it’s not as easy as it looks, because when Brown drops back into the pocket, anything can happen.
“Having played the position myself and having coached on defense for a number of years,” Edsall said, “when you have to face a guy who has the ability to throw the ball and run the ball, it does create a lot of problems for the defense.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)