COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — As C.J. Brown lay motionless on the ground, it seemed highly possible that another promising season for Maryland would be endangered by quarterback injuries.
Tackled hard and high during the third quarter of Saturday’s game against Iowa, Brown’s status appeared shaky as he was led off the field.
On a day of comebacks for Maryland, the sixth-year senior ultimately returned and the Terrapins beat the Hawkeyes 38-31, bouncing back from an early 14-point deficit to earn their first Big Ten home victory.
“I’m just so proud of these kids in terms of how they conduct themselves, how they handle themselves, how they never say die,” coach Randy Edsall said. “They just keep fighting and keep battling.”
Especially Brown, who previously endured shoulder and knee injuries during his lengthy college career. Two years ago, he was one of four quarterbacks lost during a season in which the Terrapins dropped their final six games after a 4-2 start.
This time, it was a bruised back muscle that took Brown out of the game in the third quarter.
“It definitely scared me. Just the whole right side of my back just tightened up, locked up,” he said.
Backup Caleb Rowe wasn’t available after tearing his left ACL in practice on Tuesday — an injury announced by Maryland on Saturday.
Third-stringer Perry Hills replaced Brown and threw a 53-yard touchdown to Stefon Diggs for a 24-14 lead, but the Hawkeyes (5-2, 2-1) answered with a 51-yard drive in which Mark Weisman ran for 38 yards before bulling in from the 2.
Minutes later, Will Likely intercepted a Jake Rudock pass and took it 45 yards into the end zone with 12:29 to go.
Brown returned with 8:37 remaining and directed a 54-yard drive that produced Wes Brown’s second 1-yard touchdown run with 4:58 left, giving Maryland (5-2, 2-1) a secure 38-21 advantage.
C.J. Brown went 12 for 23 for 120 yards and two interceptions. He also ran for 99 yards on 21 carries.
Edsall spoke in glowing terms about his quarterback’s gritty demeanor.
“When you see a guy take the shot that he took and then comes back in there — I’ll tell you one thing, if you can’t go out there and play hard and do a little bit more up front, or do a little bit more as a receiver or a running back for a guy like that, then man, you don’t have a lot of respect for who he is,” Edsall said. “He’s a tough cookie. The guy’s a winner. He went back out there and put it on the line to find a way to help his teammates get that fifth win.”
That made it all worth it for Brown, who said, “I feel all right. A little sore, a little beat up. It feels a little bit better after getting that win.”
Diggs caught nine passes for 130 yards and a touchdown for Maryland, playing its first season in the Big Ten after leaving the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Terps are now 1-1 at home in league play after losing 52-24 to Ohio State two weeks ago.
Iowa committed three turnovers, sputtered offensively after its quick start and had its three-game winning streak end.
“The things that we’re known for doing when we play well, I can’t think of one of those things that we did today,” coach Kirk Ferentz said.
Rudock went 32 for 56 for 317 yards and two touchdowns, and Weisman ran for 78 yards and two touchdowns. But the Hawkeyes permitted four sacks, yielded 212 yards rushing and were called for seven penalties totaling 65 yards.
Iowa scored 10 points in the final three minutes and got the ball back with 59 seconds to go but could not get into Maryland territory.
After a horrid start, Maryland limited Iowa to 53 yards in the second quarter and rallied to take a 17-14 halftime lead.
“We never count ourselves out of a game,” Terps linebacker Darius Kilgo said.
A good portion of the homecoming crowd of 48,373 had not yet arrived when defensive end Drew Ott intercepted a pass by Brown on the first play from scrimmage to set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Weisman.
Marcus Leak then dropped a potential touchdown pass before the Terrapins punted.
Rudock opened the possession with a 52-yard completion to Damon Bullock and converted a fourth-and-5 from the Maryland 9 before throwing a 2-yard TD pass to Henry Krieger Coble.
A 23-yard touchdown run by Jacquille Veii got the Terps to 14-7, and minutes later Maryland kicked a field goal after recovering an Iowa fumble.
Wes Brown’s touchdown run gave the Terrapins their first lead with 6:47 left in the half.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)