Backup quarterback Caleb Rowe and the Terrapins surprisingly stout defense made sure of it.
Brown ran for one touchdown and threw for another before leaving with an injury, and Rowe threw two more TD passes in the second half as the Terrapins routed Indiana 37-15.
“We’ve got the game ball and we’re going to take it back and put it in the trophy case,” coach Randy Edsall said.
In some ways, things didn’t change much in Maryland’s new conference debut.
The Terrapins (4-1, 1-0) won their second straight game for the second time this season and their fifth straight road game, a streak that covers two seasons and dates back to their ACC days.
There were promising signs, such as Maryland’s ability to limit Indiana’s usually potent offense to 332 total yards and one touchdown, and Rowe’s efficiency in relief.
And there were disconcerting images, especially the sight of Brown standing on the sideline wearing a headset with his left wrist wrapped up. The fifth-year senior has now accounted for 49 career touchdowns, second in school history, but it’s unclear if or when he’ll get a chance to break Scott Milanovich’s record (53).
Edsall said the initial diagnosis was a sprained wrist and that Brown would be re-evaluated after the team returns home.
“We told the team at halftime that C.J. couldn’t go, but that we would be fine with Caleb coming out,” Edsall said. “If Caleb has to be the guy who goes next week, we’re confident we can win.”
Why not after Maryland’s most complete performance of the season.
Brown was 10 of 15 for 163 yards with one touchdown in the first half. Rowe finished 12 of 18 for 198 yards in the second half.Stefon Diggs caught six passes for 112 yards and one TD, while Deon Long had 10 receptions for 108 yards. Brandon Ross ran six times for 61 yards and scored on a 36-yard screen pass that finally broke open the game in the third quarter.
The defense, which had been harshly critiqued after allowing almost 700 yards to West Virginia two weeks earlier and played without three starters, had a big day, too. Maryland limited the nation’s No. 1 runner, Tevin Coleman, who had 122 yards on 22 carries, almost 70 yards less than his average. And they kept Indiana (2-2, 0-1) out of the end zone until Coleman’s four-yard scoring run with 9:29 left.
Aside from the obvious concern about Brown’s injury, the conference initiation couldn’t have gone much better for Maryland.
“This was our coming out game,” linebacker Cole Farrand said after making 19 tackles. “This was the one everyone was looking at to see if we were worth anything in the Big Ten.”
For Indiana, it was a dreadful day.
Nate Sudfeld was constantly harassed and his usually productive receivers couldn’t break free. Sudfeld finished 14 of 37 for 126 yards with one interception, three sacks, a handful of drops and numerous throwaways. The defense couldn’t get off the field, and the Hoosiers had two long touchdowns wiped out by penalties.
About the only thing that went right was that new kicker Griffin Oakes made all three of his first-half field goals from 38, 48 and finally 58 yards as time expired in the first half to cut the deficit to 20-9. It broke the school record that was set in October 1989 when Scott Bonnell made a 55-yarder.
“At the line of scrimmage, they kind of owned us a little bit,” coach Kevin Wilson said. “Then we got behind a little bit, guys started dropping into coverage, windows were tight, pressuring and the quarterback not having some time, so like I said, we just got our butts whipped.”
Maryland wasted no time getting started, driving for a 48-yard field goal on the opening possession. Brown broke a 3-3 tie with a 5-yard TD run, then made it 17-6 with a 29-yard TD pass to Diggs.
Rowe took over in the second half, hooking up with Ross on the screen pass and Juwann Winfree on a 30-yard TD pass that made it 34-9 early in the fourth quarter.
Indiana finally scored on Coleman’s 4-yard TD run, extending his streak of consecutive games with a touchdown to 13 and breaking Anthony Thompson’s school record (12) set in 1988-89.
“The biggest thing is just to win football games,” Rowe said. “The guys were behind me and I wasn’t really nervous at all because I knew the guys were with me.”