USA TODAY Sports
UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton saw his first college action last season against Maryland as a true freshman. In a 2OT loss to the Terps, Milton threw for 260 yards and two touchdowns, running for another score. He proved to be extremely elusive in the pocket and regularly made big plays improvising outside of the pocket as a play broke down. He went on to start nine of the final 10 games of the season, locking up the starting job heading into this season.
With a full college offseason under his belt, Milton looked impressive in UCF’s season opener, completing 16-of-21 passes for 360 yards and four touchdowns through the air in a 63-17 blowout win over Florida International.
Needless to say, containing Milton is a big priority for the Terps’ defense this week. And this time around, Maryland has a much better idea of what they will face.
“It was harder to prepare for him last year because we had no tape on him,” said defensive coordinator Andy Buh on Wednesday. “At least we have him starting 10 games over the course of last year and then his start this year. So it’s been a lot easier to prepare for him this year than it was a year ago. We know what we are going to get, a dynamic guy with the football. Really good outside the pocket. Runs the offense really well. It seems like he feels more comfortable in the offense since the last time we played them. It looks like their coaches feel more confident in their personnel and have been able to open some of the offense up and we’ve seen a lot of different things since we last prepared for them.”
Maryland offensive coordinator Walt Bell knows a thing or two about mobile quarterbacks. It was then-true freshman quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome who came in on the final play of last year’s game and ran 24 yards for the game winning touchdown in the second overtime. He saw first-hand just how difficult McKenzie Milton is to bring down.
“He has a really special ability, which I’m sure he learned in the backyard in the sixth grade--he can extend plays,” Bell said “I think that, more than anything else, especially defensively at this level--is a guy that can extend plays. At the NFL level, typically all of the d-linemen are so athletic that normally there isn’t a whole lot of time to improv and run around but he’s a guy that can really extend plays. Your biggest fear--not only can he beat you running the football. Not only can he beat you in the pocket. When things don’t go well and he gets past one and two and he starts to move around, that’s when me in the press box starts to get a little bit scared. He’s a guy that can beat you in any number of ways.”
While inside linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. and safety Darnell Savage were both mentioned by the UCF signal caller as defenders he’s looking out for, containment for the Terps will start along a veteran defensive line that will look to continue their solid play through two games.
“Stay true to our technique and not play differently than what we have been,” said senior defensive end Chandler Burkett when asked about containing Milton. “We’ve played pretty solid defense so far. Just try to stay within that and make sure we know our rush lanes and where we’re supposed to be at. It’s been the same since they installed the defense. Just make sure you wear your hat and we’ll be fine.”
With the hot start to the season by junior running back Ty Johnson, averaging a whopping 15.1 yards per carry, it’s easy to see how sophomore tailback Lorenzo Harrison has perhaps been overlooked. After averaging 7.2 yards per carry and rushing for five touchdowns a season ago, Harrison is averaging just 4.1 yards per carry through two games so far this season.
It was the UCF game last season where Harrison really broke out for Maryland, carrying the ball 15 times for a team-high 77 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown run.
Harrison was the workhorse last season in Orlando, his 15 carries more than double the seven of Ty Johnson. Today, Harrison leads the Terps in carries through two games and while his yards per carry are down, offensive coordinator Walt Bell remains confident in the 5-foot-8 back.
“I think Lorenzo is doing an incredible job,” Bell said. “He’s our highest effort player on offense. If we could get all 11 guys to play like he plays, with and without the ball, we’ll be a great offense. He’s a guy every week we point out for effort. I just think that right now, sometimes you’re a victim of what the other 10 guys around you do, and sometime you’re a victim of ‘you’re pressing a little bit.’ I have no problems handing it to either one in any situation, no matter how critical. Both of them are great players and as we get into the meat of our play, it’s going to take both of those guys. There are going to be games where people are upset at me that Lorenzo had 200 yards and Ty only had 60. And there are going to be games where people think Ty is a great player and what’s wrong with LoLo. That’s the ebb and flow of this game. But I think both of those kids are mature enough and tough enough mentally to understand that this just comes with the territory.”
Against both Texas and Towson, Harrison seemed to miss some holes that he would have hit in stride a year ago, which certainly would point to the sophomore back pressing right now.
“Sometimes it’s not your day,” said Bell. “I know that’s not the answer that anybody wants to hear, but I think he’s got double the carries of Ty [Johnson] right now. All these kids have a lot of pride and Lorenzo is a great player. When you see the other guy break a bunch of big runs and everybody is talking about him and no one is talking about you, sometimes you press a little bit and try to hit things that aren’t there.”
Bell added: “I think that Lorenzo is doing a great job. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with Lo. I think, if anything else, he just needs to relax and not press and just do what he does. Because when he has the ball in his hands, again, good things happen.
Quote of the Week
Offensive Coordinator Walt Bell on freshman running back Anthony McFarland:
“He’s a local guy. He’s a great football player. But it takes time. We’ve got to season him. He’s got to marinate a little bit and when it’s time to come out of the ziplock bag and go on the grill, he’ll be ready to go.”