COLLEGE PARK, MD. - Maryland opens Atlantic Coast Conference play on Saturday when Wake Forest, which has already played three league games (1-2 record), visits Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium. The Terps are coming off their bye week and are expected to be mostly healthy after battling injuries throughout the season’s first four games. Those injuries have played a part in Maryland seeing 12 true freshmen take to the field, which ranks as the ninth most in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
• With a number of experienced playmakers, the defense has been the most consistent unit for Maryland. The Terps rank eighth nationally in total defense (261.25 ypg), 11th in rushing defense (83.5 ypg) and 18th in passing defense (177.75 ypg). Maryland has been very tough against the run with an experienced front seven highlighted by senior defensive linemen Joe Vellano and A.J. Francis, and senior linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield. Those three have played a big role in holding opponents to an average of just 2.3 yards per rush, which ranks ninth nationally. Maryland held a high-powered West Virginia offense that came in averaging 226 rushing yards per game to just 25 yards on 25 attempts. It’s also been a disruptive defense – Maryland’s 2.5 sacks per game are tied for 39th in the FBS and its 7.5 tackles for loss per game are tied for 22nd. The Terps received a major boost to their linebacking corps with the return of Kenneth Tate in the West Virginia game. Tate, a 2010 consensus first team All-ACC choice, had missed the previous 11 games dating back to the 2011 season due to a knee injury. The fifth-year senior recorded four tackles, one of them for a loss, and a pass breakup against the Mountaineers.
• Of the young players, wide receiver Stefon Diggs and quarterback Perry Hills have made the biggest impact in the first one-third of the regular season. Diggs has been a multi-faceted play-maker in the return game and as a receiver – he ranks second in the ACC and 16th nationally in all-purpose yards (160.5 ypg) and has a team-high 64.8 receiving yards per game which ranks ninth in the conference. Against then-No. 8 West Virginia two weeks ago, Diggs tallied 201 all-purpose yards including a team-high 113 receiving yards on three receptions. He had touchdown catches of 42 and 56 yards and was honored as the ACC Rookie of the Week. That came two weeks after Hills earned the same honor for his play in a 36-27 win at Temple.
• Hills, who is just the third true freshman quarterback to start for Maryland in school history (Randall Jones in 1998; Latrez Harrison in 1999), had his best collegiate game against the Mountaineers. He finished 20 of 29 for 305 yards and three touchdowns, all season highs. Despite his youth, Hills has capably directed the offense and has been at his best in the fourth quarter. He led Maryland on the game-winning touchdown drive in the fourth quarter of the season opener against William & Mary, and on the season is 15 of 23 for 270 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in the final stanza.
• The Maryland running game has been a work in progress as four capable backs have all seen time this season. SophomoreJustus Pickett is the most experienced and started against Temple and Connecticut. True freshman Albert Reid started against William & Mary, and redshirt freshman Brandon Ross started against West Virginia after missing the first three games with a hamstring injury. Additionally, true freshman Wes Brown has a team-high 127 rushing yards and is averaging a team-best 5.5 yards per carry. Those four are listed as co-starters heading into the Wake Forest game.
• Maryland’s special teams units have also been relying on young players. Diggs has been handling the return game, true freshman Brad Craddock has been handling kickoffs and place-kicking duties with Nick Ferrara’s injury, and redshirt freshmanNathan Renfro has handled the punting.
• A Terrapin has received Rookie of the Week honors twice in a three-week span as quarterback Perry Hills earned the award for his play against Temple and Stefon Diggs received it for the West Virginia game. Hills became the first Maryland true freshman QB to earn the award since Calvin McCall on 9/20/99, while Diggs became the first Maryland freshman receiver to earn it since Darrius Heyward-Bey on 10/30/06.
• Seven players made their first career starts in the season opener against William & Mary: quarterback Perry Hills, running back Albert Reid, safety Sean Davis, defensive back Jeremiah Johnson, linebacker Cole Farrand, nose tackle Darius Kilgoand offensive lineman Nick Klemm. Additionally, wide receiver Stefon Diggs made his first career start against Connecticut, while defensive back Isaac Goins and running back Brandon Ross made their starting debuts at West Virginia.
• Fourteen players saw their first career action for Maryland against William & Mary, and 22 players have seen their first career action for Maryland at some point this season (12 true freshmen, seven redshirt freshmen, two juniors, one senior).
• Diggs, who has 12 catches for 259 yards, is averaging 21.6 yards per catch. That ranks second among ACC receivers with 10 or more catches and ranks fourth among the top-100 receivers nationally.
• After recording just three catches for 33 yards in the first three games, tight end Matt Furstenburg found his form against West Virginia. The preseason All-ACC selection had four catches for 65 yards against the Mountaineers.
• Maryland’s defense allowed just 682 total yards to opponents through its first three games (William & Mary – 229, Temple – 230, Connecticut – 223). That marks its best defensive performance in a three-game span since 2004, when it held The Citadel (137), West Virginia (156) and Eastern Michigan (275) to a total of 568.
• West Virginia came into its game with Maryland averaging 612 yards of total offense and 55.5 points per game. The Terps held the Mountaineers well below those averages, surrendering 363 yards and 31 points, seven of which came on a fumble return for a TD by the WVU defense.
• The Terps have done a good job controlling the clock. In four games, Maryland has had the ball for an average of 30:41 to 29:19 for the opponent. That’s a major upgrade compared to 2011, when Maryland averaged just 25:16 a game to 34:44 for the opponent.
• Maryland has 11 true freshmen listed on its two-deep (excluding return men), which is the sixth most in the FBS (Colorado – 16, Texas – 15, TCU – 15, Navy – 13, Tulane – 13).
• The Terps are holding opponents to 2.3 yards per carry, which ranks fifth nationally. Of the opponents’ 145 rushing attempts this season, 101 (69.7%) have been for three yards or less (28 of 41 vs. William & Mary; 28 of 39 vs. Temple; 25 of 40 vs. Connecticut; 20 of 25 vs. West Virginia).
• Demetrius Hartsfield leads the team with 33 tackles and has had a hand in three turnovers, also a team high (one interception, two fumble recoveries).
• Head coach Randy Edsall hands out game balls for each win. In the win over William & Mary, Marcus Leak got the game ball for offense, Joe Vellano for defense and Nathan Renfro for special teams. In the win over Temple, Sal Conaboy got the game ball for offense, Demetrius Hartsfield for defense and A.J. Francis for special teams.
• Against William & Mary, Perry Hills became the first true freshman starter at quarterback for Maryland since Latrez Harrison in 1999. He also became the first freshman to start a season opener since redshirt freshman Calvin McCall on Sept. 2, 1999, in a 6-0 win over Temple.
• Maryland had 15 seniors on the 2011 roster, but just 12 of those players were listed on the two-deep at some point during the year. There are 17 seniors listed on the 2012 roster, and 13 are on the two-deep.
• Three Terps ended 2011 ranked among the top 12 in the ACC in tackles. Demetrius Hartsfield was second at 12.0 per game and Eric Franklin was sixth at 8.8. Joe Vellano was 12th with 7.8 per contest.
• Nine bowl teams from last year appear on Maryland’s 2012 schedule: Temple (Gildan New Mexico Bowl), West Virginia (Discover Orange Bowl), Wake Forest (Franklin American Mortgage Music City), Virginia (Chick-fil-A Bowl), NC State (Belk Bowl), Georgia Tech (Hyundai Sun Bowl), Clemson (Discover Orange Bowl), Florida State (Champs Sports Bowl) and UNC (AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl).
Maryland-Wake Forest Series History
• Maryland owns a 42-17-1 advantage all-time against Wake Forest. The Terps’ .712 winning percentage against the Demon Deacons is the Terrapins’ best mark against any ACC school.
• In games played in College Park, Maryland holds a 21-8 advantage. The Terps have won the last two meetings at Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium (26-0 in 2008, 62-14 in 2010), and five of the past six. Wake Forest’s lone win in College Park in the past 13 years came in 2006.
• The Terps have won nine of the last 13 in the series. They won seven straight from 1999-2005. The Demon Deacons, though, have won four of the past six.