The College Bowl Season is upon us, and Pylon University is bringing the breakdowns on offense, defense, and special teams, along with the sport’s traditions and great moments. In this edition, it’s the Foster Farms Bowl preview.
WHAT: Foster Farms Bowl
WHEN: Tuesday, December 30 – 10:00 p.m. EST (ESPN)
WHERE: Levi’s Stadium – Santa Clara, CA
Maryland faces Stanford in the first iteration of the Foster Farms Bowl. The Terrapins held their own during their inaugural Big Ten season, earning conference victories over Indiana, Iowa, Penn State and Michigan. However, Randy Edsall’s squad suffered blowout losses to Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Michigan State before ending the season by blowing a 25-point lead against their fellow conference newcomers from Rutgers.
Stanford endured a disappointing season in the Pac-12. An early season 13-10 loss to USC cast an ominous shadow over the program and the team suffered additional setbacks at the hands of Notre Dame, Arizona State, Oregon, and, in double overtime, Utah. But the Cardinal turned a corner in the last two weeks of the season, notching a win over rival California in “The Game” and then upsetting UCLA on the road the day after Thanksgiving. A victory Tuesday would give coach David Shaw and his team some much-needed momentum heading into the offseason.
When Maryland Has the Football
Senior C.J. Brown leads the Terrapins offense. The quarterback completed 53.2% of his passes in 2014 for 2,083 yards and 13 touchdowns, but proved careless at times with the football. Brown threw nine interceptions ‒ three against the Spartans, including one returned for a touchdown that staked Michigan State to a 16-point lead.
Brown’s most dangerous target is Stefon Diggs. The junior wide receiver brought in 52 passes for 654 yards and five touchdowns, numbers limited by his missing the final three games of the season with a lacerated kidney. He will be back for the bowl game, and Maryland fans hope he turns in plays like this:
Maryland runs the bubble screen to perfection here against Iowa. Nary a defender gets close to Diggs thanks to the terrific lead blocking.
Brown and Diggs need to pick up the slack for a running game that struggled mightily this year. Maryland’s ground game averaged 130.4 yards per contest this season, ranking a lowly 105th among FBS schools. Brown led the Terps in rushing with 148 carries for 569 yards and seven touchdowns. In their narrow loss to West Virginia the QB ran the football 18 times for 161 yards and a touchdown, which came on a 75-yard gallop late in the game to cut the Mountaineers’ lead to one. Brandon Ross and Wes Brown are the primary running backs. Ross, a senior, carried the ball 78 times for 385 yards and four touchdowns while Wes Brown added 97 carries for 341 yards and five TDs.
Stanford has talent at every level on defense. The Cardinal were second in the nation in scoring defense, yielding only 16 points per game. Linebackers Blake Martinez, A.J. Tarpley and James Vaughters form the core of the unit. Martinez led the team with 96 tackles while Tarpley added 77 and Vaughters 46. Senior linebacker Kevin Anderson rounds out the linebacking group, and he chipped in 50 stops (11 for losses) to go with his five sacks. Martinez and senior strong safety Jordan Richards led the squad with three interceptions each.
Up front, seniors Henry Anderson and David Parry led Stanford, with Anderson accruing 7.5 sacks from his defensive end spot, while Parry brought down the quarterback four times from his defensive tackle position. Anderson sacked Utah’s Travis Wilson three times in the double-overtime loss.
This play demonstrates the inside-outside scheme Parry and Anderson carry out. The defensive tackle lines up on the edge, and faces a double-team block that eliminates him from the play:
But from the inside, Anderson works through the solo block (and hold) from the center and drags Wilson to the turf:
Anderson tracks down Wilson for the big sack on third down.
When Stanford Has the Football
Kevin Hogan failed to live up to the expectations he set during his strong 2013 campaign. The senior completed 218 of 332 passes this season for 2,603 yards and 17 touchdowns, but threw eight interceptions including two crucial turnovers in the narrow loss to Notre Dame. The senior finished the year on a strong note, completing 16 of 19 passes for 234 yards and two scores in the upset over UCLA in the finale.
The Cardinal running game struggled as well in 2014. Remound Wright led the offense with 127 carries for 552 yards and eight touchdowns. Senior Kelsey Young and junior Barry Sanders rounded out Stanford’s “running back by committee” approach. Young contributed 57 carries for 306 yards, while Sanders (son of the former Heisman winner) added 54 carries and 304 yards.
One bright spot for the offense was wide receiver Ty Montgomery. While the senior failed to replicate the prior year’s production, he did catch 61 passes for 604 yards and three touchdowns. He also became a weapon in the return game, with two punt returns for touchdowns including this electrifying runback against Oregon State:
The receiver makes several potential tacklers miss on his way to the end zone, showing tremendous footwork and vision with the football in his hands.
Senior Cole Farrand spearheads the Maryland defense. The linebacker led the Terrapins with 111 tackles, 64 of which went for losses. Fellow linebacker L.A. Goree brought down 90 ball carriers during the year, while junior defensive back Sean Davis contributed 108 tackles in 2014.
William Likely grabbed six interceptions during the year, returning two for touchdowns. This 88-yard pick six against Syracuse shows Likely’s intelligence:
Likely reads the quarterback and steps in front of the short route, sending him off to the races.
Maryland’s NFL prospects include Kilgo, Diggs and fellow wide receiver Deon Long. Kicker Brad Craddock will likely end up on an NFL roster shortly after the draft. For Stanford, offensive tackle Andrus Peat leads a large group of potential selections. Montgomery, Anderson, Vaughters and Tarpley are also likely selections.
Expect a close contest, with Hogan and Montgomery putting disappointing seasons behind them with huge performances.
Stanford 41, Maryland 34
All video and images courtesy ESPN.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.