COLLEGE PARK — C.J. Brown’s final season as Maryland’s quarterback has thus far been marred by interceptions, injury and inconsistency.
As a result, Brown ended up watching nearly a full game’s worth of football from the sideline during his past two starts.
On Sept. 27, Brown sprained his left wrist against Indiana and was held from the game in the second half of a 37-15 win.
The following week, he earned a spot next to coach Randy Edsall after being pulled at halftime of a 52-24 loss to Ohio State.
Maryland had just cut the Buckeyes’ lead to 24-10 late in the first half when Brown, a sixth-year senior, threw an interception that resulted in an Ohio State touchdown.
“Obviously, I thought I saw one thing and didn’t see it,” Brown said Tuesday. “The linebacker sat there and it was a terrible throw.”
With Maryland (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten) receiving a bye last week, Brown will have had two weeks to mull the mistake by the time the Terrapins take the field Saturday against Iowa (5-1, 2-0).
During the break Brown watched his little brother, a defensive back at James Madison, play at home against Towson.
“Just kind of got away, hung with the family and recharged,” Brown said.
He’s going to have to be at his best for Maryland to be successful in its first Big Ten season. Brown has rushed for five touchdowns and thrown for seven scores, but he’s also been picked off four times and has a mediocre 57.5 percent completion rate.
“What C.J, has to do is play to his strengths and realize all the ability he has,” Edsall said.
“I think the biggest thing is trying not to force things and not to get away from my athleticism, the ability to use my feet,” he said. “That was the biggest thing, looking at the film. I was kind of leaving some plays out there that in the past that I’ve made.”
When that happens, Edsall has no problem turning to backup Caleb Rowe.
“We have a philosophy here that we’re going to play guys we feel give us the opportunity to win,” Edsall said. “It’s like a starting pitcher. Some days he doesn’t have it, so you have to go to the bullpen. Not everybody’s going to have a great day. Sometimes a quarterback doesn’t. You have to perform on a daily basis, and if you don’t you’re going to be standing next to the coach.”
Brown accepts this.
“Any quarterback knows that if you’re not going produce, they’re going to go to the next guy,” he said. “It comes with the territory.”
Which means Browns’ 22 career rushing touchdowns, his 5,576 total yards (fifth-most in Maryland history) and eight career 100-yard games won’t mean a thing Saturday if the Terrapins’ offense stumbles against the Hawkeyes.
“Obviously you don’t want to be looking over your shoulder, you don’t want to know if you make a mistake you’re going to get pulled,” he said. “But at the same time, you’ve got to go out there and play ball.”
In spite of Brown’s up-and-down play, Maryland has scored at least 24 points in its first six games for the first time in school history. The Terrapins have 25 plays of at least 20 yards, including a 75-yard run by Brown and his 77-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs.
But the consistency just hasn’t been there.
“It’s a roller coaster right now,” Brown acknowledged.
“I think C.J. has done a lot of good things,” Edsall said. “We’ve moved the ball. Have we moved it as consistently as we’d like to? No, but that’s not just all on the quarterback.”
Try telling that to the fans.
“Playing quarterback, that’s a tough gig,” Terps linebacker L.A. Goree said. “People in the stands are going to be saying one thing, coaches are going to say another thing. You have all these outside forces. But C.J. needs to know I’ve got his back and the rest of the defense has his back.”