Football back-and-forth with The Diamondback

Dec. 28, 2014, 11:36 p.m.

In advance of Stanford football’s upcoming matchup against Maryland in the Foster Farms Bowl, The Stanford Daily’s Do-Hyoung Park chatted with Daniel Popper of The Diamondback, the student newspaper of the University of Maryland, to gain an insider perspective on the Terrapins and preview Tuesday’s matchup.

The Stanford Daily (TSD): How has the transition to the Big Ten treated the team, and how do people around the program feel about it one year in? A 4-4 conference record and a third-place finish in a tough Big Ten East is certainly nothing to sneeze at; is this where you expect the program to be moving forward, or is there still growth to be attained?

Daniel Popper (DP): There’s no question the Terps exceeded expectations in their inaugural Big Ten season. Granted, it was a down year in the conference and they suffered blowout defeats at the hands of both Ohio State (at home) and Wisconsin (on the road). But wins at legacy programs like Penn State and Michigan highlighted a successful season overall. The victory over the Nittany Lions was especially important from a recruiting perspective, as Penn State coach James Franklin, a former Terps assistant, and Maryland coach Randy Edsall have a well-documented history full of animosity regarding the battle over recruits from the Maryland-D.C.-Virginia area.

The loss to Rutgers in the regular-season finale put a damper on an otherwise positive campaign, but this season was certainly a better-than-anticipated start for the program in its new conference.

TSD: Vegas opened the Terps as 14-point underdogs, the largest spread of bowl season. How do you feel about that figure? Do you think that Maryland is suffering from a lack of national respect right now against a Stanford team that’s struggled on offense all season?

DP: I believe Stanford should be favored in this game. The Cardinal are effectively playing a home contest and have one of the top defenses in the nation. The Terps, meanwhile, have been inconsistent offensively all season and struggled to run the ball effectively against many of the top defenses in the Big Ten. However, 14 points is too much. Considering the number of seniors the Terps have on both sides of the ball, I would be surprised if the contest becomes a blowout. But the lack of respect is something the team has coped with all season, so it’s nothing new.

TSD: How do people feel about being matched up against Stanford — right in the Cardinal’s backyard, no less?

DP: Players and coaches view the matchup with Stanford as a tremendous opportunity to, once again, prove they belong. All season, the Terps have been working to show they can compete with the prolific programs of the Big Ten. Overall, I feel like they did so — especially by defeating Penn State and Michigan on the road. Playing a close game against Stanford would only further cement what the team has been working toward all year.

TSD: Statistically, neither the offense nor the defense really seems to stand out, but as I understand, there have been injury issues in the front seven all throughout the season and the offensive line was in flux as well. Do you think the numbers are indicative of how this team can play?

DP: Inconsistency has plagued the Terps on both offense and defense throughout the season, so the numbers aren’t a good representation of this team’s potential. For instance, the defense surrendered 370 rushing yards in a win over Syracuse, which finished 94th in the nation on the ground, and collapsed in epic fashion against the Scarlet Knights. Then the same unit went on the road to Penn State and held Christian Hackenberg to 43 percent passing. The offense performed in similar fashion, rushing for 212 yards against a quality Iowa squad that lost narrowly to both Wisconsin and Nebraska while compiling just six yards on the ground in a loss to Michigan State.

Which groups show up on Tuesday? I don’t know. But aside from season-ending injuries to defensive end Quinton Jefferson and cornerback Alvin Hill, which both occurred very early in the season, the defense will be completely healthy. The offense, meanwhile, will get wide receiver Stefon Diggs back after the junior missed the last three regular-season games because of suspension and a lacerated kidney. Considering the magnitude of this game for the program, I would expect both units to be sharp.

TSD: Does Maryland have any units or players that Stanford fans should specifically keep an eye on? Stefon Diggs, Andre Monroe and Will Likely are likely going to have their names called often, but who could be a dark-horse contributor for the Terps?

DP: All season, Jacquille Veii has been the definition of the dark-horse contributor. He’s quietly one of the best athletes on the Terps’ roster and can play multiple positions. He started training camp at running back before moving to wide receiver prior to the season. Expect to see him out wide and in the backfield on Tuesday. He finished the year with 230 receiving yards, 105 rushing yards and three total touchdowns.

TSD: What are the strengths and weaknesses of the team, and how do they match up against Stanford?

DP: On offense, the Terps live and die with quarterback C.J. Brown. When he is willing to move outside of the pocket and use his legs — his greatest asset — the Terps can look like a well-oiled machine, especially in their tempo offense. But he’s awfully shaky throwing the football and poor decision-making has doomed him during his six-year career. Stanford’s defense is going to provide a tough test for Brown in his final collegiate game. But if the senior can find a way to get the ball to his playmakers — Diggs, [Deon] Long, Veii — the Terps may find a way to get some points on the board.

Defensively, the Terps biggest strength is their experience. Depth chart-wise, every starter in their front seven is a senior and only one starter on the whole unit is an underclassman — cornerback Will Likely, who happens to lead the team in interceptions. In their final game, I expect the Terps’ seniors to put up a stout performance against a Stanford offense that, as you mentioned, has been pedestrian this season. 

TSD: The general consensus seems to be that Stanford is expected to win this game easily. That being said, bowl season is spectacularly unpredictable and Stanford has been spectacularly inconsistent. What does Maryland need to do to pull off the upset? What’s your prediction for what happens?

DP:  Maryland has its hands full if it wants to take the Foster Farms Bowl trophy back to College Park. And ultimately, I think Stanford’s defense will be too much for Brown and the Terps to handle. One big play from the offense could be the difference in this game, but I don’t see that happening against a Cardinal team that’s allowing just 16 points per game.

Final prediction: Stanford 23, Maryland 13.

Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 ‘at’

Do-Hyoung Park '16, M.S. '17 is the Minnesota Twins beat reporter at, having somehow ensured that his endless hours sunk into The Daily became a shockingly viable career. He was previously the Chief Operating Officer and Business Manager at The Stanford Daily for FY17-18. He also covered Stanford football and baseball for five seasons as a student and served two terms as sports editor and four terms on the copy desk. He was also a color commentator for KZSU 90.1 FM's football broadcast team for the 2015-16 Rose Bowl season.

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