Maryland (2-1) will host Minnesota (3-0) Saturday afternoon in both team’s first conference game of the season. The Terrapins will be playing just one day after the University System of Maryland Board of Regents releases findings from the Walters Inc.-led investigation into the death of Jordan McNair. The Board of Regents is meeting this morning to be briefed on the findings, which will be shared will the public later in the afternoon.
With uncertainty over what additional information will be revealed, interim head coach Matt Canada repeated on Monday sentiments that he has expressed since he assumed the role of head coach: the football team is just focusing on what’s in front of them.
“We’re going to worry about the football game,” Canada said. “That’s our job, that’s our charge and that’s what we’re going to do. I continue to say how proud I am of our players for focusing on their job, on going to school, on playing football and on grieving Jordan. That’s what they’re worried about.”
What lies in the way of Maryland is an undefeated Minnesota team, and a young one at that. 59 of the 113 players on the roster are either true or redshirt freshmen. Two of those true freshmen are starters on offense, quarterback Zack Annexstad and running back Bryce Williams.
Not only is Annexstad a true freshman, he is a walk-on, the first to start a season opener at quarterback since Baker Mayfield in 2013. Through three games, Annexstad has only completed 55.7 percent of his passes but has thrown four touchdowns to zero interceptions.
Williams rose up the depth chart because of multiple injuries to Minnesota’s running backs, most notably senior starting running back Rodney Smith, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the team’s second game against Fresno State. Williams currently leads the team with 259 rushing yards.
Another player Maryland’s defense will have to watch out for is junior wide receiver Tyler Johnson. The converted quarterback leads Minnesota in catches, receiving yards and has caught all five of the Golden Gophers’ touchdown passes.
Coming into Saturday’s game, Minnesota’s defense is allowing just nine points per game. They have yet to give up 100 rushing yards in a game and are led by Antoine Winfield, Jr., who is fourth on the team in tackles, tied for the team lead in interceptions and even returns punts. Winfield had a 76-yard punt return touchdown against New Mexico State in Minnesota’s first game of the season.
Kickoff is set for noon at Maryland Stadium and the game will be aired on Big Ten Network.