COLLEGE PARK, Md. — It had been a well over a year since C.J. Brown played in a football game, so it wouldn’t have been surprising if he displayed a bit of rust in his long-awaited return.
Instead, Brown looked like he never left.
The senior celebrated his comeback from injury with a marvelous performance, throwing for three touchdowns and running for two scores to lead Maryland past Florida International 43-10 Saturday.
Brown missed all of last year after tearing his left ACL in preseason practice. He made up for lost time during a torrid first half, completing 15 of 16 passes and running for 99 yards to help the Terrapins (1-0) go up 40-10.
“Today was a lot of fun,” Brown said. “As you could see, things came together for us. It felt good to get back out there on the field with the guys and compete.”
In 2011, Brown set the school single-season rushing record for a quarterback (574 yards) and threw for 842 yards. If his performance against FIU was any indication, those numbers will topped by the middle of the season.
“I’m just thrilled for him to be able to come back and have this kind of game to open the season, and the thing is, he’ll be better next week and the week after,” coach Randy Edsall said.
Brown finished 20 for 23 for 281 yards passing and ran for 105 yards on 11 carries before being removed in the third quarter. His touchdown runs were 29 and 11 yards, and he threw for scores of 25, 17 and 66 yards.
“I knew C.J. was going to have a great impact,” wide receiver Stefon Diggs said. “He was really excited to be back out there and I was excited for him. I knew he was going to perform at his best. He brought his A-game today, and he’s going to do that every week.”
Playing its first game under coach Ron Turner, Florida International (0-1) gave up 399 yards before halftime and managed only 59 yards and three first downs over the opening 30 minutes.
“I thought we’d come out and play better early,” Turner said. “I don’t know what we did. I didn’t recognize the offense and I didn’t recognize the defense early. We didn’t do it in any phase.”
Panthers quarterback Jake Medlock went 5 for 15 for 26 yards before Turner mercifully took him out of the game in the third quarter.
“Jake was taking some pretty good shots,” Turner said.
Coming off a 4-8 season that ended with six straight defeats, the Terrapins opened their third year under Edsall with a dominating effort. The offense amassed 576 yards and the only scores against the defense came after turnovers.
“Anytime you win 43-10 you’re going to be happy,” Edsall said. “But as we go back and look at the film, there’s going to be a lot of things we can coach up and get better.”
Perhaps, but there was plenty more good than bad.
Deon Long had nine catches for 110 yards and Diggs totaled 98 yards on five receptions. The Terps averaged 8.1 yards per play and allowed only 2.8.
“It was a lot of fun on the offensive side of the ball and the defense was flying around as well,” Brown said.
Maryland moved 50 yards on its first possession before Brad Craddock made a short field goal. Sam Miller fumbled the subsequent kickoff, setting up another field goal for a 6-0 lead.
Florida International’s first score in the Turner Era came when Sergio Sroka kicked a 32-yard field goal after Maryland’s William Likely mishandled a punt.
Brown answered with a 29-yard touchdown run around left end, the final play of an 86-yard drive in which Diggs ran for 26 yards with a pitch from Brown off the option.
On the first snap of the second quarter, Brown put a nice touch on a 25-yard toss to Long in the right side of the end zone, making it 20-3.
Later, Brown fumbled in the pocket and FIU recovered on the Maryland 25. That led a 1-yard run on fourth down by fullback Lamarq Caldwell.
Brown quickly made amends. He ran for 64 yards around left end before lofting a 17-yard touchdown pass to Kenneth Goins to put Maryland up 26-10.
After a three-and-out by the Panthers, Diggs slipped far behind the FIU secondary. He caught a pass, stumbled and narrowly kept his knee from touching the turf before cruising into the end zone for a 66-yard score.
Brown completed the first-half barrage with an 11-yard run after FIU received a personal foul penalty on a fourth-and-8 play.
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