Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Anchors Away, Terps pull out 23-20 win

I wasn't buying into the hype surrounding the renewal of the Navy Maryland rivalry since not even Navy felt it was a rivalry game. In spite of all the attention lavished on Jerry Fishman and his idiotic antics the game went off without a hitch. There was something special about the atmosphere and many Navy fans came out to support the Mids. The Midshipmen honored Maryland before the game and were greeted with a warm ovation. After the game Maryland's players stood at midfield while Navy sang their alma matre. It was a nice show of respect.

The game itself was a mixed bag. Any first game at a neutral site or on the road is a success if you win, no matter how overmatched your opponent may be. Navy had little of the speed, size or athletic ability that Maryland's roster has but made up for it with better execution. They didn't always play smarter, with 8 penaties and some questionable coaching moves by Paul Johnson, but they played like a team that wanted to win badly. Maryland looked stunned and confused for the first 30 minutes of the game then righted themselves and scored 14 points in the last 10 minutes. The defense shut down Navy and only allowed 6 points over the last 3 quarters.


QB: Sam Hollenbach was shaky and a little nervous to start but neither interception was really his fault (one was tipped and he was hit while throwing on the other). He completed 63% of his passes and led two 4th quarter scoring drives with the game on the line. Compared to the shaky starts of Joel Statham and even Scott McBrien his performance was a thing of beauty.

RB: Mario Merrils is not a "playmaker" running back. He is efficient and workman like and doesn't shy away from contact. He does not try to dance to the outside but could use a little more decisiveness with his cuts. He racked up 30 carries and 149 yards along with one touchdown. I'm concerned he won't be able to withstand that kind of workload.

Lance Ball had a game saving play on 4th down. He eluded two Navy defenders and had a tightrope act down the sideline before getting knocked out past the first down marker. He also had several nice runs while amassing 39 yards and added 2 receptions for 37 yards. If he can improve on this he will see more and more playing time. He now stands as the solid #2 TB.

WR/TE: The wideouts had a shaky night. Jo Jo Walker dropped too many balls and added little to the return game. His 10.6 yard/rec average is not impressive. Derrick Fenner also had some lapses but also had the games longest reception for 28 yards. He drew a pass interference penalty when he badly beat a corner and was mugged. He sustained a concussion in what was a scary moment late in the game. He is uncertain for the Clemson game. Drew Weatherly took his place and proved that he is one of Hollenbach's favorite targets. He caught 4 passes in limited play, including the game winning TD. Vernon Davis wasn't much of a factor with only 2 catches. He needs to get open and make some plays. Overall the receivers struggled to get open against a Navy secondary with modest skills.

OL: The run blocking was very good as Maryland rushed for 210 yards and 5.3 per carry. The also gave up a sack and often allowed Navy to pressure Hollenbach with blitzes. Andrew Crummey struggled again at guard. Against a Navy line that was far smaller and lighter they struggled as a group. The interior line will have to improve greatly.

DL: The group struggled badly. They were a non-factor against the run and got little pressure on Navy's QB on passing downs. Jack Griffin, Jeremy Navarre and Conrad Bolston showed little ability to disrupt Navy's option offense. LEO Jermaine Lemons had 8 tackles but only 2 solo. This group needs to play much better to keep opposing OL off the linebackers and secondary. Unless they can draw double teams the run defense will be a problem.

LB: Once again D'Qwell Jackson proved he is an All-ACC performer. He had 18 tackles and a sack, was active all over the field and made big hits. David Holloway was ineffective early but improved. William Kershaw struggled on his reads and with finishing. He was benched briefly and Wesley Jefferson was put in his place. Jefferson finished with more tackles. Outside of Jackson this heralded group did not come thru against the option.
C- (A for Jackson)

DB: Since Navy barely threw the ball and is an option team the secondary wasn't tested like the front seven. They played decently but no one stood out. Josh Wilson looks to be the solid #1 corner and Chris Varner may be the answer at free safety. Milton Harris was rotated with JJ Justice. Look for either Justice or freshman Danny Oquendo to take over at SS.

K: Dan Ennis performed well in a game that was more than an ordinary opening weekend. He hit three FGs including a 40 yard try. Adam Podlesh averaged 49.5 yards a punt.

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