Thursday, October 20, 2005

Game day notes

The big night is finally here and after Maryland hasn't played since October 8th the team should be focused and well prepared for this battle against the third ranked Hokies. The memories of last season's nightmare against Virginia Tech should be a motivating factor. In my mind the two biggest matchups of the night will be:

Maryland's DL vs the VT offensive line

Maryland's receivers vs the VT secondary

The one matchup that I think is decidedly in Maryland's favor is in the passing game. Hollenbach and his receivers are getting better week to week and have racked up yardage versus every team they have played this year. Vernon Davis is the best TE that the Hokies will see this season. They will have to double team him since neither their LBs or safeties can cover him alone. Georgia Tech WR Calvin Johnson put up 125 yards and a TD against the Hokies in a loss and I think Davis can produce a similar game. The impressive thing about the receivers is that in various games different guys have come up big. Try to shut down Davis and Dan Melendez can burn you for 125 yards like he did to Virginia. Jo Jo Walker will go over the middle against any secondary in America. Derrick Fenner still has deep threat speed on those sideline fly patterns. Lance Ball can even do damage out of the backfield.

The Hokies do have a very good defense but have not been tested much this year. They have not played an offense that ranks better than 70th in the nation yet this year. Here are the rankings for the teams they have defeated:

78th
116th
108th
70th
72nd
79th

Not very impressive and none of those teams can pass the ball anywhere near as well as Maryland, which is ranked 36th in total offense. NC State is a decent passing team and VT needed a 4th quarter touchdown to win the game in Raleigh. I feel Hollenbach is a better passer than State's Jay Davis, who put up over 300 yards against VT. I would not be surprised to see Maryland run some of the same three wideout sets they threw at UVA and throw the ball deep on the untested Hokie secondary.

Sam Hollenbach must not throw costly interceptions and avoid drive killing sacks. In the losses this year those have been crucial. I expect VT to be very aggressive on defense in an attempt to cause turnovers and there will be the opportunities for big plays as a result.

The Maryland defense needs to stop the Hokies on 3rd down. For all the hype Marcus Vick receives Virginia Tech doesn't really rely on him to win games. Like last year with Bryan Randle he is expected to make a big throw if they need it and not turn the ball over. So far this year he has been able to do that well. He's only attempted more than 20 passes once all year, at NC State, and that resulted in his worst passer rating of the season. Vick will pick his spots to scramble or attempt a shot down the field but he is nowhere near the game changing player his older brother was in college. The Hokies have 27o rushing attempts against 119 passes for the season. Well, they are ahead in all their games, you might say. In the nip and tuck NC State game they still had 41 rushes to 21 passes.

The defensive line must force the Hokies to pass the ball. VT wants to grind it out, control the clock and keep Maryland's offense off the field. They will try to stop Maryland's running game cold and then attack when the Terps become one dimensional, hoping for sacks and turnovers. My guess is it won't be so easy when it isn't Ohio, Marshall and Duke on the other side.

This one is personal for Ralph Friedgen and the coaching staff. If I had to guess he's been thinking about the game plan for this night since last December. He's going to come up with a good one. If the players can execute and avoid mistakes it will be good enough to win.


Maryland 26
Virginia Tech 21

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