Monday, October 24, 2005

Passing game goes flat

For one half Maryland gave Virginia Tech all they could handle and went into halftime trailing only 7-3. In the second half the offense would get their chances to even the game with Marcus Vick throwing 3 interceptions in the 3rd quarter alone, but could convert on none of those. Four turnovers and zero points off them. That won't give you a chance to beat anyone, let alone a team that feels it should go to the Rose bowl. The three possessions after Vick interceptions resulted in 47 total yards on 13 plays. Two of those possessions were inside the Hokie 35 yard line.

Perhaps the most surprising thing was the inability of Sam Hollenbach to convert in the passing game. He finished with a paltry 158 yards and completed less than 50% of his attempts. It's not as if Virginia Tech had shut down the passing lanes, Maryland receivers were clearly open for several big plays, but Hollenbach could not connect. I'm not sure if his shoulder sprain effected his play and Friedgen seemed to imply that it wasn't a factor. Still Maryland had moved the ball well in the prior series and never seemed right after that until a final garbage touchdown at the end. Perhaps it was a combination of the injury and the big game atmosphere that rattled Hollenbach. He showed his two biggest weaknesses again, a proclivity to throw interceptions in the red zone and holding onto the ball too long and taking bad sacks.

The big game atmosphere seemed to rattle kicker Dan Ennis as well. In a rain soaked and sloppy game against Temple he missed his first field goal of the season and since then has only made one out his last five. Three of those misses were within 40 yards. No one was expecting Ennis to step right in and replace Nick Novak, but I would think the staff will give Obi Egekeze another chance to take over place kicking duties if he is healthy. To be fair to Ennis I felt it was clear after the first miss that he was going to have a shaky night and wouldn't have put him in a position to try a career long 47 yard attempt. The staff made a mistake in not going for it in that situation.

The defensive line did a decent job during the first half in containing the Hokie running backs. Vick's scrambling had done most of the damage on the ground as the running backs for VT were mostly shut down. The line still managed little pass rush and continues to be a weak spot on the defense. In the 2nd half they wore down and began to give up larger chunks of yardage on the ground. The offense could muster few sustained drives and in the pivotal 3rd quarter the longest possession was 6 plays. On three of Maryland's last four possessions they could not even muster a first down.

Lance Ball had another solid game and showed determination in running up the middle. I'll say it again, Lance Ball should be the feature back. The rotation scheme that the staff is using should be thrown out and they should stick with Ball. Right now he is the best all around back on the roster.

It was an emotional game for some of the players and certainly D'Qwell Jackson played his heart out. After a crucial touchdown by VT the ESPN cameras caught him in an emotional outburst on the sideline surrounded by his defensive teammates. At the end of that 10 play 99 yard drive the defensive was full of guys with their heads down and hands on their hips. They were beaten. Jackson was trying to get them motivated and play with pride. His leadership will be hard to replace next season.

The last Maryland drive was kept going by two personal foul calls against Virginia Tech. This is the kind of stupid play that results when you have a team with flawed character. The game was over, 28-3 at the time, and the VT defense couldn't keep its composure. To me it was obvious at the half that a team that struggled so badly against a mediocre Maryland squad was not a championship caliber squad. Let's stop all the silly national title talk for VT. They are a flawed group that will likely lose before the ACC title game.

Quick Grades:

Quarterback: C-
Runningback: C+
Receivers: C
Offensive Line: C-

Defensive Line: C
Linebackers: C
Secondary: C+

Recruit Update:

Maryland verbal Da'rel Scott from Pennsylvania is putting up some mind boggling numbers. In a 55-15 win over Upper Merion Scott scored 6 touchdowns and ran for 230 yards in less than three quarters. He does play in one of the less competitive divisions in Pennsylvania but he goes out week to week and puts up dominating numbers. The opposing coach called him a "man among boys". He could possess some of the big play ability that has been lacking on offense this season outside of Vernon Davis.

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