Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Overtime Thriller

Maryland did all it could on Saturday to give away a bowl bid to North Carolina. There were two costly interceptions by QB Sam Hollenbach that resulted in two touchdowns for a UNC team that struggled to put points on the board. Kicker Dan Ennis missed two makable first half field goals and later a critical extra point. Cornerback Gerrick "15 yard penalty" McPherson was faked out of his shoes on a double move right before the half that gave UNC a go ahead field goal. A holding penalty by center Ryan McDonald that negated a long pass to Jo Jo Walker followed by a late black and 15 yard penalty that set the Terps back on their own 20 yard line. The Maryland secondary allowing UNC quarterback Matt Baker to have a career day with 335 yard of passing. Baker was able to sit back in the pocket and pick the Maryland secondary apart due to a nonexistant pass rush.

When you consider all that it is a miracle that the Terps won, even in overtime. It required normally reliable Carolina kicker Connor Barth to miss a 38 yard field goal in the extra period for Maryland to win. More of a gift than a great win. I'm sure the team feels like this is justice for the heartbreaking loss to Clemson earlier in the season. Still, a win is a win and one more victory will probably have Maryland in the bowl picture. I say probably because the ACC's bowl bids are very murky at the moment with only 6 bowl tie-ins and the league already has 7 eligible teams. Given that scenario a 6-5 team may have nowhere to go once all the bowl bids are handed out.

Lance Ball had another fantastic game. His consistent production on the ground opened up the passing game for those downfield strikes that won the game. He rushed for 161 yards on 39 carries in a workhorse like effort. He may lack break away speed but he has the best vision and decision making of any back on the roster. To North Carolina's credit they adjusted in the 2nd half after getting gashed by Ball and dominated the line of scrimmage after the break. Ball had only 35 yards on 15 carries in the last two quarters mostly because he had little room to run. The playcalling got a little predictable after UNC made adjustments, which has been a pattern this season. Only after the half in the Virginia game has Maryland's offense made effective adjustments.

The offensive line had a mixed game. They came out and dominated the line in the 1st half. In the second half they struggled to open holes for Ball and protect Sam Hollenbach. More disturbing was that UNC got most of their pressure with only the four down linemen. They didn't need to blitz much and with Mathias Kiwanuka coming to town that is scary. Brandon Nixon struggled badly in the game, especially with DT Chase Page. They need to protect Sam Hollenbach better, though Sam also needs to get rid of the ball when there is nothing there.

Vernon Davis had another dominating game with 139 yards on 7 catches and a spectacular 24 yard touchdown catch. Enjoy watching him on Saturdays, Terp fans, because he'll be playing Sundays next year. Danny Melendez has become a deep threat with a clutch 80 yard touchdown for a go head score. Jo Jo Walker had another clutch 67 yard touchdown catch and a 39 yard reception nullified by a holding penalty.

The defensive line held the impotent UNC running game to 89 yards on 3.2 yards per carry. Not bad but UNC is ranked 12th in the league in both total yards and average per rush. They didn't record a sack in 40 pass attempts by UNC and only 2 quarterback hurries. Trey Covington and Jeremy Navarre again were non-factors on the edge and it requires Gary Blackney to gamble with blitzes to get pressure on the opposing QB. This is a huge problem on the defense. With Boston College coming to town having only surrendered 9 sacks and 2nd in the ACC in passing yards that will keep Ralph Friedgen up late all week.

D'Qwell Jackson added another 10 tackles to his totals in a blue collar effort. William Kershaw made several big plays and probably had his best game of the season. David Holloway had a very quiet game and was mostly a non-factor.

Milton Harris had a career game with 16 tackles, 2 for a loss, and a critical forced fumble. Harris has a knack for making the big hit for a fumble. It was his 4th forced fumble of the year. The senior from Duval high school is making the most of his last college games. Christian Varner hasn't made any big plays lately and didn't even record a tackle in the game. Gerrick McPhearson saved a touchdown in OT by batting down a pass near the end zone. The receiver had slipped behind him in the zone.

Grades:
Quarterback: B-
Running Back: A-
Recievers: A
Offensive Line:B-

Defensive Line: C-
Linebackers: B
Secondary: C-

Gameday Notes

The pregame radio show for North Carolina had a clown on who said that Ralph Friedgen's refusal to identify the suspended players for the game or indicate which games they would be suspended for was "like Bobby Bowden". First of all if this was Bobby Bowden there would have been no suspensions to begin with. Not a single Maryland player has been charged or arrested for anything arising out of the Halloween incident. It was obvious that WR Drew Weatherly was suspended for this game due to his roll in that incident. I think that the university should have disclosed the names of those involved who were suspended and announce what games they will be suspended for but this is nothing like what Bobby Bowden would do.

D'Qwell Jackson and Gerrick McPhearson got into a confrontation at halftime after McPhearson gave up a 44 yard pass with under a minute left allowing UNC to take the lead on a field goal. They were separated by the coaching staff.

It was a beautiful day in Chapel Hill. The sun was shining and there was a crisp bite in the air. Keenan Stadium may not be a great place to see football but it has a cozy feel. It's just a shame that the students at UNC have apathy for the football team. The scene on Franklin Street after the game was hopping and all the pretty coeds were out seemingly unaffected by the heartbreaking loss. Chapel Hill is one of the better road destinations in the ACC and you'll rarely get more than a friendly ribbing even sitting in the UNC season ticket holder section like I was.

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