Monday, September 25, 2006

Time to panic?

The home team has a bad night and suddenly the whole town is in a spasm of fatalistic dread about the prospects for the rest of the season. Reason and sense, balance and perspective go out the window in a message board and sports talk radio vortex of despair. Should sound familiar to the average Washingtonian. In the case of the Maryland Terrapins that bad feeling in your guts isn't just that spinach salad you should have avoided. This team is bad, friends. It is just that simple. These Terps nearly lost at home to a football program who's name sounds like its play by play man should be telling you what gate your connecting flight is boarding. Florida International had yet to play a game when Ralph Friedgen was leading Maryland to the 2001 ACC title in his first year. Now Big Ralph is sweating out a last second incompletion to preserve a somnolent 14-10 victory.

The offense looked lethargic and the defense gave up too many big plays. I won't do grades for the game because against a team that was I-AA until recently it doesn't matter much. Sam Hollenbach is still holding onto the ball too long. He threw a couple of passes that should have been picked off and continues to underthrow his speedy wideouts. For some reason he just hasn't been sharp this year. He nearly got Joey Haynos and Danny Oquendo killed with lazy passes across the middle that set them up for FIU's headhunters.

The offensive line struggled again and I shudder to think what will happen against a big and powerful defensive front. Hollenbach was sacked three times, though at least one was his fault, and pressured on numerous pass attempts. Friedgen started calling screen passes out of fear for his quarterback or lack of faith in his young receivers. It was a fairly timid display of playcalling for an offensive wizard. I'm not sure why Fridge keeps trying to convince everyone that Maryland is a power running team. At 2.9 yards per carry it isn't surprising that the score was so close. A power running team doesn't get stuffed on 3rd and 2 with a chance to close out the game with a first down like this group did on the last drive. Maryland is only averaging 4.0 yards a carry against some fairly weak competition to this point. William & Mary is the only opponent that the Terps rushed for better than 4 yards a carry against.

The defensive line was largely irrelevant again and Chris Cosh resorted to blitzing two and three players to pressure the quarterback late in the game. Safety Marcus Wimbush needs to shut his taunting yap and learn to tackle as the FIU tight end shook off his tackle and rumbled 89 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.

The lone bright spot is that Friedgen has found a talented group of young receivers. Danny Oquendo, Isaiah Williams and Darrius Heyward-Bey are going to be a special group in College Park, if only Friedgen can find the right quarterback. Isaiah Williams is only one touchdown away from besting the highest total for a wideout all of last season.

This is going to be a rough season for Maryland. Perhaps the team is still hung over from the whipping they got last week. That is the best case scenario, unfortunately. With a trip down to Georgia Tech in two weeks it is going to get a lot harder for this club. The coaching staff are going to have to work some magic to get this team turned around before then, but if they don't another beating could make the fragile psyche of this group shatter for good.


TerpAtW&M said...

I remember last year after the spring game, you correctly called the offense was overrated. You analysis has been proven correct, atleast this far.

Probably, some people are overreacting, the first thing is that they expectations that weren't in touch with reality, the second thing is FIU came out ready to play, Maryland is bad, but this year a lot of ACC team are bad, honestly I think we are looking at a 3-5 ACC record and bowl eligibility, things could be worse.

Hollenbach is bad, the receivers are good, but aren't consistent yet.

Moises Fokou (probably misspelled) has to be a bright spot, every time I see him he sees to be making a tackle. He is undersized, but has a motor. All that from a walk on, on a defense full or 3 and 4 star recruits. I am hoping they move him to safety next year because we already have good backups at linebacker.

Esquire said...

There is always a chance the offense "gels" especially since the young wideouts probably don't know what they are doing yet. They may round into form by the second half of the season. The running game is decent but not spectacular. If the offensive line gets it together the offense could be good enough to upset a few teams. The bigger worry for me is the defense.

Fokou has been impressive. He reminds me of D'Qwell Jackson 4 years ago. Jackson was a 1-star recruit by some services but had instincts and great motivation. Phil Costa is another good young linebacker. The linebacking corps will be solid for the near future.

Another name to keep an eye on is Barrod Heggs, a talented redshirt freshman who has been playing some at defensive end and LEO. He has a tremendous motor. He could play end in college where his height (6-2) won't hurt him too much. I've been highly impressed with him. FIU even double teamed him a few times.