Sunday, October 29, 2006

Terps block 'Noles

Maryland built a 20-14 lead at halftime and spent the next 30 minutes desperately trying to hang on against the once powerful Seminoles. This isn't your father's Florida State. Not to diminish the win but this isn't like beating Bobby Bowden circa 1999. These Seminoles are like a punch drunk former heavyweight fighter who has lost the ability to defend himself anymore and rely on connecting with a few good shots while getting pummeled by their opponent. The two deep that Bobby Bowden had coming out of the spring game was in the wastebasket a month ago due to injury after injury and last night he was forced to go with a new starter at quarterback with Drew Weatherford sidelined with tendinitis. Add in the swirling winds to disrupt the Florida State passing game and it was a perfect setup for Maryland.

It appeared that the Terps would cruise to any easy victory early on as a FSU turnover set the tone for a half that was dominated by Maryland. They had success running the ball and excellent special teams play helped them keep good field position on FSU. But the porous defense couldn't hold FSU giving up a 10 and 14 play drives in the second half. Jeremy Navarre blocked the Seminoles' last second field goal to try to send the game into overtime and escaped with a 27-24 win.

With a game this close there were several plays that made the difference in the game. Stopping Florida State on a critical 4th down at midfield resulted in a Maryland touchdown the other way. A Greg Carr fumble in the 1st quarter that also resulted in a Maryland touchdown to give the Terps some early momentum. Several great Danny Oquendo punt returns to keep Maryland from getting pinned in its own territory and win the field position battle. Dan Ennis getting a field goal to bounce off the upright and later hitting a 39 yard field goal in difficult conditions. All these little things add up to a tight three point victory.

The offense got very conservative in the 2nd half as FSU made halftime adjustments. After the opening touchdown in the second half Maryland had two three-and-out possessions. The playcalling the 4th quarter was fairly shaky and contributed to FSU getting back into the game. Maryland was out gained again 458-223, a staggering 2:1 ratio against the winning team. The formerly moribund FSU running game ground out 172 yards, their second highest total of the season behind the Rice game. Maryland has been out gained in five out of their six wins this season. That simply doesn't happen. How Maryland keeps winning while being out gained on offense with such a mediocre defense is hard to understand, but perhaps it is equal parts Big Ralph and pure luck.

Quarterback: B+
Ralph Friedgen gave Sam Hollenbach a little more slack and was rewarded with Hollenbach's best quarterbacking effort of the season. He threw three touchdowns and did not make a critical mistake the hurt his team. He had some splendid playfakes that helped trick FSU's aggressive defense.

Runningbacks: B
Lance Ball and Keon Lattimore both had moments of success against FSU in the first half but they combined for 2 yards rushing the entire 2nd half. Lattimore had some success with little swing passes out of the backfield but still takes too many losses on runs as shown by the 13 yards lost on his runs. True Frosh Cory Jackson showed some impressive flashes as a blocking fullback.

Wideout: A-
This may be the breakout game for Darrius Heyward-Bey that many have expected. He showed his exceptional speed but also his improving hands. He scored two touchdowns and had catches of 30 and 22 yards. This is the kind of big play ability the coaching staff was hoping for from the young wideout. Danny Oquendo had 18 yards on a reverse in addition to his great punt returns. Isaiah Williams struggled with a number of dropped passes.

Offensive Line: B
In the first half the line dominated the undermanned FSU front. In the second half it was the reverse. The line couldn't open any holes in the latter half of the game and Sam Hollenbach was under more pressure. Overall the line had a good but not great game.

Defensive line: B-
The inspired play of Jeremy Navarre and also Conrad Bolston are what earned this grade with the yardage the defense surrendered. Xavier Lee said he could have eaten a banana in the pocket in the 2nd half with how little pressure Maryland was able to muster. I've been critical of Navarre in the past but it is hard to think he could have played much better on Saturday. His five tackles, 2.5 for a loss, a forced fumble and block of the potential game tying field goal make him my game MVP.

Linebackers: C-
Erin Henderson had a nice game with 12 tackles but the rest of the unit struggled, particularly in pass coverage. Florida State was able to expose Maryland's vulnerability to a good short passing game. The safeties and linebackers struggle to close the gaps in zone coverage. FSU ball carriers were able to break tackles with alarming regularity.

Secondary: C-
I'm not sure the secondary deserves even this grade. They safeties gave up a number of big plays and the unit gave up 166 yards passing in the 2nd half. The anemic pass rush contributed but this is not a great coverage group. Opposing quarterbacks continue to pick on Isaiah Gardner. Still, they held when they needed to.

Special Teams: A
Dan Ennis hit two field goals in difficult conditions going 6 for his last 6. Danny Oquendo was great in the return game amassing 85 yards on only three returns. Navarre blocked FSU's final field goal attempt to preserve the win. Adam Podlesh had a number of kicks for touchbacks that could have pinned FSU back but that is the only critique of a excellent effort by this group.

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