Monday, November 06, 2006

Terps Escape Death Valley

This may be Ralph Friedgen's best coaching job since the magical 2001 season. He is winning games with a modestly talented bunch of players in an obviously weak year for ACC football. The four game winning streak has been crafted with a little luck and the use of smoke and mirrors by the head coach. None of that is meant as a critique of Ralph Friedgen's coaching or this team but an honest appraisal of a four game winning steak in which the average margin of victory has been 3 points. In six out of Maryland's seven wins they were out gained by the opponent. A team wouldn't be likely to come away with a .500 record let alone stand at 7-2, Maryland's current position.

Ralph Friedgen opened up the offense mostly out of necessity since the offense wasn't able to eek out a running game against Clemson's top ranked defense. Sam Hollenbach played a masterful game at quarterback. His game winning drive was a splendidly orchestrated example of clock management completing five out of six passes, converting a third down with a 5 yard scamper and a 4th down QB sneak. He proved that if the team needs him to win that they can rely on his arm to get them a victory. The offensive line did a good job against a tough Clemson front but did have a few breakdowns on pass protection. Isaiah Williams had his best game at Maryland with a number of good grabs on difficult passes.

The Maryland defense had a class sic bend-but-don't-break game. Clemson churned out over 400 yards of offense against the Maryland defense but the unit made plays when they had to and came up with some critical stops on third down. The unit was able to keep Clemson in third and long situations. A 71 yard pass by Clemson QB Will Procter in the waining moments nearly killed Maryland's chances. The defense got a little lucky when a James Davis touchdown run was called back due to an illegal formation penalty with just over three minutes left in the game. Perhaps that balanced out the botched overturning of a safety a few moments before. Maryland's defense stiffened up and held Clemson to a field goal.

Kicker Dan Ennis seems to be reborn. The current kicker doesn't resemble the shaky and inaccurate player who began the season. He has been clutch the last few weeks and Maryland will need him to continue to come through in these nip and tuck games that the Terps will likely continue to find themselves in the coming weeks. This team doesn't have the firepower to blow many teams out and will be in closely contested games.

Grades:

Quarterback: A
Clutch when it mattered most. Had only one errant pass all day. His two minute drive to end the game was a thing of beauty. Has learned to help his offensive line in pass protection by getting rid of the ball when pressured.

Running backs: C-
Not really much of a factor in this game. Keon Lattimore gained 38 yards on 10 carries. Lance Ball was ineffective and had an early fumble that wasn't recovered in bounds.

Recievers: B+
Isaiah Williams had his best game at Maryland. He had three catches for 1st downs. Jason Goode had a number of early catches to set the tone for the passing game. Joey Haynos had a number of nice catches as well. Darrius Heyward-Bey is seeing more attention after his two touchdown night against Clemson and that is opening things up for other receivers.

Offensive line: C+
There were several breakdowns in pass protection by the tackles against a very good Clemson front. The line couldn't open any holes for a consistent running game. When the line needed to step up and protect Hollenbach they were able to do that.

Defensive line: C
The line wasn't able to muster much pressure on Will Proctor. Proctor got happy feet and started to scramble before he had to but it wasn't really due to the front four of Maryland.

Linebackers: B+
Erin Henderson is establishing that he is the leader of the defense and the best linebacker on the team. He ranged all over the field for 18 tackles and forced a fumble by Proctor that should have resulted in a safety.

Secondary: B-
Josh Wilson may have cemented his All-ACC status with his play on Saturday. Clemson wouldn't kick to Wilson on kickoffs and he was tenacious in pass coverage and run support. The rest of the secondary had a good afternoon keeping the Clemson receivers from getting behind them too often with a few exceptions

Special Teams: A+
Adam Podlesh and Dan Ennis were both as good as you could ask for in critical moments.

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