Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Midweek review

I was able to review the game again last night after the rebroadcast on Comcast Sportsnet. In some ways it wasn't quite as bad as the initial impression and in other ways much worse. It wasn't so much a terrible loss as a terrible way to lose. Wake Forest was the better team. Their coaching staff does a better job preparing the players and their in-game adjustments were better than Maryland. The Wake players execute better than the (supposedly) more talented Maryland players. Without getting into comparing the talent levels on the respective teams Wake Forest is a better football team and there isn't an real shame in losing to them. Still, the team blew a golden opportunity.

My thoughts on the game:

The lines for Maryland were both dominated in the really critical periods of the game. The offensive line couldn't protect Jordan Steffy and couldn't open running lanes when it was really needed. Steffy's poor hot reads when Wake blitzed, which accounted for most of their sacks, didn't help matters. I'm not sure he audibled once when Wake showed a blitz look. On the final play Wake only rushed two defensive ends and still sacked Steffy, as both the tackles engaged and then stood in what looked like a spy responsibility. Tackle Dane Randolph was bowled over by Jeremy Thompson to end the game in overtime on a desperate 4th down play. Keon Lattimore seems to try to bounce everything to the outside and had one of the worst plays of the day when he ran towards the sideline trying to turn the corner and fumbled the ball. Sure Lattimore may break a few decent runs here and there but he lacks the kind of break away speed or instincts to turn those into touchdown runs. Those 20 yard runs are tempered by all the runs where he loses yardage trying to make something out of nothing. Out of Lattimore's 27 carries there were an astonishing 11 in which he gained a yard or less. With an offense that is struggling as badly as Maryland's you can't have those kinds of negative plays that put you in disadvantageous down and distance situations. He needs to start putting his head down and getting tough yards when that is the best option or start yielding more carries to Lance Ball.

The defensive line mustered little pressure on Riley Skinner, even on obvious passing downs. When they were able to hurry Skinner he was able to deftly scramble away from the Terappin linemen. It was almost sad to watch him juke and fake out his pursuers. When Barrod Heggs flunked off the team Maryland lost its only true pass rusher. Trey Covington and Jeremy Navarre just don't have much pass rush ability and neither anchor well against the run. Most of the attention has been focused on the 4th quarter but Wake Forest moved the ball fairly well against the defense the whole game. They shot themselves in the foot with turnovers, miscues and big drops on some critical passes more than Maryland's defense stopped them. This current group is the epitome of the "bend but don't break" defense. They don't have the ability to dictate anything to an offense. Without any pass rush the mediocre secondary looks even worse. I'm not going to single anyone out but it is obvious who missed tackles and blew coverage assignments on the game tying drive by Wake Forest.

Jordan Steffy had a very rough outing. He missed some reads, threw a few passes that should have been intercepted and turned the ball over too often. He didn't get much help from his line or receiver corps, which has been perhaps the biggest disappointment of the season, but he must improve dramatically if Maryland is going to get to a bowl game.

The playcalling was perplexing for the second straight game. I think the head coach/offensive coordinator experiment needs to end after this year. Given that the offense was struggling I'm not sure why there were so many gadget plays like flanker screens though the the reverse to Heyward-Bey did work beautifully. I would think you would need to get back to basics: running between the tackles and short three and five step drops on passing downs.

On special teams punter Travis Baltz is improving and kicker Obi Egekeze made his only attempt. Kickoffs are not too deep and that is a field position problem with Wake getting the ball near the 30 yard line on every kick except one with a holding penalty. New returner Da'Rel Scott gained over 100 return yards and is a significant boost to the return game. He has impressive speed and should get better as this was his first real game experience.


homertuck said...

Excellent analysis of the game. Wake was the better team but the way we lost...that will still hurt for a long time. And now we have to go up to Rutgers...

Esquire said...

Thanks. Fridge himself indicated he thought Rutgers was even better than WVU. That's not a good sign. The run defense for Maryland is ranked 10th in the ACC, ahead of only Duke and UNC and is 70th in the nation. You don't want to see Ray Rice and the 16th best rushing attack in the nation this week. They are also very solid on the defensive side of the ball.