Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Escape from New Jersey

By this point in the week backup quarterback Chris Turner's 2nd half performance against Rutgers has reached almost mythic proportions. Turner showed some of the same poise and ability to move the chains that he exhibited in the Spring game. I was very impressed with his game sense after watching that so in some ways I'm not surprised he did a good job replacing Steffy.

At the same time Steffy didn't so all that bad when he played in the first half. He lead the Terps on two touchdown drives before getting knocked out on an illegal helmet to helmet hit. To say that Maryland would not have won with Steffy in the game is a little disingenuous. The larger difference was that the defense finally stiffened and prevented Rutgers from scoring. Maryland would have had a halftime lead had the defense not surrendered two touchdowns in the last minutes of the 2nd quarter. With Steffy behind center the Terps scored two touchdowns the got in field goal range twice (both of which Egekeze missed) while Turner also lead two TD drives and had three field goal tries of which two were good. If you accept that Rutgers let Maryland score with 2 minutes left in the game then in terms of scoring the two quarterbacks were not all that different.

Granted Turner has some advantages. He has a better rythm in the passing game, has a better sense of when to get rid of the ball and avoid a sack and seems to have a knack for converting on critical downs to keep drives alive. In the 2nd half Turner had 5 straight drives of 8 plays or more. That is pretty impressive but Steffy had four drives in the 1st half of 7 plays or more. I do think the offense flowed a little better and more receivers made plays when Turner was in, partly to his credit, but he was more efficient than spectacular. That is all this team needs at the moment, a quarterback who can get the ball to the right player. Even Friedgen's fossilized offense broke out a little. One big advantage for Turner is that he was 6/12 on 3rd down while Steffy was 3/9.

Rutgers QB Mike Teel had a good statistical game but his decision making was pretty terrible, especially in the 2nd half. He got rattled and started spraying the ball all over the field in the 4th quarter. The Rutgers' passing game did expose Maryland's secondary somewhat as three receivers racked up 70+ yards a piece. Ray Rice had a decent, if unspectacular, game against the Terps. His coaches probably took the ball out of his hands too much in the 2nd half but he was effective against Maryland when given the chance.

I know Rutgers was technically a top 10 team but it was clear after watching Maryland bully them that they are far from that level. The got fat on some cupcakes and in their first real test flopped badly. This won't look as impressive when Rutgers gets into its Big East schedule and starts losing. Kind of like beating a fifth ranked Florida State in 2004.

Quick Thoughts

Can this team really consider itself a power running team when it gets stuffed on two 4-1 running plays?

Erin Henderson may have tweaked a knee and his status for Saturday isn't for certain yet. If he can't play it will be a huge blow for the defense.

Two sacks on 44 passing attempts is an improvement from where the pass rush was but they have a long way to go.

Two sacks on 28 passing attempts is an improvement from where the pass protection has been but the offensive line has a long way to go.

Isaiah Williams and LaQuan Williams had a nice breakout game. Maryland needs the two of them to make some plays and draw attention away from Heyward-Bey.

The Duke spygate issue is a tempest in a teapot. Still it won't help the civility of the Comcast Center when Duke comes to town in basketball season.

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