Monday, November 26, 2007

Terps rout Wolfpack

In probably the most complete game that Maryland has played all season the Terrapins saved their post season bowl hopes by demolishing NC State at Carter Finley, 37-0. The game amounted to an elimination game for the loser as both teams stood at 5-6 and needing a win to get bowl eligible. Maryland was the better prepared team and the players were as focused as they have been all season. It was a excellent effort both on offense and defense considering neither side looked particularly good in the loss to Florida State the week prior.

The first quarter started off slowly for both teams and only a great interception return by linebacker Dave Philistin put Maryland into position to kick a field goal. It was especially critical because NC State was driving and already within field goal range when Philistin picked off Daniel Evans on the 17 yard line. Philistin showed amazing athleticism in grabbing the deflection from Isaiah Gardner and rumbling 43 yards down field. It was the spark that Maryland needed and sometimes it is that momentum changer that can decide a game, see the Scooter Monroe dropped touchdown pass against Virginia in 2002.

The offense then exploded for three straight touchdown drives in the 2nd quarter and blew the game open for good. It all started with a shocking 41 yard scramble by quarterback Chris Turner down the the NC State seven yard line. It was a new twist for Turner who is mostly a pocket passer and seemed to throw the Wolfpack defense off balance. His other scrambles didn't amount to much but this at least got the front seven of NC State thinking about the option which has been non existent for most of the season.

In the second quarter the Terps offense went 3/4 on third downs with two of those resulting in touchdowns. For the game Maryland converted 8/16 on third downs and Chris Turner made some great decisions in the passing game to move the chains. Tight end Joey Haynos and wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey made some great catches on third down.

Da'Rel Scott gave Maryland fans a glimpse of what he may offer next year and showed why he was expected to be a game breaking runner coming out of high school. Scott has the ability to run through arm tackles in addition to his track speed which can turn a small opening into a big gain. His runs of 33 and 19 yards were things of beauty with breathtaking speed and vision. He ended up leading the team in rushing with 89 yards on only eight carries. Scott and Lance Ball are a formidable combination and their skills complement each other better than a Ball and Keon Lattimore duo.

The offensive line got guard Andrew Crummey back and did an excellent job opening holes for the running backs and in pass protection. The wide outs were especially good in their down field blocking along with the tight ends. The running game was so dominant that with 2 minutes left in the 3rd quarter Maryland lined up with two tight ends on first down against 9 players in the box for NC State and Lance Ball still ran for 20 yards. It was probably their best effort of the season.

The receiver corps had a good day blocking and making plays when they were needed. Joey Haynos had the type of game he was expected to have going into the season. He was adept and finding the holes in coverage and made several big catches. Darrius Heyward-Bey seems to be Turners favorite target on 3rd down these days. He didn't break a long gain but his presence opened things up for the rest of the offense. Isaiah Williams is turning his season around after being in the dog house for a while. He has tremendous talent but that was never his problem as his maturity and focus were the only thing holding him back.

The defense also played its most complete game of the season and shut down NC State in almost every aspect of the game. The Wolfpack only managed 10 net rushing yards (under 30 if you don't count sack yardage) and had to focus almost exclusively on passing to move the ball. The Wolfpack offense is fairly impotent but the defense was able to confuse and harass quarterbacks Daniel Evans and Harrison Beck. The line only managed two sacks on 45 pass attempts but was able to get regular pressure on Evans and force him to throw early or move around in the pocket. Evans' receivers didn't do much to help him as they dropped a number of passes. The 168 yards that Evans managed was his lowest total since a September game against Louisville.

The play of the defensive line allowed the linebackers to make plays in both the passing and running game. Dave Philistin and Adrian Moten had excellent games and it may be that Moten is the latest in a string of great Maryland linebackers. He can cover in space, stuff the run and has good pass rush skills. He may only need to add a little weight to take on tight ends and linemen.

Isaiah Gardner and Kevin Barnes also played very well. They were aggressive and physical against NC State and often came up big in run support and Gardner had a pass breakup that resulted in a big interception. They played so well, along with the linebackers, that the safeties were not much of a factor in the game.

Now Maryland will get a chance to play in a bowl game, hopefully the Emerald Bowl against a Pac-10 opponent. There were some positive signs in this game with young players like Philistin, Moten, Scott and Turner showing some great skills.

All-ACC Teams

Maryland placed three players on the list. Linebacker Erin Henderson was 1st team and received the most votes of any linebacker in the ACC. Defensive tackle Dre Moore was a surprise as another 1st team selection which is probably largely due to his play the last few weeks. I didn't think Moore was a 1st team caliber player for most of the season and he doesn't rank near the top of the ACC in any major defensive category. I guess the voters just didn't feel anyone else distinguished themselves but players like Georgia Tech's Darryl Richards and Miami's Teraz McCray were probably just as good. Moore underachieved for most of the year and Maryland's run defense was awful in too many games.

Guard Andrew Crummey received 2nd team honors even though he missed a large portion of the ACC season.

Keon Lattimore was honorable mention even though his performance in ACC games was mediocre at best.

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