I think most of the credit in this game goes to the players who won their individual battles and made plays when needed in critical moments. I really don't think it was a question of the game plans deciding the outcome. Chris Turner proved that when he is playing well he is far and away the best QB on the team. His third down play was spectacular in the first half and was crucial to Maryland gaining a big lead early on. He spread the ball around well and didn't make any mistakes. Da'Rel Scott had another big day running the ball before going out with a shoulder injury. He sprained his AC joint and I'd be surprised if he didn't sit out the Eastern Michigan game with Davin Meggett playing so well. Was it just me or did Cal's players seem a little pissed they were getting their asses kicked on national television? Several late hits and borderline dirty plays didn't leave a good impression on me.
The offensive line did a decent job after getting embarrassed by Middle Tennessee State. The rushing totals were good, if not spectacular, but they did also surrender four sacks on only 20 pass attempts. There is still a great deal of improvement needed in this group.
The receivers were supposed to be a strength of this team but outside of Darrius Heyward-Bey, who is mostly living up to his hype, the rest of the wide outs have been a flop this season. Danny Oquendo has the most reliable hands of the group but he isn't the fastest or most dynamic player. After Oquendo starter Isaiah Williams and the rest of the bench have produced 10 catches for 60 yards. Pitiful. In one game Gronkowski and Watson almost matched that total.
The defensive line obviously played much better this week against a good Cal offense. They were able to get to Cal QB Kevin Riley five times after barely getting a whiff of the QB against Delaware and Middle Tennessee. Moise Fokou had two sacks on blitzes and Rick Costa made a strong case that he is a much better pass rushing LEO than Trey Covington. The rest of the line was able to force Riley to move around and make him uncomfortable in the pocket. He missed several key throws on third down after the pressure got to him. They also anchored well in the running game and allowed linebackers like Dave Philistin to flow to the ball and make tackles. Mack Frost may have reinjured his knee but Jared Harrell is showing some nice ability in pass rush situations.
Teams are going to stop throwing towards Kevin Barnes. He had an interception to set up the second Maryland touchdown and had a wicked hit on Cal running back Jahvid Best. It was clear that Cal was throwing the ball anywhere but his direction in the second half. Nolan Carroll was getting picked on as a result but held up well under some heavy pressure. That is a good sign since Richard Taylor (correction) may be out the rest of the season with a knee injury. Jamari McCollough (9 tackles) and Antwine Perez filled in well for the injured Terrell Skinner.
Obi Egekeze may have kicked his way out of the starting job, missing an easy chip shot that could have cost Maryland the game. He may be replaced by a walk on kicker as early as this week.
In all it was a nice win but nothing to get overly carried away with. Once Riley got settled the Cal offense was going through Maryland's defense like crap through a goose. Riley had over 200 yards passing the 3 touchdowns in the 4th quarter alone. For the game Maryland was out gained 461 to 297 total yards by Cal. That is not a formula for winning very often. If Cal wasn't so horrible on third down (2/11) or had about 10 more minutes the game probably would have been very different. Maryland jumped on the Bears early and it took them three quarters to shake off some bad penalties, questionable coaching decisions and spotty quarterback play to erase a 21 point deficit.
The ACC is pretty weak and this club isn't far off the teams that look to be the best in a mediocre bunch but this group has a long way to go before they can start dreaming about a bowl game let alone an ACC title.