Monday, October 27, 2008

Terps run between the rain drops

The conditions were probably the worst Maryland will see all year on Saturday but they managed with the help of some key plays and a little luck to overcome the upset bid by N.C. State. I thought a quarterback like Russell Wilson would give the defense all kinds of problems because he has good mobility and can throw the ball with skill. Wilson isn't just a scrambler and if Tom O'Brien can assemble more talent around him Wilson could be an elite ACC quarterback for the next few years. A scary thought for Maryland fans.

The weather probably determined much of the offensive choices for Maryland and why Chris Turner only went 9/20 for 126 yards. Wilson didn't seem too bothered as he went 18/28 for 187 yards but he didn't have Maryland's running game behind him. Da'Rel Scott returned to his early season form and ground out 163 yards on 23 carried before leaving with a shoulder injury. He has been more tentative since injuring his shoulder earlier in the year but he showed more aggressiveness against the Wolfpack. Unfortunately he may have aggravated that earlier shoulder injury towards the end of the game on a vicious hit by two N.C. State defenders.

Lucky for Maryland Davin Meggett came in to shoulder most of the load on the winning drive with under five minutes left in the game. It is an embarrassment of riches for at tailback right now. Meggett has a great feel for using his blockers and has a excellent blend of power and speed. He isn't flashy but is just productive.

I've been critical of the offensive line all season but this game was perhaps one of their best efforts. Besides the holding penalties, which were too many and at the worst times, the line did a great job. I thought center Edwin Williams had his best game as a Terrapin. He was phenomenal in blocking down field for Scott and Meggett. I also thought the two guards, Costa and Thomas had very good days as well. They mostly dominated the Wolfpack line. The pass blocking was decent if unspectacular. 

It wasn't much of a passing day but TE Dan Gronkowski and WR Darrius Heyward-Bey made critical plays when Maryland needed them to come through. Gronkowski had a touchdown and two first downs in his three catches. I thought Heyward-Bey should have been given a touchdown on his catch in the endzone at the end of the game. He was stymied for most of the day but kept his focus better than in some past games.

The defense lost LB Dave Philistin with a shoulder injury early in the game and Chase Bullock replaced him with mixed results. Bullock isn't as fast as Philistin and he struggled in pass coverage and trying to contain Russell Wilson, though he wasn't alone on the last part. Maryland could really use Adrian Moten at this point if Philistin is out for any length of time. Maryland is off this week so if Philistin's injury isn't significant hopefully he can be recovered for the Virginia Tech game. All of Maryland's linebackers struggled with Wilson's mobility and Friedgen said afterwards they were caught trying to play man coverage and risk Wilson's scrambles or play zone which the linebackers struggled to cover. I'm not sure why Maryland didn't designate a spy on Wilson like Antwine Perez.

For the second week in a row the defensive line did as much as you could ask them. Jeremy Navarre may have made a game saving sack on Wilson late in the fourth quarter, knocking the Pack out of field goal range.

There were some special teams mishaps from Obi Egekeze's horrible miss on a 39 yard field goal that would have given Maryland the lead to the fumble by the normally sure handed Danny Oquendo on a punt return. I have no idea why Maryland did not put on a punt rush with N.C. State backed up on its own 5 yard line but the resulting fumble gave them the ball at the 50 yard line and they turned it into a field goal. Maryland was lucky those miscues didn't cost them the game because everything else was so even from first downs to total yards. The Wolfpack was able to move the ball well against the Maryland defense and did record five drives of 9 plays or more. It allowed them to control the clock and dominate the time of possession 36 minutes to 24 for Maryland.

With Russell Wilson at QB the Pack is probably better than their record and did give Florida State and Boston College trouble but this was a game Maryland had to win. With road dates at Virginia Tech and Boston College bookending two home games against Florida State and North Carolina, all of which have been ranked at times this year, it was imperative for the Terps to get more of a cushion for some of the losses that are likely to come. In Maryland's favor they do get to host FSU, which would have to be the favorite in the Atlantic division right now, but their other games against UNC and VT are probably more challenging than any remaining games for the other contenders. They have a shot at getting to the ACC Championship game but it will be a difficult road.

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