Monday, November 24, 2008

Not ready for primetime, again

So Maryland has played two Saturday night games on the four letter network and lost both those games by a combined score of 68-3. Yep, 68-3. During that horrendous 2nd quarter I couldn't help but think back to the games of 2002 and 2003 when really good Florida State teams would come in and smack Maryland around for 60 minutes and put the Terrapins back in their place as ACC also-rans. The 2008 Seminoles certainly are not anywhere near as good as those FSU squads, they still need Maryland to do their dirty work and beat Boston College to be able to even play for the ACC title, but the gap in talent and coaching that marked those early meetings between Friedgen's teams and the Seminoles was just as apparent.

After the game Friedgen resorted to his tactic of blaming the players for another of his failures, which was sad because I thought he gave up on that annoying habit back in 2005. I guess all the misty talk of how much he loves his players goes right out the window when you get your pants pulled down on national television. He is one of those coaches who really hates to lose, and in the days of pretty boy coaches those are fewer than you would think, so perhaps you can dismiss his finger pointing as a fit of passion. I'm not inclined to let him off the hook so easily.

It is true that the players, collectively, had a pretty poor game. Even though Chris Turner was running for his life all night long he still had a shaky performance. Many of his throws were off target, especially after Mickey Andrews dialed up the pressure, and his decisions on the two interceptions are impossible to explain or defend. He looked more unsure of himself than in any game since Middle Tennessee State. Turner had a dreadful night to be sure but he hardly got any help from his teammates of coaching staff. When your tackles cannot block a player one-on-one and you continue to try to protect the QB with only five pass protectors and rarely any tight end or back help is there any mystery why the quarterback looks so terrible? it is suicide to continue to take five step drops when you can't protect your passer. The screens were obvious and easily sniffed out by FSU and the offense only ran a handful of draws all night. In the first half Maryland called 25 passing plays and only 11 rushing plays even though they could not pass protect.

Da'Rel Scott had a nightmare game with two fumbles including one that went for what turned out to be the game ending touchdown by Florida State. His rushing totals look decent on the box score but they were inflated by a single 41 yard run. Five of Scott's 12 rushing attempts netted 3 yards or less. After his fumble he was banished to the bench for the rest of the 1st half in another example of how Friedgen sometimes lets his emotions get the better of him. Davin Meggett filled in well for Scott on the ground but the freshman doesn't know all of his pass protection reads. Against a team like FSU that is built to rush the passer and playing with a two touchdown lead that can be deadly.

The offensive line showed its weaknesses again in this game. It was no surprise they could not block the athletic front four for FSU. Friedgen shuffled the offensive line to show his displeasure but Jack Griffin and Dane Randolph coming off the bench are no upgrade at tackle. If this group can get a defender locked up they can drive block fairly well but in space or pass blocking they will struggle against mobile defenders.

The defense wasn't horrible but didn't play well either. The time of possession angle gets thrown in often by those seeking to excuse the defensive breakdowns. In this game that hardly had any effect. In the first half the time of possession was even and the defense still surrendered two touchdowns and gave up 50% on third down conversions. The two scoring drives in the first half that the defense surrendered came following a seven play drive by Maryland's offense resulting in a missed field goal and a 10 play drive by Maryland that resulted in an interception. Those scoring drives were not the result of three-and-out possessions by the offense. When Turner's interception ended the last drive FSU took only four plays and just over a minute to cover 38 yards and score a touchdown. That score made it 21-0 and ended any realistic chance for a comeback. The offense didn't play well but that shouldn't let the defense off the hook by any means. Florida State scored on every possession in the 2nd half except when they took a knee at the end of the game. The defense could not force FSU to punt once they got into Maryland territory, every time the Seminoles crossed the 50 yard line they scored. That isn't good defense no matter what the offense was doing.

Maryland now gets to travel to Chestnut Hill this week and face a Boston College team that slugged the Seminoles in the mouth at Doak Campbell and then beat them up. The Eagles actually have a defense that can dominate an opponent and cause turnovers unlike this Maryland group. Boston College trails Maryland in every offensive category except rushing offense and there only by a grand total of 19 yards. True BC has a much better scoring offense but they also have a much better scoring defense. They win games the old fashioned way with a ferocious defense and a steady running game. Maybe this week the staff can look at the film of BC and take notes on what it takes to make a winning formula.

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