Monday, November 17, 2008

Terps set up showdown with FSU

Maryland's win over North Carolina won't get any awards for style points but the result was exactly what Maryland needed to keep its ACC Championship hopes alive. In another monsoon, like the game against NC State a few weeks earlier, the Terps were able to keep the ground game moving the chains and relied on QB Chris Turner to make the critical throws when needed. In contrast North Carolina's Cam Sexton had little support from the Carolina ground game and was forced to convert third and long downs in the worst weather conditions. Sexton certainly struggled with his accuracy but when your QB is facing third and nine yards or more in eight of your eleven third downs in those conditions you're not going to be successful. Chris Turner also faced a number of third and long downs and until that last game winning drive he was only two for ten. Turner converted a 3rd and 7, 3rd and 10 and a 4th down on the penultimate drive to win the game. Throw in a critical fumble by Sexton deep in Maryland territory and a botched field goal late in the game and that was the margin of defeat for the Tar Heels. Chris Turner not only made the throws and scrambles when he needed but in difficult weather never turned the ball over, even though he had some close calls with a few near interceptions. Interesting historical note that former UNC kicker Connor Barth missed a field goal in overtime in 2005 to hand Maryland a victory in Chapel Hill and his brother Casey was the kicker who missed a 28 yard field goal that would have forced Maryland to score a touchdown to win the game.

The offensive line bounced back after a dreadful game against Virginia Tech and pretty much had their way against the Carolina defensive line. The 195 yards rushing was an impressive feat given that Carolina must have known given the weather that Maryland would try to play conservative and run the ball. Turner got decent protection for most of the game and especially on the last critical drive. Center Edwin Williams, who has had an uneven season, was awarded ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week for his performance. The rest of the line also had a very solid performance particularly the guards Phil Costa and Jamie Thomas in dominating Carolina's tackles. The line's dominating performance also allowed the Terps to control the clock 40 minutes to 20, which helped the defense stay off the field and fresh.

Da'Rel Scott isn't fully healthy but as the game went on he seemed to get more comfortable running the ball. His shoulder is clearly influencing his running style and he seems to be turning his shoulders in anticipation of contact. A speed back coming to Maryland he has proven he is also plenty tough but he is clearly not 100%. Davin Meggett proved to be a great counter punch with 86 yards on his own. One of Meggett's strengths is that he rarely ever gets stopped for negative yards, he only has lost 4 yards the entire season. The Terps need Scott's speed and big play capability but with his injury he isn't running through tackles like he did earlier in the year. The line will have to help him more like they did against UNC and NC State.

Wide receiver Ronnie Tyler only had two grabs but they were the biggest receptions of the game. On a 3rd and 16 at the end of the 1st quarter Tyler caught a 18 yard pass to move the chains on a drive that resulted in a Maryland touchdown. Most important on the game winning drive Tyler also caught an 18 yard pass on a 3rd and 10 to help get Maryland into field goal territory. There may be hope next season even with all the top receivers likely departing.

I'll give some thoughts on the defense tomorrow...

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