Coaches will often repeat to reporters that "a win is a win" and that they would rather win ugly than lose a game in which their team looked good. Those are all self evident cliches that belie the fact that a team that looks ugly probably isn't very good, even if they pull off wins somehow. Maryland may have defeated James Madison but in many ways there is more to be concerned about after this performance than there way after the thrashing by California in the opening game.
At times the Terps looked efficient and in control, as they did for most of the first half. Sitting at 21-6 Maryland looked as if they were about to blow out JMU and coast to an easy victory. Then the Dukes got the ball close to midfield after a short kickoff and methodically marched down to score converting a 3rd and nine in the process. Suddenly JMU was right back in the game after Maryland went three and out after having the ball on 2nd down with only two yards to go for a first down. The Dukes marched down the field again after a horrendous 30 yard punt by Travis Baltz and were only denied when Maryland blocked the field goal attempt.
The 3rd quarter was a house of horrors for the Terps as they punted three times and turned the ball over twice resulting in two JMU touchdowns. The defense didn't play great but they had stopped JMU on a drive and then were in a hole after Kenny Tate fumbled the punt return in Maryland territory. The subsequent interception for a touchdown thrown by Chris Turner certainly wasn't their fault either and no senior quarterback should make a throw that foolish. The offense mustered only two first downs the entire 2nd quarter.
The defense did give up a 70 yard touchdown run that saw two Maryland defenders in the right place to make the tackle for minimal gain whiff on JMU's quarterback Drew Dudzik. In the first two game there have been many instances where defenders were in the right place but could not make a play. After that point the defense only yielded one first down and 30 yards of offense to JMU for the the rest of the game.
I was more surprised at the poor performance of the offense in the 2nd half. Four drives in the half ended in three and outs and one with the interception mentioned earlier. There were two scores, a drive that started on the JMU 39 yard line and a very nice 8 play 78 yard scoring drive capped by a touchdown pass to Adrian Cannon, but those were mixed with a great deal of mistakes and futility. The 15 yard personal foul penalty on tight end Tommy Galt was emblematic of the dumb and sloppy play that plagued the team all game long. It stymied a drive and forced Maryland from midfield back to deep into its own territory. I was very surprised at how unfocused and careless the team looked at times. The deadball penalties were just one element as there was also a flood of missed assignments and general confusion among the players.
Certainly this team is young, as Ralph Friedgen is quick to remind everyone, but it is about more than inexperience as the players are either not responding to the coaches or there is a deficit in preparation. Last week and this week many of the mistakes were not by freshmen and sophomores but by seniors like Phil Costa and Tommy Galt. These mistakes are all the more odd given that Friedgen has lavished praise on this group for being a hardworking and diligent bunch. Neither coach-in-waiting James Franklin or Don Brown can be happy with how their units have performed this season and it is incumbent on both of them to try and right the ship.