Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Sum of all fears

Maryland's opening game thrashing at the hands of California was about as bad as you could have imagined. The areas of concern were front and center in the 52-13 demolishing that the Terps endured as the offensive line and defense were exposed. I'm not sure what we should have expected from a line with little experience that starts two former walk on players. It is another example of the failures of the staff to recruit depth and talent at the position. The veterans, Phil Costa and Bruce Campbell didn't exactly look great themselves, let alone the pups at the guard positions. The fact that three of the positions have been up in the air until late in camp probably has not helped build cohesion in this group. Once you take away all the sack yardage the running game wasn't all that bad. Perhaps if the play calling was a little different the line may not have been so exposed to the ferocious Cal pass rush.

The defense looked awful and gave up big play after big play. This isn't the read and react defense that Chris Cosh trotted out every week and Don Brown's group will give up some big plays but they also need to make some big plays. That is hard to do when the front four can't muster any pressure on the opposing quarterback. Even when they had a clear shot at Kevin Riley they failed to get sacks as when Jared Harrell wiffed on Riley who ducked under him and then threw a touchdown pass on a blown coverage. When Maryland did blitz Cal's line was able to pick up the free rushers and expose the defensive backfield. The linebackers really struggled in this game, which is troubling because they were supposed to be one of the stronger units. Anthony Wiseman had a particularly rough night as Cal picked on him regularly but he wasn't alone as Nolan Carroll also got beat on a deep touchdown pass.

Overall I think it was a failure of execution instead of poor playcalling. I think Don Brown will need a few games to get a feel for coaching at this level and the players will need to get rid of the vestiges of the old defensive philosophy. If you are going to be a gambling aggressive defense you have to commit to that totally and if there are players who are still in the "bail out" mode then the whole scheme will break down. Like all things in football it comes down to winning individual battles and the defense failed more often than not on that level. When you bring two or three blitzing players one of them needs to beat their blocker and make a play but all too often they got blocked and gave up.

The lack of protection from the offensive line made it hard to judge the receivers and quarterback Chris Turner since they had little time to make plays, however neither looked sharp to me. Turner struggled even when he was given protection and the wideouts often failed to get open down field. One bright spots was tight end Lansford Watson who made a couple of nice catches on screens. He might be the guy to make some big plays in the passing game that this offense really needs at the moment. Wide out Adrian Cannon was shut down by Cal's All-Pac 10 corner Syd'Quan Thompson.

Clearly the Terps have a whole bunch of things to work on going into this week against James Madison. The good thing is that few teams in the ACC distinguished themselves in the opening weekend. Only Boston College and Clemson won in the entire Atlantic Division so Maryland isn't handicapped by the dreadful game they played Saturday, even if it was one of the worst opening game losses in school history.

1 comment:

itchy said...

OK, this doesn't add anything, but ... excellent analysis.