Monday, October 19, 2009

Season washes away in downpour

Saturday's loss to Virginia removed all the mystery from how this season was going to end. Maryland won't be going to a bowl game this year and will almost certainly have a losing record for the second time in the last four seasons. The hopes of turning around the season were dashed on a dreary day which forced both offenses to be conservative and demanded that they refrain from turning the ball over. It was Virginia's offense that didn't do anything to lose the game, even if they didn't do much positive to win the game either. Maryland's offense was more effective moving the ball, though 33% on 3rd down and 284 total yards isn't impressive, but two interceptions by QB Chris Turner and two fumbles doomed the Terps.

I had the thought in the closing moments of the game that it is time to start planning for next season. Turner's senior campaign has been a disaster. He looked terrible against Virginia even though his pass protection, with LT Bruce Campbell back, was fairly good. He had time to look down field but his accuracy was erratic at best and he often over threw his receiver. He only completed 42% of his passes for 158 yards and two interceptions the first of which was returned for a touchdown in the decisive play of the day. The wet conditions certainly hurt Turner but Virginia's Jameel Sewell completed 56% of his passes for 137 yards with no interceptions despite the fact that he under much more pressure, eventually sacked five times, and while playing in the same poor conditions. Turner has always had questionable accuracy down field and on deep balls his receivers almost always have to make adjustments. Maryland's passing game has turned into a dink and dunk affair failing to take advantage of the talent in the receiver corps.

In Turner's defense the offensive line has been dreadful for most of the season, though he does them no favors by holding onto the ball like he often does, and the running game has been spotty at best. The play calls by OC James Franklin have done little to account for the weaknesses of the offense or to play to its strengths. Considering all that Turner has still struggled to play with the proficiency you would expect from a senior with three years of playing experience. He has far too many critical mistakes and missed opportunities for an offense that cannot afford to put the defense in difficult positions. Local media are reporting that Friedgen has acknowledged this and will probably starting giving Jamarr Robinson and even freshman Danny O'Brien some playing time in the remaining games.

I don't think Robinson or O'Brien give Maryland a better chance to win games than Chris Turner but at this point winning an extra game or two doesn't make much difference when you are playing for next season anyway. Turner has done enough to play his way out of a starting spot and the staff cannot go into next season with next to no experience at quarterback just because they don't want to bench a senior starter. It is unfortunate that Turner's career may end on the bench but he has little else but himself to blame if the staff make that call.

The running back situation continues to be a problem as Davin Meggett and Gary Douglas ran well but both fumbled at critical times. Douglas has a shoulder injury that will keep him out for a few weeks. With Da'Rel Scott already sidelined true freshman Caleb Porzel will get more touches at running back. Douglas' injury may force the staff to take another long look at Morgan Green unless they want to burn another redshirt and put D.J. Adams into the mix.

The receivers had a rough day. Torrey Smith was shut down by Virginia while Adrian Cannon was largely ineffective. I'm not sure why the staff is so fixated on La'Quan Wiliams but he continues to get passes thrown his way even though he is maybe the fourth best receiver on the team. Ronnie Tyler is filling the same role that Danny Oquendo had the last few seasons as a sure handed possession receiver. Kerry Boykins is getting a bigger role as the season has gone on but had a rough outing. He fumbled twice but was bailed out when Maryland recovered one and the officials reversed a call on the field ruling his second an incomplete pass instead. He also had a special teams gaffe that allowed a 49 yard kickoff return right before halftime that should have resulted in a field goal for Virginia. Al Groh elected to punt on fourth down on the Maryland 35 yard line.

As I mentioned earlier I thought the line looked much better with Campbell back in action. The team rushed for 126 yards and Turner was only sacked once. The backs combined for 124 yards on 24 carries for an impressive 5.2 yards per attempt. Douglas and Meggett fumbled early and that probably made Franklin, who called the game from the booth interestingly, shy away from the running game. That turned out to be a mistake.

The defense had a very good game. Virginia's offense was stymied the whole afternoon and the Wahoos only amassed 201 total yards. Sewell was knocked out of the game and sacked five times. Linebacker Adrian Moten was a wrecking crew with two sacks and a forced fumble. Alex Wujciak had probably his best game of the season as a physical force at the line of scrimmage. Wujciak was very effective shadowing the athletic Sewell and making stops when he tried to scramble. Demetrius Hartsfield played with a cast on his hand and still made seven tackles. Ben Pooler replaced Hartsfeld in the starting lineup and was impressive with his aggressive play that recorded two tackles for a loss. Pooler's play may allow Maryland to weather the loss of Hartsfeld if he undergoes surgery as he is expected.

Cameron Chism seems to be splitting time with Richard Taylor at the other corner position. Either way Taylor has become a valuable nickle back in certain packages.

With a new scheme and many young players the defense will be inconsistent. They will have games like they did against Clemson and Virginia yet also get torched as they did at Wake Forest. Overall the unit is improving and I think has great potential for next season. At this point the staff needs to start evaluating the offensive players and figuring out who can be the cornerstone's of next seasons starting group and who are merely backups because the meaningful games are all but over for this squad.

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