Monday, October 12, 2009

Skinner Fillets Terps D

Virtually everything changed from last week's feel good win over Clemson in a 42-32 pasting at the hands of Wake Forest that was no where near as competitive as the final score would indicate. Maryland's defense didn't have the luxury of going up against a freshman quarterback this week. Instead they faced the best passing offense in the ACC and one of the better in the nation (16th overall and 12th in passing efficiency) led by a record setting senior in Riley Skinner. Skinner did a masterful job of picking apart Maryland's defense in the decisive 1st half. He would slide away from the pass rush and find open receivers down field on play after play buying enough time for his targets to get open. His pass protection was excellent as compared with what Maryland's Chris Turner had to contend with but the gap between Turner and Skinner was still evident as Skinner was able to make plays and score touchdowns while Turner could not.

Wake Forest runs misdirection and counter plays as a staple of their offense but there must have been something in their film study that made them decide to attack Maryland's defense on the edges. They had great success in stringing the Terps defense out and then turning the corner or cutting back. Outside linebackers Demetrius Hartsfield and Adrian Moten struggled to contain the Demon Deacons' short passing and running game. Wake also attacked corners Cameron Chism and Anthony Wiseman with great results as both game up big plays in the passing game. Without a reliable pass rush it isn't surprising that the secondary got burned repeatedly but there were also numerous blow coverages and sloppy tackling. It was the worst performance by the secondary all season but with young players like Chism and Kenny Tate seeing as much time as they are that will happen.

The defense was virtually ineffective in doing anything to limit Wake's offense for most of the game as they surrendered touchdowns on the first five possessions which all but decided the outcome of the game. It was an abysmal performance on the road for this defense that has surrendered 94 points and over 1,000 yards in total offense in just two games. With three more road games on the schedule that should make any Maryland fan scared to death.

The horrendous play of the defense was fairly obvious to even a casual observer, all you have to do is look at the box score, but the offense escaped the scrutiny it deserved. Obscured by some late scores in garbage time of a game that was already over was how awful the offense performed again. In the first half, while the defense was getting annihilated, the offense mustered 80 total yards on 28 plays. They were 1/7 on 3rd down and half of their possessions were three and outs. The only scores they mustered were off an 85 yard kick return by Torrey Smith that gave them the ball inside the Wake 20 (requiring a fourth and goal from the one yard line to punch in) and a 50 yard field goal by Nick Ferrera. All this against a Wake Forest defense that is a fairly middling bunch ranking 9th in the ACC in total defense and 6th in scoring defense.

The running game was nonexistent even before the game became a blow out. Neither running backs Davin Meggett nor Gary Douglas will be able to replace Da'Rel Scott anytime soon and the make shift offensive line is unable to open holes for them anyway. If Maryland doesn't do something like going to a two tight end formation then look for the already poor pass blocking to get worse. Only four teams in college football are worse at protecting the QB than Maryland right now: Tulsa, Virginia, Miami(OH) and Washington State. The only way this team will win games is to control the clock and keep the defense off the field. Chris Turner is already skittish and shell shocked early in games. Even when he gets protection and has time to throw his accuracy and timing are inconsistent. Turner needs to help his weak offensive line by reading the defense more rapidly and getting rid of the ball to avoid sacks. When Wake's defense let up in the 4th quarter he was able to move the ball a little better but it was too little too late.

It was good to see Adrian Cannon have his best game of the season with two late touchdown catches. It remains to be seen if that was just garbage time stats against a soft defense or if Cannon has the ability to continue that going forward and complement Torrey Smith. Cannon has struggled so far this season in what was supposed to be his break out year.

Right now neither the offense or defense is good enough to win a game by dominating its side of the ball. Last week the defense bailed out the offense but this week the offense failed to prop up the defense when they needed it. The defense certainly had some glaring failures in the loss to Wake but I think it is the offense that has the most fundamental problems in both personnel and schemes.

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