It was a familiar story for Maryland's football team but against an unfamiliar foe. Maryland played Duke for the first time in four seasons but had the bad luck of playing a solid Blue Devils team and not the team that went 2-33 during the years that the Terps were not on the schedule. Just another great function of John Swofford's expansion disaster that finds two ACC rivals who have played every year since 1972 play once in five years.
The game was played in a deluge and you would have assumed going into that game that would benefit Maryland since Duke is very reliant on their passing game. Unfortunately Duke QB Thaddeus Lewis as fairly effective in the rain completing 30 passes for 371 yards and two touchdowns. Conversly Maryland QB Chris Turner, who also struggled in bad weather against Virginia, threw for just 182 yards 67 of which came on one screen pass to Davin Meggett. Outside of that one play Turner completed 15 of 22 passes for a paltry 115 yards. In his last two games Turner has completed just 52% of his passes for 340 yards with 3 interceptions and just one touchdown. Teams have been keying on Torrey Smith and either Turner cannot get the ball to the other receivers or they have failed to get open. Most of Turner's passes to wideouts were either quick screens or dump off passes than netted little yardage. Besides Smith the other wide receivers had 77 yards on 9 receptions for a terrible 8.5 yards per catch. In the same conditions Duke had two receivers go for over 100 yards. With Smith being taken out of the last two games it has highlighted how feeble Maryland's passing game is without his big play ability. I think it is time that the staff start turning over more playing time to the younger quarterbacks on the squad so that this 2-6 squad can start building for next season.
The staff turned to frosh Caleb Pozel in an attempt to jump start the running game but on a sloppy field that negated some of Porzel's speed he failed to improve the ground attack. Pozel managed only 28 yards on 15 carries. Davin Meggett was slightly more effective in his limited action but neither back had a run of longer than nine yards. The running game will remain a big problem the rest of the season. It would be nice to see James Franklin try to play more two tight end sets to help the running attack but he just doesn't have the imagination for that. Even though Da'Rel Scott has not played in the last three games he still leads the team in rushing.
The defense had a good day even though Lewis passed for over 370 yards they made him work for every completion and he did turn the ball over twice. Duke attacked Maryland's linebackers in coverage repeatedly and had some success isolating Alex Wujciak and Ben Pooler in space. Pooler had an up and down day with a great stat sheet line of 13 tackles, a sack and forced fumble but a number of blown coverages and missed assignments. The sophomore linebacker has battled knee injuries in his early career but has shown some impressive ability in his first real action this season. Pooler has filled in well for the injured Demetrius Hartsfield and the duo could form the nucleus of a very athletic and impressive linebacking corps once Wujciak and Adrian Moten depart.
Cameron Chism picked off Lewis for his third interception of the season. As with most young players his progression won't be a straight line and he will struggle at times but he has been performing well in place of the injured Nolan Carroll. Safety Antwine Perez had a scary moment after a helmet collision in the game but is reportedly okay. Freshman Eric Franklin, who was rumored to be getting a shot to play earlier in the year, now appears to be his replacement if Perez cannot fill his normal backup safety role. With N.C. State's QB Russell Wilson up next Maryland will need all the DB's they can find.
Maryland had a chance to win the game late but an interception by Turner and a fumbled punt return by Tony Logan sealed Maryland's fate. It was the kind of ugly loss that you expect from a bad team. Make no mistake Terp fans, this is a bad team. There should be little time or energy expended on "what if" scenarios. Bad teams find ways to lose close games and this Maryland squad has done that in spades. Poor and inconsistent play from the offensive line, quarterback and running back position has doomed the offense. The defense has been more reliable but only by a slight margin. The staff seems unable to fix what is ailing the offense and the repeated shifting of the offensive line speaks to desperation more than anything. The last two weeks in a sloppy environment the opponent did a better job executing than Maryland, mostly because of superior quarterback play but also because the offensive coordinators had a better sense of playing to their strength than James Franklin has shown.
It is possible that Maryland might not win another game but I expect they might pull of another victory against either Florida State or N.C. State, a combined 1-6 in the ACC. Regardless it makes for a very, very long off season in College Park.
I watched the Maryland basketball scrimmage on Saturday and have a few thoughts on that which I'll post soon. Then we'll get into some previews of the upcoming men's basketball team and the lay of the land in the ACC.