I guess anyone who thought this Maryland team would pack its bags and quit was proved wrong on Saturday. It was a heroic effort by Maryland against a desperate FSU team and the farewell game of longtime defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews on senior day in Tallahassee. Quarterback Jamarr Robinson's performance gives the biggest cause for hope in 2010 with an excellent 20/27 passing performace without an interception and 273 yards of total offense. Robinson outperformed the highly touted FSU freshman E.J. Manuel. He looked poised and much sharper than he did last week against Virginia Tech. Admittedly FSU's defense is one of the worst in the ACC but the maturation of Robinson was still impressive.
The return of running back Da'Rel Scott was a big boost for the offense. He is a better blend of power, speed and vision than any back the Terps have and even though he was a little rusty he ran well with 83 yards on 19 carries. Davin Meggett is much better as a backup in relief and his power running between the tackles is a good complement to Scott. A running attack with Scott, Meggett and Robinson could be very effective next season.
Kudos to the maligned offensive line who had their best game of the season. They protected Robinson well and opened some massive holes for the running game. Bruce Campbell had a dominating performance at tackle and the rest of the line, particularly right tackle R.J. Dill, had very solid performances. Let's hope this heavily criticized group can sustain the improvement against Boston College this week.
Torrey Smith just keeps plugging away at an stellar sophomore campaign that already has him one yard shy of the old ACC single season record for all purpose yards by Thomas Jones at 2054. Clemson's C.J. Spiller has already broken that record this year with 2,066 yards. Smith has a good chance to have the most receiving yards in a season since Vernon Davis had 871 in 2005. Right now Smith is first in the ACC in receptions per game and third in receiving yards per game. Trailing Spiller by only 13 all-purpose yards you would have to wonder what kind of attention Smith would be getting if he wasn't on a 2-9 train wreck of a team. It would be a shame if Smith gets stiffed in the All-ACC selections because of that.
Adrian Cannon continues to try and salvage a disappointing season. He had a nifty touchdown catch where he broke tackles to get to the end zone but also had a terrible fumble with Maryland in field goal range and the score 14-13. Cannon is gifted physically be he doesn't have the focus and dedication to take advantage of them. Ronnie Tyler must be feeling the effects of nagging injuries because his production has dropped off dramatically the last few weeks.
Devonte Campbell seems to be making a move at the tight end position with his third straight start. He isn't producing anything on the field worth noting but his blocking seems to be decent.
The defensive line had little chance to symie the FSU running game or contain the atletic E.J. Manuel. The lack of speed on the edge for Maryland's defense was on display again against a dangerous group of burners for the Seminoles. Jimbo Fisher's running game was good enough on 1st down to limit the need for Manuel to convert on 3rd and long. For the game FSU only faced a 3rd and long five times, the longest being nine yards. Maryland by contrast faced eight 3rd and longs with five being 10+ yards. Bert Reed, Jermaine Thomas and Manuel combined to rip of runs of 42, 24 and 20 yards. Maryland's defense gave up six plays of 20+ yards and as has been the case all season were vulnerable to the big play. In the end it is what killed them.
The linebackers had a tough time covering the Seminole players in space and shutting down the off tackle runs. Adrian Moten and Ben Pooler struggled outside though Demetrius Hartsfield and even freshman Darin Drakeford played as well. Middle linebacker Alex Wujciak did pick off Manuel and return it deep into Seminole territory as he did N.C. State's Russell Wilson but he also was unable to make tackles on Manuel in space and struggled to cover down the field. Wujciak seems to be jumping routes and gambling more in the hopes of making a big play.
The secondary didn't have that bad of a game though they didn't come through when they needed to make a play. Manuel only completed 17 passes for 206 yards and was intercepted three times. Cameron Chism, who has had his ups and downs, got his team leading fourth pick of the season. Terrell Skinner looked pretty good with some very nice run support and a few big hits over the middle to go with his second interception of the year. Antwine Perez lead the team with 9 tackles and for the second game in a row three of the top four tacklers were DBs. A sign the defensive line and linebackers are not getting it done.
The play of the game had to be Greg Reid's 48 yard punt return that set up FSU's game winning drive. Friedgen said after the game they were trying to punt the ball out of bounds but Nick Ferrara failed to do that and Reid, who is averaging an astonishing 18 yards per punt return, evaded tackles by Tony Logan and Drew Gloster that should have kept him at a modest gain. It was another special teams breakdown that cost Maryland the game. There have been a litany of big returns and blocked field goals that have really hurt the Terps this season. The special teams were never this problematic when Ray Rychlecki was the coach and current special teams coach Charles Bankins, who is only in his first season, might be on thin ice with the staff shake ups that might occur at the end of the season.