Monday, November 09, 2009

Sloppy play dooms Terps

There wasn't any bad weather to mirror the poor play on the field nor did it serve as an excuse for an impotent offense this week. In excellent conditions Maryland's offense mustered 17 points and only 270 total yards and even before starter Chris Turner left the game with a knee injury the offense wasn't looking nearly as good as the numbers would indicate. If it wasn't for a defensive touchdown and another Torrey Smith kick return the offense had little chance to keep up with State's QB Russell Wilson.

Wilson helped Maryland out by having an inconsistent game with three interceptions even as he passed for 343 yards and three touchdowns. The Wolfpack left points on the field with several touchdown passes that were either dropped or overthrown. Against the 20th ranked scoring offense in the NCAA the Maryland defense had little chance to to keep the Wolfpack out of the endzone. Even with the benefit of four State turnovers the defense still surrendered 482 yards and an astonishing 31 first downs to go with 38 points.

Alex Wujciak had a jumped on a slant route and raced for the endzone to keep Maryland in the game. He finished with 14 tackles to go along with the touchdown but was also beaten in coverage a number of times. Ben Pooler is developing into a very nice linebacker and, though he will make some mistakes due to his inexperience, he has been a great surprise in the place of the injured Demetrius Hartsfield.

The rest of the defense didn't look very good. Corner Anthony Wiseman was repeatedly targeted by N.C. State and surrendered big play after big play. The defensive line couldn't muster any pass rush to speak of and wasn't really all that effective in stopping the run either. Too often when Maryland blitzed the linebackers and defensive backs were stood up by blockers and gave up on the pass rush. Wilson is a threat to scramble but it wasn't cause for the pass rush to stand around and shadow him to keep him in the pocket. The tackling was horrendous across the board. The unit regressed against a very potent offense.

Coming off a bye week the team looked disappointingly sloppy. The ten penalties for 91 yards illustrates that the team wasn't focused and that many of the players are probably looking to the offseason already. It is understandable that midway through a season that has went south so dramatically a fair number of players would start looking to the off season. There are few seniors on this team and the underclassmen are certainly looking to getting away from football and then gearing up for Spring practice. With such a distracted performance after a two week layoff it is clear that there will be no magic turnaround to this season and an ugly six game losing streak to end the season is very possible.

The biggest development from the game is the play of Jamarr Robinson in place of the injured Chris Turner. I have little doubt that if Turner was not injured it would have made absolutely no difference to the outcome of the game. It did force the staff to play Robinson and after a shaky start he seemed to settle down and showed flashes of potential. Robinson seemed to think he was unlikely to play in the game before Turner went down and it showed as he fumbled a snap and missed several open receivers. Robinson clearly is far behind Turner in his understanding of the offense and it has been the criticism of the staff since before the Spring game that his self preparation should be better. We'll see how Robinson reacts now that it is very likely he'll at least start against Virginia Tech and possibly longer. What Robinson lacks in knowledge and decision making to Turner he may make up for in his running ability and playmaking ability. Robinson showed a mobility that Turner cannot come close to and with a leaky offensive line perhaps that will be an advantage. He made several big scrambles late in the game that Turner would have never been able to replicate. Robinson also demonstrated that his arm strength and ability to throw the deep ball are significant improvements to what Turner offered. As N.C. State head coach Tom O'Brien said after the game Robinson is a totally different look at quarterback than Turner. He is weaker in some ways but stronger in others. It will be incumbent on the staff to play to Robinson's strengths in their game plan. Having him sit back and play a dink and dunk passing game like Turner would be a mistake.

Getting a glimpse of Robinson and Maryland's possible future at quarterback adds some intrigue to the remaining games that wasn't there before last Saturday.

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