Maryland probably hasn’t had four touchdowns on plays of over 50 yards in a single game in a long time. Da’Rel Scott and Davin Meggett each had long touchdown runs, with Meggett’s 76 yard romp late in the 4th quarter sealing the game for Maryland. Torrey Smith caught a 68 yard touchdown pass on a bum ankle and Tony Logan continued his impressive season with a 85 yard punt return for a touchdown. While the big plays were nice Maryland didn’t control the ball much as they failed to post a single drive of more than five plays the entire 2nd half. Going 2/12 on 3rd down, losing the time of possession by almost 10 minutes and having only two possessions lasting more than 3 minutes isn’t great though. Many of these big plays are likely to dry up once Maryland starts facing ACC defenses. Duke isn’t one of those defenses but I think the Danny O’Brien hype may be getting a little out of hand. O’Brien had a great game for a redshirt freshman and probably had the best game against FIU of any opposing QB they have faced to date but I’m not sure based on games against Morgan State and FIU that O’Brien is on his way to stardom just yet. Even though the Washington Post was writing ominous articles about the FIU defense it is a unit that now sits at 90th in the nation in scoring defense. The yardage rankings look respectable until you notice that Rutgers isn’t an offensive masterpiece (112th in the nation) and Texas A&M has padded its offensive numbers with two cupcakes to start the season. In the last two games the Panthers surrendered 375 rushing yards in games that were close until the last few minutes. FIU can get to the QB and has forced some mediocre QB’s into mistakes so credit O’Brien with making good decisions but this wasn’t a Miami or FSU level defense. O’Brien struggled in the 1st and 4th quarters going 4/9 for 39 yards and appeared erratic. The offensive line did a fantastic job all game for O’Brien and he normally had plenty of time to throw. The real test will come starting with the Clemson game. If O’Brien can keep his cool and find open receivers against really good secondary players then maybe Ralph Friedgen finally recruited a reliable quarterback. It isn’t fair to compare Jordan Steffy being thrown to the wolves at Blacksburg as a true freshmen with O’Brien getting to test the waters with a cupcake like Morgan State.
The defense still has some concerning holes. A spread offense causes real problems for the personnel on this team. The linebackers don’t cover well in space and that was highlighted again by FIU as West Virginia did the week before. Look for ACC foes to try to spread Maryland out and make the linebackers and secondary pursue in the open field. When FIU got the ball in the compressed space of the red zone the defense looked much better. Corners Cameron Chism and Dexter McDougle really struggled in this game. I thought Chism would have a breakout year this season but he is struggling in both zone and press coverage. If Antwine Perez continues to show lapses in coverage look for freshman Matt Robinson, who can lay some lumber and has been improving game to game, to get more playing time.
Defensive tackle A.J. Francis had a good game but overall the defensive front needs to improve. They still can’t muster much of a pass rush and if Don Brown is forced to blitz more this defense will give up a slew of big plays.
Kudos to RT Pete DeSouza and new LT R.J. Dill for doing a pretty good job in pass protection. DeSouza was much improved over last week.
There have been two mixups with O’Brien and Meggett so far this year. The fumble against Navy and a miscommunication against FIU that resulted in O’Brien going the wrong way and taking a loss deep in Maryland territory. That needs to get sorted out.
Duke should not provide too much trouble for Maryland this week as they got beat by Army and look like the Duke teams of old. Assuming Maryland can win, and they certainly should, then this team will be 4-1 going into the bye week. The schedule has few sure wins after that so my guess is Maryland will need all of those wins to get to a bowl game.