Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Terps triumph in deluge

The weather may have been atrocious at Byrd stadium last night but the play on the field demonstrated there could be bright days ahead for Maryland under Randy Edsall. The new offense under Gary Crowton showed a dynamism that Maryland has not had since maybe the early years under Ralph Friedgen. It was fitting that senior Ronnie Tyler, a player who has been a personal favorite of mine, scored the first touchdown of the season with a spectacular dive at the pylon. Tyler missed the bowl game last season after being suspended and had a difficult spring with his father suffering from a serious illness. It helped that QB Danny O'Brien was as sharp in the new offense as one could expect, save his poor decision on the end zone interception. It is difficult to judge because of the weather complications but the one area O'Brien can improve is his accuracy. Though his completion percentage was very high there were a number of passes, particularly when he was throwing on the move that forced receivers to make adjustments and resulted in incompletions.

O'Brien should be very happy with the play of his patch work offensive line. The group was superb given the low expectations going into this season. Guard Josh Cary struggled with a couple of false starts but settled down. Miami's defensive line wasn't at full strength but O'Brien was well protected and the running game was surprisingly effective against an athletic Hurricane defense. Tackles Max Garcia and R.J. Dill form a very underrated set of bookends and if Justin Gilbert can return from his knee injury in October the offensive line could be a position of strength. There will be tougher tests going forward in the season but there is little to be critical of with this unit after the opening game.

The loss of wideout Torrey Smith might not be a disaster with the emergence of Kevin Dorsey (124 yards receiving) and tight end Matt Furstenburg who were the most reliable targets for O'Brien. Dorsey was a highly rated player coming out of high school and has seemed to fine his comfort zone as a junior. He is a nice blend of speed (notice the 52 yard catch in the 4th quarter) and power. Furstenburg continues the lineage of fine receiving tight ends at Maryland going back to Vernon Davis. He has soft hands and a nose for finding the holes in zone coverage. He has enough speed to get down the seams in the middle of the field as well.

Davin Meggett had nice production at running back with 92 yards on 21 carries. He was a little indecisive at times which is problematic against a fast defense like Miami but had several nifty runs to the outside. There was little success for Maryland up the middle. The absence of D.J. Adams, suspended for the game, was telling in that area and near the goal line. Meggett and Justus (Corrected -ed.) Pickett ( the two T's?) are good in the open field but lack the power to run in confined areas.

The defense provided some big plays, including three turnovers and two defensive touchdowns, but I think there is reason for concern going forward. It was clear that Miami's offense was a little ham strung by the suspensions and Al Golden didn't have all the options that Edsall did with his offense. When Miami committed to a power running game the Terps had trouble stopping it. The long 3rd down conversions that Maryland allowed second string QB Stephen Morris to complete with a grab bag of a receiving corps could be an ominous sign. Though late in the game they got pressure on Morris the pass rush was not always reliable and the 3rd and long pass rush package was largely ineffective. The deep middle of the defense was a little shaky at times and the linebackers, while racking up tackles, struggled in pass coverage. Kenny Tate's move to linebacker was a flop, at least after a single data point. It seemed that Tate struggled to make plays in his new role and was largely irrelevant for most of the night. Perhaps Tate will grown into his new role but if this switch neuters the best playmaker on defense it will have been a huge failure. Andre Monroe probably isn't going to remind anyone else of John Randall (really Matt Millen, you couldn't have gone with Jay Ratliff or someone like that?) but he showed some great potential a substitute off the bench. He had a great swim move and pressured Morris while also being able to anchor against the run.

Kickoff coverage may also be a problem area as kicker Nick Ferrara struggled to get the ball deep and Miami nearly broke huge gains. West Virginia's Tavon Austin could pose some problems to the kick teams. On field goals Ferrara was mostly reliable in very bad conditions but his one miss could have cost Maryland the game.To his credit he came back and kicked a go ahead field goal later in the game.

Overall I think the miscues and sloppy play were minimal for an opening game against a quality opponent. There are many encouraging areas and I expect dramatic improvement over the next few weeks.

As for the uniforms I understand some of the negative reaction, most people outside Maryland don't understand how much pride there is in the state flag. It may not have been a sartorial triumph but I thought it was a great symbol of what Edsall and AD Kevin Anderson are trying to accomplish. Making the University a symbol of pride for the entire state. Maryland has a special advantage of being the public school for an entire state. There are not many schools that have that advantage. There is a transient quality to parts of Maryland that awful places like Penn State and Virginia Tech have been able to exploit. I think it is great that this regime is trying to protect the turf of the home state.


Anonymous said...

It is Justus Pickett? Why did he start the last offensive drive. FREDTERP

Esquire said...

Thanks for the correction. They were platooning Pickett and Meggett so perhaps it was just his turn. I would rather have Meggett in that situation because I would think he'd be better at blitz pickups. I'm almost never a fan of running back platoons but with the up tempo offense they may have no choice.