Monday, September 15, 2008

Sometimes you get the bear

As Jeff Tedford, the Cal coach, said after Maryland's 35-27 win over the Bears the Terps looked much better than they did on film. That wouldn't be too difficult as the first two games were some of the worst performances that Maryland has had this decade. I'm sure Tedford's staff must have been wondering how, like most Maryland fans, the same team that stumbled and bumbled its way to a 1-1 record played so well. The Maryland staff which had been under fire all week, and deservedly so, put together a good game plan on offense and defense. It was particularly nice to see James Franklin get a little more creative on offense and use some two tight end sets as I had hoped he would. Dan Gronkowski and Landsford Watson are two good targets in the passing game with seven of Chris Turner's fifteen completions against Cal. They also helped keep some pressure off the offensive tackles who need all the help they can get. Franklin may have gotten a little too enamored with gimmicks when Maryland had a big lead but overall there was little to criticize in his game plan.

I think most of the credit in this game goes to the players who won their individual battles and made plays when needed in critical moments. I really don't think it was a question of the game plans deciding the outcome. Chris Turner proved that when he is playing well he is far and away the best QB on the team. His third down play was spectacular in the first half and was crucial to Maryland gaining a big lead early on. He spread the ball around well and didn't make any mistakes. Da'Rel Scott had another big day running the ball before going out with a shoulder injury. He sprained his AC joint and I'd be surprised if he didn't sit out the Eastern Michigan game with Davin Meggett playing so well. Was it just me or did Cal's players seem a little pissed they were getting their asses kicked on national television? Several late hits and borderline dirty plays didn't leave a good impression on me.

The offensive line did a decent job after getting embarrassed by Middle Tennessee State. The rushing totals were good, if not spectacular, but they did also surrender four sacks on only 20 pass attempts. There is still a great deal of improvement needed in this group.

The receivers were supposed to be a strength of this team but outside of Darrius Heyward-Bey, who is mostly living up to his hype, the rest of the wide outs have been a flop this season. Danny Oquendo has the most reliable hands of the group but he isn't the fastest or most dynamic player. After Oquendo starter Isaiah Williams and the rest of the bench have produced 10 catches for 60 yards. Pitiful. In one game Gronkowski and Watson almost matched that total.

The defensive line obviously played much better this week against a good Cal offense. They were able to get to Cal QB Kevin Riley five times after barely getting a whiff of the QB against Delaware and Middle Tennessee. Moise Fokou had two sacks on blitzes and Rick Costa made a strong case that he is a much better pass rushing LEO than Trey Covington. The rest of the line was able to force Riley to move around and make him uncomfortable in the pocket. He missed several key throws on third down after the pressure got to him. They also anchored well in the running game and allowed linebackers like Dave Philistin to flow to the ball and make tackles. Mack Frost may have reinjured his knee but Jared Harrell is showing some nice ability in pass rush situations.

Teams are going to stop throwing towards Kevin Barnes. He had an interception to set up the second Maryland touchdown and had a wicked hit on Cal running back Jahvid Best. It was clear that Cal was throwing the ball anywhere but his direction in the second half. Nolan Carroll was getting picked on as a result but held up well under some heavy pressure. That is a good sign since Richard Taylor (correction) may be out the rest of the season with a knee injury. Jamari McCollough (9 tackles) and Antwine Perez filled in well for the injured Terrell Skinner.

Obi Egekeze may have kicked his way out of the starting job, missing an easy chip shot that could have cost Maryland the game. He may be replaced by a walk on kicker as early as this week.

In all it was a nice win but nothing to get overly carried away with. Once Riley got settled the Cal offense was going through Maryland's defense like crap through a goose. Riley had over 200 yards passing the 3 touchdowns in the 4th quarter alone. For the game Maryland was out gained 461 to 297 total yards by Cal. That is not a formula for winning very often. If Cal wasn't so horrible on third down (2/11) or had about 10 more minutes the game probably would have been very different. Maryland jumped on the Bears early and it took them three quarters to shake off some bad penalties, questionable coaching decisions and spotty quarterback play to erase a 21 point deficit.

The ACC is pretty weak and this club isn't far off the teams that look to be the best in a mediocre bunch but this group has a long way to go before they can start dreaming about a bowl game let alone an ACC title.


Jeff said...

Esq I believe you may be getting Jeff Allen mixed up with Richard Taylor. FREDTERP

Esquire said...

Thanks Fred, I corrected that.

Anonymous said...

Nice review. Great effort by your Terps. Hopefully the rest of your season goes well.

~Cal fan.

Anonymous said...

Hey my fellow Terpster. Hope all is well. This comment is about #17. He just makes plays, from special teams to special situations as witnessed on Saturday. He is underused drastically, when involved in the game, he usually comes thru. The fact that he isn't used much is a shame. 2 years ago, he was a go to guy for Hollenbach. The only difference now is he's gotten stronger, wiser, and more driven to prove the individuals who don't see the talent, wrong. He still as a senior goes in day in and day out without complaining wondering when will he be used. He may be slower, but by how much? He seems to be open often but then again, I'm his #1 fan, maybe its just me. One thing for sure though, come gametime, he'll be ready... Also thanks for the info you provide. Very informative and on point, keep up the good work!! DOsr

Esquire said...

Good luck to your Bears too. I still think I would trade Maryland's season with Cal right now even with the Terps win on Saturday.

As for Oquendo I have always thought he was underrated and under utilized by the coaching staff. He has been slowed by injuries and I think it has taken away a little of his quickness but he has the best hands on the team (witness the on side kick coverage against Cal) and is fearless across the middle. I think he still could be among the best slot receivers in the ACC but that requires the coaches to throw to him. I'm thinking that Oquendo is still getting healthy from his injury last season and we'll see his production go up as the season wears on. No other wide outs are doing much opposite Heyward-Bey so why not give Danny more throws. You know he'll run the right route and catch the ball if thrown to him. I agree that he has given much to the Maryland program with little fan fare.