Saturday, September 13, 2008

Postgame Report Card: Maryland 35, California 27

The word of the game is.......redemption. Everything about the Maryland program was being questioned after the Middle Tennessee State loss, from the quarterback issues to Friedgen's job status to the rest of the season. But Maryland once again showed its comeback abilities, defeating their third ranked opponent in their last three tries. That score lies, Maryland was dominant for the majority of the contest and helped some respect back to the conference after a very problematic first two weeks.

This was the first meeting between these two teams. I was in the press box for the game, and I found out that California flew in Friday afternoon, so that didn't give them much time to adjust to the three-hour time zone change. You have to wonder if that played into the lack of production from the Golden Bears, and if they'll venture another game to the East Coast anytime soon.

Offense - Overall Grade: A-
Quarterbacks: A-
Chris Turner once again showed his ability to bounce back after a hard loss. Last year it was Rutgers after the Wake loss and then Boston College after the North Carolina loss. 15/19 with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He looked very comfortable in the pocket and made solid decisions all day. His big moment was converting a 3rd and 16 with a 32-yard completion across the middle to Darrius Hayward-Bey. With Josh Portis, who mainly handed the ball off, I'm still not sure what his role is.
Running Backs: A
Da'Rel Scott set the pace early with strong runs to the outside. He scored two touchdowns in the first quarter and stabilized the offense in the first half with 4.6 yards a carry. When he went into the locker room with an injury, Davin Meggett picked up right where Scott left off after his injury, averaging 6.3 yards a carry, highlighted by a touchdown in the fourth. Scott did have a fumble, hence why it isn't an A+, but the effectiveness of the running game against a solid running defense that had only allowed five rushing first downs in their first two games was imperative to the Terps win (Maryland had eight rushing first downs).
Wide Receivers: B
Once again, Hayward-Bey is the star, getting a catch to convert a 3rd and 16 as well as a 27-yard TD catch from Turner. Receivers made their catches and got some important first downs when needed. Nothing special about the wideouts and Torrey Smith's fumble in the start of the third quarter could have been costly, but the WR core got the job done.
Tight Ends: A
The tight ends were Turner's favorite target today, with Dan Gronkowski and Lansford Watson combining for seven short-yardage catches. In the last two contests, Gronkowski was very disappointing, but some of his catches were key in converting third downs and keeping Turner comfortable in the pocket.
Offensive Line: B-
This is a little bit of a tough grade, since the running game was very effective during the game and holes were opening up to give them room. But Turner got sacked four times and in the second half, not much offensively was getting done, allowing Cal to try to get back into the game. But for the most part, the line did a very good job on the field.

Defense - Overall Grade: B
Defensive Line: B+
The D-line was constantly keeping pressure on Kevin Riley all game, and for the first three quarters it worked. But more importantly, the vaunted Cal running game, led by the very quick Jahvid Best, was held to 38 yards on 23 carries. More importantly, only three first down on rushing plays.
Linebackers: A
Dave Philistin was an absolute monster, as he was seemingly always around the ball. He had 13 tackles and had some deadly hits. Moise Fokou also was dominant, getting two sacks on Riley. Nothing was getting by the linebackers during the day.
Secondary: C+
They get an A for the first three quarters, as nothing was getting by them and Cal didn't score a touchdown. Kevin Barnes and Kenny Tate couldn't be stopped, they were covering their targets very well all game. However with the fourth quarter, even though the coaching staff was making them play a prevent-style defense, the Golden Bears were driving down the field exclusively on the passing game. But for the most part, a solid improvement from a week ago.

Special Teams - Overall Grade: B
Kicker: D-
Rumor was before the game that Nick Wallace might replace Obi Egekeze soon; I wouldn't be surprised if it happened next week. Egekeze kicked his five extra point attempts, but a 27-yard attempt that would have put Maryland up by three scores with 3:09 left in the game missed wide left. He is now 0-for-5 on field goal attempts this season, three of those attempts within 41 yards.
Punter: B
Travis Baltz wasn't needed until late in the second quarter, but his punts were good as normal, averaging 47.8 yards a punt.
Returners: A
Maryland never really had any chance to return kicks, either on punts or kickoffs. But three outside kick attempts by California failed, one by Danny Oquendo swatting the ball of of bounds to prevent any chance of recovery. Very smart play by the return team.
Coverage: B
With the exception of Best's 54-yard return, the kickoff coverage was solid during the game. The punt coverage was great, allowing a total of eight yards on three returns.

Coaching - Overall Grade: B+
Offensive: A-
For the first time all season, Maryland showed a balanced offensive attack against their opponent. The first drive set the tone, with a short pass, run, short pass, run, run. Turner looked comfortable in the pocket and very few risks were taken, which led to a very, very effective offense.
Defensive: B-
Again, if we were just judging the first three quarters, this would be an A+. California couldn't get anything done on the ground and Riley was getting nothing done in the air. But the fourth quarter prevent defense allowed Cal back into the game to within one score. But as an overall effort, the blitzes and coverage plays were very strong. Cal was only 2 of 11 on third down conversations.

MVP: Dave Philistin
13 tackles and being the leader of the defense gets him the award. Most of his big stops came during the second and third quarters when the Golden Bears tried to make a comeback, and just couldn't.
LVP: Obi Egekeze
In a well fought game like this it is hard to give an LVP at all. But Egekeze's missed field goal could have put Maryland up by three scores. And it was only 27 yards.

And keeping with last week's report card, one other I'd like to add:
Student section: A+
In the past few years, the student section has been criticized for rushing onto the field at the wrong time, most notably in 2006 after #24 Maryland barely edged out Miami 14-13 the week after Bryan Pata's death, and the students rushed the field. For the game, Maryland upset a ranked team, and no one rushed the field. Not only that, they were loud and making things hard for the Golden Bears all game. Well done to the Maryland student section today.

(Photo credit: Maryland athletics)

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