Saturday, November 15, 2008

Postgame Report Card: Maryland 17, North Carolina 15

The word of the game is... erratic. It’s raining; now it’s not. Offenses are scoring; now they’re not. Turner is in command; now he’s not.

But the much maligned Terrapin defense; that was the one constant in this game. Maryland held down the Tar Heels from the opening snap, and for the most part kept Hakeem Nix in check while shutting down Shaun Draughn and the Carolina running game. The score stood at 15-14 at halftime, and the Terps did not budge for the entire second half, keeping their offense in the game until that unit could scratch out a field goal late.

Don’t be fooled into thinking, however, that this was entirely a defensive effort. Credit should be given to the offense for their impressive first half touchdown drives. Each of the two followed Carolina scores and kept the Terps from slipping in the game. The offense kept the team in the game in the first half, and the defense stepped up to shut down Carolina for the stretch run.

By the way, credit to the student section for stepping up late in the game.

Offense - Overall Grade: B-
Quarterbacks: C+

Turner’s game followed a familiar pattern; he started the game strong, making smart decisions and delivering the ball with confidence and accuracy, and then stumbled with that decision making and accuracy as the game went along. The Terps were able to overcome that streakiness this game, and the running game is normally able to mask it. Credit should be given, however, to Turner for his run on 4th and 5 late in the fourth quarter; a case can be made that that was the play of the game.
Running Backs: A
Da’Rel Scott and Davin Meggett gave the Tar Heels nightmares today, as they rushed for 133 yards and 85 yards, respectively. When the rain was coming down hard in the first half, the Terps ran the ball on nearly every play, and nearly every one of those plays was effective. When these two backs get the blocking they were getting today, they’re a very hard duo to slow down. The grade is knocked a bit by the fact that UNC was able to contain them in the second half, and there were a couple of missed opportunities for big plays, but that’s being exceptionally ticky-tac.
Wide Receivers: B+
A few plays were left on the field, but by and large a very good game for this group. If Chris Turner’s scramble on fourth down is the number one play, Ronnie Tyler’s leaping grab on third down earlier in the drive has to be 1-A. UNC heavily covered Heyward-Bey all day, and they clearly made a concerted effort to take him out of the game. The other receivers stepped up big-time to fill the void.
Tight Ends: B
This group wasn’t thrown to very much, but Gronkowski was able to finish the game with a couple of very big catches. The blocking, particularly in the run game was excellent.
Offensive Line: B
I vacillated heavily between a B and a B+, but I have to give this unit a B due to the fact that they were unable to put up what I consider a complete game, as they played a very pedestrian game in the second half. That being said, they were brilliant in the first half and dictated the line of scrimmage. A few very costly penalties, the occasional breakdown, and the Terps’ sluggish second-half running game hurts the grade of this group.

Defense - Overall Grade: A+
Defensive Line: A

This week the Terps made a switch on the defensive line, adding some bulk to the tackle position and moving Jeremy Navarre to defensive end. This just in: it worked. The line of scrimmage was controlled by the Terps in the running game and passing game. The Terrapins need to get pressure with their front in order to be effective, and they did just that today.
Linebackers: A
Aided by the excellent defensive line play, Maryland’s linebacking corps held UNC’s running game to a total of 71 yards on the game with an average of only 2.7 yards per rush. The pass coverage was solid and the unit displayed excellent discipline. The only time the ‘backers were consistently out of position were on the two reverses that Carolina ran.
Defensive Backs: A
It wasn’t perfect, as they did sacrifice 210 yards through the air. Don’t let that fool you, however, as this group kept arguably the best receiver in the ACC held down, and the only touchdown that UNC had was on a ball that was inches away from being intercepted by a leaping Kenny Tate. With North Carolina still in the game late, only needing a field goal, Jeff Allen had a crucial pass breakup and McCullough sealed the game with an interception. Kudos to a banged up and oft-criticized group of young men.

Special Teams - Overall Grade: C-
Kicker: B

Egekeze kicked the game winner, which counts for something, doesn’t it? Yes, it does. However, the poor kickoffs count as well, which helped give North Carolina the excellent field position it had nearly all game.
Punter: A-
Travis Baltz made a heads-up play in the first quarter, taking the safety in the endzone rather than falling on the ball within the ten yard line. All but one of his other punts were fantastic, with the one exception being a shank which ended up at the 23-yard line (not all that bad in and of itself).
Returners: B-
Oquendo was his usual smart and sure-handed self on punt returns, but the kick returns of Torrey Smith and Kenny Tate left a good deal to be desired.
Coverage: D+
The blocking for the Terrapin return men was non-existent. On the flipside, North Carolina consistently victimized the coverage team, generating excellent field position for the Tar Heels’ offense. The downed punt inside the five saves this unit from a worse grade.

Coaching - Overall Grade: B+
Offensive: B
Like Turner, James Franklin seemed to go hot and cold with his play calling. For stretches it seemed like all the right buttons were being pushed, however it seemed in the second half that Franklin was really searching to find what adjustments needed to be made for the offense to be effective.
Defensive: A
When you shut down this explosive offense like this, credit needs to go to the defensive coaching staff. The defense was put in awful tough spots all game, but they stepped up each time. Credit Chris Cosh for keeping his unit’s spirits up when it seemed like their offense was never going to wake up. By the way, I do stand by what I said the other day; it just so happened that in this game his rush four, drop seven strategy worked. Really, really well as it turned out.

And for my MVP/LVP...
MVP (Most Valuable Player) –Da’Rel Scott–
With the Terps down 5-0 in the first quarter, Da’Rel’s hard running helped set the tone for the offense and sparked the Terps down the field for the responding touchdown. Scott finished with 30 carries for 133 yards and a touchdown. Welcome back.
LVP (Least Valuable Player) –Andrew Schmitt– One horrific snap = 2 points for the Tar Heels = safety punt = Tar Heel field goal = 5 to 0 lead for UNC to start the game. Considering the fact that if Egekeze’s field goal is missed the Terps lose by one, I think the math speaks for itself.

(Photo Credit: Doug Kapustin/Baltimore Sun(Davin Meggett), Doug Kapustin/Baltimore Sun(Schmitt/Egekeze),)

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