Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Postgame Report Card: Maryland 42, Nevada 35

The word of the game is... resilient. Well, at least that's the positive spin on it. This was a back-and-forth game in which Maryland kept letting Nevada back into the game, but still rebounded each time Nevada tied or took the lead. This was a classic game in which Maryland could have phoned it in or folded early, but they did not. There were serious flaws with this team that could not be hidden (the secondary, the quarterback), but the strengths of this team shone through to victory. One thing in particular worth noting was the success of interim defensive coordinator Al Seamonson, and the newfound aggressiveness of the defense. Though the Wolfpack used the blitzing to take advantage of the weak Maryland secondary, it was able to help turn the Nevada offense into a one-dimensional passing game. If Kaepernick were able to get going early with his legs (he was bottled up well even before the injury), I would not be writing about a victory.

Offense - Overall Grade: B
Quarterback: C
Yes, Chris Turner made a couple of big throws. However, he still showed himself to be the same inconsistent and unreliable quarterback he has been all year. In the first half Maryland was in a dogfight, and Turner put up an excellent performance. In the third quarter Maryland was up by fourteen points while dominating Nevada on defense, and Turner coughs it up three times. Here's to hoping for an improved Turner next season; you won't always come away with wins when your quarterback can switch irreversibly from a strength to a liability.
Running Back: A
Brilliant. The performance of the running backs, particularly Da'Rel Scott, was just phenomenal. Davin Meggett and Morgan Green held their own in the first half, with Green popping off a 53-yard touchdown run. However, when Da'Rel returned in the third quarter (missed the 1st half due to a suspension for missing curfew) he reasserted why he is the Terps' top running back and an All-ACC performer. Without his 174-yard, 2 touchdown second half performance there is no way the Terps could have pulled out this game.
Wide Receivers: A
When the balls were there, they were caught. Better yet, the catches were distributed well amongst the different wideouts: Adrian Cannon, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Ronnie Tyler, Torrey Smith, and Emani Lee-Odai all caught passes. Ronnie Tyler and Torrey Smith have particularly impressed down the stretch and it will be interesting to see where they fit in the corps down the line with the influx of new receiver talent coming next season.
Tight Ends: C+
Gronkowski and Watson were nonfactors in the passing game, and Gronkowski's drop in the first half on a third down throw was absolutely inexcusable. However, the blocking was more than sound throughout the game and particularly down the stretch.
Offensive Line: B+
All in all a very strong effort both in run blocking and pass protection. The run blocking late in the third quarter and through the fourth was superb, and for once the Terps asserted themselves over lesser athletes. Nevada's undersized front was controlled all game, and the tackles did decently to keep Turner clean against the multitude of blitzes Nevada threw.

Defense - Overall Grade: B-
Defensive Line: A
The defensive line controlled the front throughout the football game. Yes, Nevada was able to get over 100 yards on the ground, but in some ways the stats lied in regards to the defensive line's success. Unlike most other games this season the Terps were able to generate decent pressure with their line in collapsing the pocket. Equally as important the line played with discipline, not allowing Kaepernick easy running lanes.
Linebackers: B+
The pass rush this game was far and away better than most defensive efforts this season for the Terrapins. Adrian Moten was a force, and Wujciak was his normal steady self. Like the defensive line, the discipline of this unit was superb, and even before the Nevada quarterback was injured, the front seven had him well contained.
Defensive Backs: C-
Nevada runs a very open and aggressive attack, and so it's very hard for a secondary to look good against this group. That being said, they wouldn't look good against just about any offensive unit with the way they played today. Maryland sent in the blitz, exposing the cornerbacks to man-on-man coverage, and they were burned thusly. Keep in mind that while Nevada put up big passing numbers against this unit, there were several missed throws that could have resulted in a far worse day. The Terps need this group to improve next season.

Special Teams - Overall Grade: B+
Kicker: D-
Missed an extra point. Really? It's hard to blame Egekeze for that botched kickoff, but at the end of the day when he sees the ball fall off the tee all he has to do is pull up and not kick it so it can be reset. Not a good way for Obi to go out.
Punter: A-
Travis Baltz didn't have a brilliant game but he put the ball where he had to put it. He came close to having a ball downed at the 1, but it barely crossed the plane of the goal line on a rebound.
Returner: A+
Torrey Smith was bound for a breakout return, and he showed it with a 99-yard kickoff return touchdown. Punt returns were also adequate, but at the end of the day if you set an ACC record for return yards in a season you deserve an A+.
Coverage: A
Nevada's return game was nonexistent, and Smith had excellent blocking downfield. No complaints here.

Coaching - Overall Grade: A
Offensive: B+
James Franklin put up a steady gameplan, and consistently had the Terps in a position to succeed. Chris Turner was given the opportunity to make some plays but never asked to do anything superhuman. The run-pass balance in play calling was good, and I won't fault him for the late reverse call to Heyward-Bey that could have resulted in a turnover. The only bone I have to pick with Franklin is his failure to get Heyward-Bey involved in the offense.
Defensive: A-
I'll put it this way: I am very very happy to see the Terps utilize multiple defensive looks. Sending four, five, even six. Throwing in a zone blitz here and there. Mixing zone and man. Did it work perfectly? No. But against a spread offense like Nevada's, there is no way a Chris Cosh defense could have contained Kaepernick nearly as effectively.

And for my MVP/LVP...
MVP (Most Valuable Player) - Da'Rel Scott - 174 yards and two touchdowns down the stretch speaks for itself. Da'Rel was brilliant in his return, and with the passing game having gone cold, the Terps were going to have to win or lose on his legs. He showed the mixture of vision, power, and breakaway speed that made him a top running back for most of this season.
LVP (Least Valuable Player) - Chris Turner - If you're looking for a Chris Turner apologist, it's best to look to some other blogger. Chris started the game brilliantly, throwing a perfect strike to Adrian Cannon for a 59-yard touchdown. However, he began to stumble early in the third quarter, and in typical fashion he could not compose himself in the slightest and nearly gave the game away. He is a very big part of the Terps' success, but just as much a part of their failure.

(Photo Credit:AP)

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