Costly turnovers and a solid MTSU quarterback gave the Blue Raiders the win. Three times a Maryland turnover put MTSU inside the Maryland 40, which resulted in 17 points, then Maryland played poor defense to allow the Blue Raiders to drive down the field and get two scoring drives in the fourth quarter. Even with all the turnover issues in the game, the Terps had a chance to stop the Blue Raiders from driving down the field on the MTSU 25 with 1:30 left, and they could not do it.
Chances are Maryland will never play Middle Tennessee State again, so the series will sit at 2-2 forever. The Terps fall to 1-2 with zero wins against FBS opponents.
Offense - Overall Grade: B-
This game was not Chris Turner's fault; he played very well today. He had two great passes that resulted in long touchdowns for Torrey Smith and had 288 yards in the air today. His lone interception was not his fault, a ball kicked off Davin Meggett's legs. Jamarr Robinson was in for all of one play and fumbled the ball to MTSU, lowering the overall grade of the QBs.
Running Backs: D+
On the one hand, Da'Rel Scott was money when holding onto the ball, getting through small holes and bursting for big yardage. He ended with 141 yards and a score. The problem was his two very costly fumbles that put MTSU in Maryland territory twice. Plus, Davin Meggett was all right catching the ball, but his lack of production running the ball forced the Terps offense to be one-dimensional.
Wide Receivers: B-
Torrey Smith was excellent yet again, catching five passes for 165 yards and two scores, with both touchdowns being over 35 yards and beating one-on-one coverage. Other than him, the corps did not get open enough against the secondary.
Tight Ends: B-
Tommy Galt had two catches, nothing special from the unit.
Offensive Line: B-
Even though the unit is inexperienced, a lot of pressure was placed on them, and they did not hold up too badly. Enough holes were given to allow Scott to run well plus Turner had ample time in the pocket. Not a great day, but probably the best game from them thus far this season. Most of what happened was more to blame on coaching than the players.
Defense - Overall Grade: C-
Defensive Line: C
Some of the play was not bad, including getting solid pressure on Dwight Dasher and causing him problems, sacking him four times. But when it mattered the unit folded, including an offsides call on a 4th and inches on D.J. Francis and in the fourth quarter the unit was easily beaten. Dasher had their number when it counted. Travis Ivey did have a fumble recovery.
It is hard to put a grade on this unit. The rushers of MTSU did not do much at all, and often Alex Wujciak and Adrian Moten were making big tackles, including playing well on the blitz. But they could not catch up to Dasher when he ran plus the final fourth quarter drive was not played well. Then again, it is hard to defend when turnovers force them to play from Maryland territory immediately.
I understand Carroll and McCollough are out, but Maryland's secondary looked non-existent for most of the game. Cameron Chism, the replacement at corner, seemed like the only solid player of the unit, intercepting two passes, but his missed coverage in the fourth caused MTSU is get in field goal range. But the middle of the field looked open most of the time and Dasher could easily find targets. Kenny Tate falling down near the end zone also allowed a pass close to the goal line.
Special Teams - Overall Grade: B
Not a good day for Nick Ferrera, missing two of three field goals; one by block, one by missing. Even though the snaps were bad, Baltz got them down correctly so Ferrera should have had them. He did convert all four extra point attempts.
Very solid punting by Travis Baltz, averaging over 40 yards per attempt. He also did a good job at setting the ball on kicking attempt despite some high snaps.
Average day, Torrey Smith averaged about 18 yards a return on kickoffs, Kenny Tate had a few yards. Nothing special, nothing tragic. Tate needs to be careful, he caught a ball with three around him and did not call fair catch, but it did not result in anything terrible.
Again, nothing special, nothing tragic. Desmond Gee, known as a skillful returner, was just average today. Blocked an extra point at least.
Coaching - Overall Grade: D-
Note: This is where I put most of the blame for today's loss. The players messed up some, but the coaches once again did poorly on their gameplan.
I do not blame James Franklin for the turnovers, but I do blame him for being obvious and not smart on playcalling, again. He must have believed Scott lost his confidence, because using Meggett as your every down back in the fourth quarter was a terrible decision. Scott may have had two turnovers, but after that happened, you think he'll do it again? If anything he'll hold on tighter! He was ripping up the defense, put in your best back of the game in the 4th quarter. The old routine continues, constantly putting in Jamarr Robinson to run, calling a play action on first down on the final drive in MTSU territory, and running the same routine plays. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I hope he gets a lot better before he is the head coach.
Before the fourth quarter, it is hard to put a lot of blame on Don Brown, because MTSU's scoring drives often came off of turnovers that put them in Maryland territory. But in the fourth quarter Maryland stopped blitzing, especially on the final drive, and got away from what was working. Blitzing was clearly throwing Dasher off, or at least forcing him to make a decision. But giving him time with a banged up secondary caused him to have easy access to his receivers. And on the final drive, playing everyone but the D-Line back was a terrible call, and Maryland paid the price for it.
MVP: Torrey Smith
Tough call between him and Turner, but I go with Smith. He was by far the biggest playmaker with five catches for 165 yards and two scores. He was the only threatening wide receiver Maryland had all game.
LVP: A.J. Francis
I can't choose a coach, so I go with Francis. He was not effective on the line plus committed a false start penalty that gave MTSU a first down on a 4th and inches. Scott is close, but he had a lot of rushing yards despite his two fumbles.
If Maryland wants to be a great program, then they need to take care of business in games like these. Middle Tennessee State is a good team, but Maryland should have had the win today. The Terps will have their final non-conference game against Rutgers next week.
(Photo credit: AP)