Saturday, September 19, 2009

Pregame: Maryland vs. Middle Tennessee State

Although it took a fourth quarter comeback plus an overtime period to do it, Maryland defeated James Madison last week 38-35 (OT) to get their first win of the season. The Terps now will have their third non-conference game against an opponent that they will remember all too well.

With Ralph Friedgen saying that Middle Tennessee State's match against Maryland was "their Rose Bowl" last year, he gave the Blue Raiders great bulletin board material. MTSU pulled off a big upset over Maryland in Murfreesboro 24-14, one of the worst losses in Friedgen's career. Now, the Blue Raiders return to College Park for the next game in the series.

The Maryland Terrapins (1-1) take on the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (1-1) in their third of four non-conference games. MTSU fell to ACC-opponent Clemson in their first game, but the team is considered a solid one in the Sun Belt. Their win came last week against Memphis. This is the fourth meeting of the team, and third in College Park: Maryland is 2-1 in the series, with the home team taking every contest.

Scouting the Competition: Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders

Middle Tennessee's offense is centered around junior quarterback Dwight Dasher (pictured). He lives up to his name, a solid scrambler who can pass and run well. Of the 151 offensive plays MTSU has run this season, he has thrown or run in 104 of them, combining for over 285 yards a game. He was the only starter on offense not to return from last year. The team likes to run a lot of no-huddle plays with many receivers.

Dasher's compatriots include the senior tailback Philip Tanner, who gets the ball near 10 times a contest. His WR corps include redshirt senior Patrick Honeycutt and redshirt sophomore Shane Blissard. But look for Dasher to be the playmaker all game.

On defense, the Blue Raiders have had to rely on some new players, but overall have proven effective thus far to their competition. Senior linebacker Cam Robinson has proven to be a strong player, getting four tackles for loss plus a sack. On the line, redshirt senior Chris McCoy had a big highlight against Clemson, returning a fumble 68 yards for a touchdown, also having a sack and three tackles for loss.

The possible X-factor could be kick returner, senior Desmond Gee, who is known as being dangerous.

Things to Look For:
1. How will the secondary do with their injuries?
The start of the season has not been good for the secondary which has seen its two most senior players go down with injury. Nolan Carroll is out for the season and Jamari McCollough is at least out one more game. The secondary was supposed to be the strength of the defense, however with both them out, this will cause major problems for the Terps today, especially with a quarterback that likes to run. This will put a lot of pressure on Kenny Tate and Cameron Crism, the two non-seniors in the unit, to perform well.

2. How will Chris Turner perform?
This sounds like a question we could ask every week, but the fact is it matters. Last time Turner faced the Blue Raiders he had a terrible night. Turner had a good rebound game against the Dukes last week, and the fact is his success determines the success of the offense.

3. Will the Terps remember last year? Last week?
Maryland has a problem of playing to their competition's level. This is fine against great teams, but when they face team they should defeat, often the game is much closer than it should be. MTSU is a solid squad, but Maryland is favored to win at home. Can Maryland remember what happens if they underestimate opponents? It happened last year, it nearly happened last week.

MTSU will be able to run the ball with Dasher, and they are a very capable team. I believe Maryland will at least do enough to win and take advantage of the inexperienced Blue Raider defense. It will be close, but I give the edge to the Terps due to home field and a reliable kicker.

Maryland 23, MTSU 21

(Photo credit: Baltimore Sun (Moten), (Dasher))

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