Saturday’s gut wrenching 20-18 loss to the Wolfpack of N.C. State is one that will surely leave a bitter taste in the mouths of all Maryland fans for quite some time. Like every week there were positives as well as negatives in the Terrapins performance. I will break it all down for you in this week’s edition of “Grading the Terrapins”.
This is clearly a tough one to really grade as most weeks you don’t see all three quarterbacks on the roster taking snaps. Unfortunately, starting QB Perry Hills injured his knee trying to make a play on an interception return for a touchdown that ended up being called due to a penalty on N.C. State. That play ended Hills day, and after the results of his MRI were announced this afternoon it has officially ended his freshman season as he has a torn ACL according to Coach Edsall. Hills finished the game 12/20 for 159 yards and that one interception.
Devin Burns came in after Hills injury and played better than anyone could have asked for, the Terps rushing attack exploded in the second half much to the help of Burns efforts running the read option. He ran it 12 times for 50 yards and a touchdown on a nice naked bootleg call inside the two yard line. When given the opportunity, Burns showed he could be effective in short passing situations as well once State overcommitted to stopping the run finishing the day 3/4 through the air for 47 yards.
Finally, we come to Caleb Rowe. Rowe’s redshirt was “burned” on the last drive of the game as Maryland found themselves down by two with only 32 seconds and one timeout to work with. Of the two remaining QB’s on the roster after Hills injury Rowe is clearly the more polished passer. Rowe marched the Terps down inside the N.C. State 15 yard line in three plays and set up Maryland for what could have been the game winning field goal. We all know what happened after the long completion Rowe made to Nigel King but the fact we know that we have two very capable options at QB with Hills done for the rest of the season has to be reassuring for Maryland fans.
Running Back: B+
If missing the UVA game put doubt in anyone’s mind that Wes Brown is the best option going forward at RB for this Maryland team that was put to rest in the second half on Saturday. Brown finished the day with 25 carries for 121 yards and a touchdown, his first game as a Terrapin where he hit the century mark on the ground. The combination of Brown and Burns in the second half gave the Wolfpack defense fits. On the day, Maryland rushed for a season high 206 yards. The only reason this group did not receive an A for their efforts was a costly fumble by Brown late in the fourth quarter that allowed N.C. State to attempt, and make, what proved to be the game winning FG. Brown will bounce back as all good players do, and in Wes we absolutely have a RB capable of carrying the load.
Wide Receivers: A
The wide receiving corps had a great game on Saturday as a unit they hauled in 17 receptions for 256 yards providing enough balance to the offense to allow the running game to be as effective as it was during the second half. The two standouts, as have been the case on many Saturdays this season, were Marcus Leak and Stefon Diggs. Leak finished the day with four receptions for 94 yards the greatest of which was a 47 yard grab on a throw from Perry Hills early in the game.
Stefon Diggs continued his impressive freshman campaign with another solid game on Saturday. Finishing the game leading the Terps in receptions with six grabs for a total of 61 yards it is hard to not be pleased with the freshman’s effort. For some reason, however, Diggs did not get one touch during the second half. While much of this can be attributed to the change in offensive philosophy with Devin Burns in the game the coaching staff needs to find ways to get the Terps most electrifying player the ball in space.
Offensive Line: C
As well as the O-Line seemed to run block in the second half against N.C. State they were equally as horrendous while pass blocking. The Wolfpack finished Saturday’s game with 6 sacks and 10 tackles for loss. As bad as the pass protection was, the run blocking was the polar opposite. For the first time since last November against Wake Forest, with C.J. Brown leading the way, the Terrapins rushed for over 200 yards in a game. With uncertainty clouding the QB position from here on out the O-Line and their coaches will have their work cut out for them as they prepare for the Boston College Eagles this weekend.
Defensive Line: B
The Maryland defensive front had a good, but not great, day on Saturday against Mike Glennon and the N.C. State offense. N.C. State, simply put, could not move the ball on the ground against the Terrapins. They accumulated 40 total yards on the ground off of 26 attempts to the tune of 1.5 yards per rush. The Terrapins D-Line made life as hectic as it could be for Mike Glennon in a game where he threw for 300+ yards. Glennon faced pressure a lot of the day contributing to a sub 50% completion rate for one of the leagues more respected signal callers. Joe Vellano led all members of the defensive front with 0.5 sacks and 10 total tackles on the day.
Echoing the statement I made about the defensive line, the Maryland linebacking corps played an intricate role in the Terps ability to render the Wolfpack rushing offense ineffective on the afternoon. The unit was once again led by senior Demetrius Hartsfield and his 13 total tackles on the afternoon. Darin Drakeford pitched in by leading the Terps with 1.5 sacks and six total tackles as well. Terps fans are still waiting on senior Kenneth Tate to have a break out game as he is still coming back from a knee injury that forced him to miss time earlier on in the year, if he can get back to full strength by the end of the year this will make for an even more formidable group.
The secondary had a rough go of it against one of the more highly touted quarterbacks the ACC has to offer on Saturday. Despite being held to a shade under 50% passing on the day Mike Glennon still managed to torch the Maryland secondary for 307 yards on 23 completions. Despite making some nice plays late to hold State to a go-ahead field goal attempt there were enough miscues by the unit over the course of the afternoon to allow for big plays that ultimately led to N.C. State scores. This is something that the secondary will need to fix before dates against offenses with big play potential like Florida State and Clemson.
Special Teams: D
I am not going to be the person who pegs this loss squarely on the shoulders of freshman kicker Brad Craddock because I am of the belief that it is the sum of the parts that leads you to any result. Was the missed extra point in the third quarter and the missed field goal towards the end of regulation crushing blows? Without a doubt they were, that alone didn’t lose the game for the Terps however. While Craddock is largely getting a pass on this, as there really are no other options at K, he does need to get it together out there. In seven games he has missed five field goals and two extra points. The fact that three of his five field goal misses have come from within 40 yards is troublesome and is something he will need to figure out if he wants to keep a hold of this job for the Terps.
No one said it would be easy for Randy Edsall to build a winner this year after losing incumbent QB C.J. Brown to a torn acl in preseason camp. The football God’s apparently thought it was going too easy for the Terps so far and decided to cast another blow with Perry Hills season ending injury. The coaching staff had to scrap their offensive gameplan and employ an option attack that better played to Devin Burns strengths as a runner.
Many people have been hard on Edsall since he arrived in College Park, it is my belief that the rest of this season will show us just how good of a coach we actually have here. This team still has a shot at bowl eligibility and has been improving from week to week despite seemingly having some of the worst luck of any program in the country. He won’t receive the accolades because of what David Cutcliffe has been doing at Duke but I think you would be hard pressed to find a coach in the country that has been able to do the job Edsall and his staff have done after losing their top two options at QB.