So much for that whole “this team is lucky” spiel I went on last week. That was proved summarily incorrect by the disastrous loss against Wake Forest, 34-10, which saw Maryland pay back their luck debts with a whole lot of interest. Losing Deon Long and Stefon Diggs to season ending injuries for about ten months combined is about as unlucky as it gets, and Maryland — go figure — had it happen to them.
After last year, the Maryland faithful probably didn’t think it possible that this kind of thing would happen again. That it did is going to be trying for the program. Injuries were a major reason Maryland’s growth stagnated for the final six games of last year and for the Terps to come within a hair of reaching a bowl game only for it to occur once more might be a lot to fathom, or stomach.
Perhaps the worst part is that Clemson comes into town next week, probably equally as downtrodden because of the massive loss they just accrued at the hands of Florida State, the ACC’s resident juggernaut. They were dismantled much like the Terrapins, and with it came a dismantling of their national championship hopes, Tajh Boyd’s Heisman hopes, and most likely their shot at winning the ACC. They get a Maryland team that is equally as disheveled with a chance to exact damages on an pretty important date — homecoming.
But even if Maryland loses against Clemson, I actually don’t think all hope is lost. Onto my Monday musings…
QB: I am both a realist and a guy who likes to (sometimes) give others the benefit of the doubt, which is why I’m more than a little torn about CJ Brown. On one hand, part of me wants to believe that the reason Brown struggled so mightily against Wake Forest was because he was still suffering from mild concussion-like symptoms. These things happen, and perhaps he was rushed back too quickly. His two interceptions were horrible, and the offense just didn’t look any good with him under center. Edsall took him out of the game a little too late, and Maryland had dug too much of a hole to play the game as it should have been played, not at the pace dictated by a deficit.
On the other hand, CJ Brown has never been particularly incredible against ACC teams, and as much as I’d like to buy into the fact that there were some lingering concussion-like symptoms: isn’t there a baseline you test against to ensure a QB is back to his normal self following a concussion? If that’s the case, then the facts say Brown wasn’t suffering from concussion symptoms and it may just have been rust. Still, that doesn’t change the knowledge that, for his career, he’s thrown six touchdowns to eight interceptions (while also rushing for four).
Perhaps Brown’s style of play doesn’t translate particularly well to ACC play. After seeing Caleb Rowe play pretty well against Virginia, and ignite the offense (when it still had some decent options to throw to) after Brown left, it does make you wonder who will start next week. I’m not suggesting that Brown be benched, especially because he is the most mobile quarterback and probably best suited against Clemson. But the coaching staff has to be wondering to themselves what they’re going to get out of Brown from here on out.
RB: I don’t blame Brandon Ross for his 39 yards (on eight carries) last week, because the offense dug a hole that required abandoning the running game. But outside of his 15 yard run, Ross averaged 3.4 yards per carry on his other seven attempts. He may not have been the problem, but he wasn’t the solution and didn’t look as lethal as he did against Virginia (but then again Mike London has a tendency to do that).
Again though, I don’t think Ross is to blame here. The passing game was terrible, and when the passing game is bad the holes tend to close up for the running game. Wake’s defense was considerably more effective than people thought it would be, and without Long, their job was easier. Maryland’s offensive line (at least the right side) was devoured, and Ross was marginalized entirely.
He’s Maryland’s biggest threat on offense right now, though, so they have to hope he’s healthy. I have my doubts about what Albert Reid could do as an every down back, and Jacquille Veii looks like he needs more time before he can start demanding a lot of carries. If Ross is out for an extended period of time, the Maryland offense will be DOA.
WR: Let us ignore Deon Long and Stefon Diggs for now and talk about one guy — Levern Jacobs. I don’t want to jinx it, but Jacobs has been stepping up all year despite not seeing a whole lot of looks. His three receptions for 78 yards against Wake Forest were a testament to that. Jacobs also had a big game against Connecticut when Deon Long wasn’t at his best as well. His speed and willingness to go after catches could mean Maryland may still have another option to throw to.
Jacobs may not be a #1, but if he gets more targets (which he undoubtedly will), I have a feeling he can turn those into some big plays because of how fast he is. In the meantime, Nigel King has to get healthy in short order, because he did not look to be 100% against Wake Forest. King is a bit of a possession receiver too, which is a good thing to offset Jacobs big play tendency. If he and Levern Jacobs can join forces to become a Diggs-Long beta version, this team might not fall off a cliff offensively.
Defense: The defense has looked a lot worse (by the numbers) than it actually may be. First they got routed by Florida State which, in retrospect, is completely understandable given how good that team is. But they gave up over 500 yards against Virginia as well, which is not so good. Against Wake Forest, they were thrown to the dogs because of poor field position, but they didn’t look amazingly stellar either.
Injuries have given them very little depth at key positions, and I fear they may end up giving up a lot of points in the future because of injuries. The defense needs to get more from their linebacking corp, as the middle of the field has been wide open since Matt Robinson went out. The sooner he gets healthy, and the more experience the
reserves starters get, the quicker this team can get back to the middle and stop giving up so many points.
On another note, it’s hard not to be impressed with Will Likely and Yannick 2, even after both made boneheaded mistakes that resulted in touchdowns. These two are playing out of their minds for true freshman, so if you’re looking for a glimmer of hope, look at these two. Likely made an error in coverage in the red zone, but he did a relatively decent job covering one of the better receivers in the ACC. Yannick 2 has shown how strong he is in penetrating the offensive line, but he missed some assignments in the middle and is clearly still learning the position.