The Maryland Terrapins suffered their first defeat of the 2012 campaign last Saturday in a heartbreaking fashion to the UCONN Huskies at Byrd Stadium in College Park. The 24-21 loss was tough to swallow for many leaving Byrd on Saturday due to the final sequence of plays leading up to what turned out to be a desperation heave to the end zone that could not be reeled in by a Terps receiver. It was a tough loss but fortunately for the Terps they have the chance to avenge this past lost next weekend in a rivalry game against West Virginia. Before we bore on towards this weekend’s matchup against the Mountaineers let’s take one last look back at the UCONN game as I grade the Terrapins.
Quarterback: Perry Hills had a rough go of it on Saturday. Completing only 10-24 passes for a total of 109 yards will lead to those types of days happening for you more times than not. While the blame can’t fall squarely on the shoulders of Hills, as the offense as a whole had a performance to forget, if the Terrapins are going to compete against the likes of a West Virginia or the quality of team we will play in conference than Maryland will need to be better than it was against UCONN last Saturday. That begins with improved QB play out of Perry Hills, Maryland needs more out of him than 4.5 yards a completion to go along with one TD and one INT.
Running Back: Maryland had 6 different players credited with attempting a rush on Saturday. Of all the backs (and Perry Hills on QB keepers) it was clear that the most effective back was freshman Wes Brown. As a whole this unit rushed the ball 40 times for only 96 yards, 2.4 yards per carry isn’t going to wow anyone and doesn’t really do much to help you win games either. Wes Brown, as I said before, was the only bright spot last weekend. Of those 96 total yards the Terps rushed for, 74 came from Wes Brown on his 14 carries. Averaging 5.1 yards per carry and scoring your first touchdown will do wonders for Brown’s playing time as the year progresses.
Grades: Wes Brown – A; Every other RB – D
Wide Receiver: When your QB can only complete 10 passes on the afternoon there aren’t many opportunities for the wideouts to make plays for him in the passing game. Nonetheless there were a couple of positives I took away from watching this position work on Saturday against UCONN. Clearly, Stefon Diggs is the best playmaker we have on the outside, and potentially on the roster, and the Terps need to do whatever they can to get the ball in his hands as often as possible. Marcus Leak continues to step up for Maryland in the passing game as well. The sophomore from Charlotte, NC is tied with the aforementioned Diggs for the Terps lead in receptions with nine while leading Maryland in receiving yards through three games.
Offensive Line: Had the O-Line done a better job protecting Perry Hills from Yawin Smallwood maybe his stats would have been a bit more impressive than what we saw. Unfortunately, they didn’t. Smallwood wreaked havoc for the Terps offense all day long finishing with 14 tackles, 4 of which went for a loss, and 2.5 sacks. Smallwood basically did whatever he wanted to whenever he wanted to against the Maryland offense. Altogether, Maryland gave up 7 sacks to the UCONN defense making it hard for Perry Hills to have the time he needed to be an effective signal caller for the Terps on Saturday.
Defensive Line: The Maryland defensive front cause far fewer problems for the UCONN offensive line than the Huskies did the Terps. Maryland registered one sack (Which came from Hartsfield, a LB), and four total tackles for loss, on the afternoon while allowing UCONN to rush the ball 40 times for 153 yards. While the 3.8 yards per carry average isn’t bad, by comparison to the Terps first two games it is much higher than the rate Maryland had previously allowed against Temple and W&M. Pass rush needs to step up in a major way before they attempt to take on Geno Smith and the Mountaineers.
Grade: C –
Linebackers: Demetrius Hartsfield once again led this unit for the Terrapins. Hartsfield tied for the Maryland lead on Saturday with nine total tackles, five of which were of the solo variety. Fellow linebacker Cole Farrand chipped in with another nine tackles, six of which were solo, and one tackle for a loss. Alex Twine also added five tackles for the Terrapins linebacking corps rounding out what was a solid day for this particular unit.
Defensive Backs: Connecticut did not pass the ball much on Saturday, only attempting 17 throws. Of those 16 attempts the Huskies completed 11 for a total of 70 yards through the air. While the completion percentage for the Huskies QB’s leaves a little to be desired the Terps did not give up any big plays in the passing game. Matt Robinson made his return to the lineup for Maryland and did not disappoint leading all DB’s in tackles with six and Eric Franklin recovered a fumble for the Maryland DB’s. Next week will be a much tougher test for this group as they go against the scary duo of Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin.
Special Teams: The return game and the kicking game were vastly different against the Huskies on Saturday. Let’s start with the good part first, Stefon Diggs continues to be electrifying on punt and kickoff returns. With the 152 punt return yards he has amassed over his first three games as a Terp Diggs has already surpassed what Maryland did on punt return yards all of last season, in 2011 the Terps fielded 18 punts for a total of 95 return yards. Clearly, Diggs represents a significant boost to this aspect of Maryland’s game.
The kicking portion of the Terps special teams unit unfortunately did not have the same kind of success that Diggs did in the return game. Nathan Renfro punted seven times for Maryland on Saturday. Of those seven punts, one was returned for a touchdown. The rest of his six punts were fine, Renfro landed one punt inside of the UCONN 20 while sending another into the endzone for a touchback. On the day he averaged 42.1 yards per punt which is fine but the fact that one was ran back for a touchdown in a game decided by three points does not speak well for the Terrapins punt team.
Coaching: No matter what type of “coach-speak” that went on during the week leading up to this game this was a contest that Randy Edsall wanted to win badly. Anytime you go up against a former team/coach/employer in any type of battle you want to win. Unfortunately, the Terrapins couldn’t get that done for their head coach last Saturday. Fans have been rather candid with their thoughts of Edsall’s progress in College Park so far and a loss to UCONN last Saturday didn’t help temper some of those fans thoughts.
This loss wasn’t Edsall’s fault in my opinion; I am more so shifting the blame to the offensive play calling of Mike Locksley. There were many head scratching moves made by the Terrapins offense last Saturday but none were more egregious than the last drive of the game. I understand why the Terps were running clock so that were they to score UCONN would not have time to march down the field and answer with a TD or field goal of their own. However, I do have a major issue with the third down call where the play called for a blind throw back from Perry Hills to Kevin Dorsey that ended up losing Maryland four yards and a chance at attempting a game tying field goal. Maryland could’ve easily run that football to whatever hash Craddock prefers and then taken a timeout to give him a shot at forcing overtime. Instead, after the loss on third and long Maryland was forced to make a desperation prayer for the end zone that did not get answered.
We don’t know if Craddock would’ve made that field goal should the Terps not lost yardage on that throw back from Hills to Dorsey but we do know that he would’ve at least had a shot. Sometimes it’s better to be smart than cute with your play calling and hopefully after last Saturday’s loss Mike Locksley now realizes this.