Maryland suffered one of its most deflating losses in recent years on Saturday against Michigan. Here’s are our five observations from the game:
- Erratic quarterback play continues – The questionable quarterback play has been the story for Maryland this season. The Terrapins started out the 2015 campaign with Perry Hills at the helm. Hills lasted a little over seven quarters before coach Randy Edsall pulled the plug. Caleb Rowe was next in the line, and actually had a reasonable amount of success in Maryland’s victory over South Florida. However, Rowe was dreadful against West Virginia as he was intercepted four times. On Saturday against the Wolverines, he didn’t get off to a bad start. Despite a penalty on the opening kickoff, Rowe managed to lead the Terrapins up to the Michigan 46-yard line after a pair of completions to wide receiver Levern Jacobs and an 18-yard run by running back Brandon Ross. However, it was downhill from there. On every drive in the game, Maryland was either forced to punt or threw an interception. Rowe completed only eight of his 27 passes for 47 yards and three interceptions. After being unable to efficiently move the ball down the field, Rowe was replaced by Daxx Garman, who didn’t fare much better. Garman, who transferred from Oklahoma State in the offseason, only completed two of his nine passes for 29 yards. There were zero positives to take from the quarterback position in this game. Rowe made some horrific reads, and Garman didn’t fare much better. At times, it appears that Rowe is just a gunslinger that tries too hard to makes plays happen. It’s really a huge question mark as to where the Terps go from here. Garman and Rowe really haven’t had much success. The team showed shades of potential when Hills was running the offense. He’s done it over the course of a half of a season back in 2012. That may be where Edsall goes, but we may not find out who will start too much in advance of Saturday’s kickoff against Ohio State.
- Defense showed improvement – After a painful showing against West Virginia, Maryland’s defense rebounded against Michigan, despite what many may believe. Right out of the gate, the Terps really got after quarterback Jake Rudock. On Michigan’s first offensive series, Maryland forced the Wolverines to go three-and-out, including defensive end Yannick Ngakoue laying the boom on Rudock on the pass rush on a third down passing attempt. The Terps registered two sacks and five tackles-for-loss for a total of 21 lost yards. Linebacker Jermaine Carter continued his phenomenal as he accumulated eight tackles (six solo) and one tackle-for-loss. The Maryland defense also forced two fumbles on Michigan’s second and third drives. Defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson forced a fumble on fourth down, which was recovered by defensive end Roman Braglio. On the next drive, linebacker Jalen Brooks knocked the ball loose from running back Ty Isaac, and it was recovered by safety Sean Davis. The Terp defense really got after the Wolverines, and definitely had a chance to win this game if the offense was absolutely stagnant.
- Punting – Normally, the punter isn’t exactly the position that you should be nitpicking. However, Nicolas Pritchard hasn’t exactly been impressive to this point in the season. After Nathan Renfro elected to transfer to Tennessee in the offseason, the Terps suddenly had a big hole at punter. Pritchard ended up winning the job in training camp, and was looking to make an impact early in the season. Through five games, Pritchard is only averaging 38.6 yards-per-punt. Against Michigan, Pritchard punted 10 times for 360 yards, which was good for an average punt of only 36 yards. As a group, Maryland is 12th in the Big Ten in punting. Pritchard has been passed over when the Terps need to pooch punt the ball inside the 20-yard line. Edsall has instead enlisted kicker Brad Craddock for those duties. When you can’t trust your punter on a pooch punt, there’s an issue. Pritchard is young, so there is obviously plenty of time to improve, but it’s definitely concerning so far.
- Trouble on third down – It’s been discussed that the quarterback position is the main source of this offense’s issues. However, one of the biggest problems against Michigan was Maryland’s inability to convert on third down opportunities. On Saturday, the Terps were a mind-blowing 1-for-18 on third down attempts. Whether your quarterback is accurate or not, getting just one first down during the entire game is unacceptable. Maryland still has a strong running game with Ross and Wes Brown. If Edsall isn’t confident in his quarterback, set up in the shotgun and catch the opposing defense off-guard with a draw once in a while. A screen pass is another option, which takes very little quarterbacking ability to complete. If Maryland has more afternoons like this one, they may struggle to win any more games this season.
- Recruiting – This may be the worst takeaway of all from Saturday’s loss. From a recruiting standpoint, Edsall and his staff have done a solid job on the recruiting trail. Guys like Will Likely, Ngakoue, and Damian Prince all were recruiting victories for this staff. The 2016 class is looking very strong as it currently stands, but will it stay that way? After the Bowling Green loss, guys like Dwayne Haskins and Tino Ellis stated that their commitments were strong, and that they had no plans of decommiting. However, with back-to-back losses to West Virginia and Michigan, it’s not crazy to think that these high-profile recruits might start to reconsider coming to College Park. Haskins stands a good chance to start as a true freshman, but you just never know. If Haskins does end up staying with or without Edsall, it’ll say a lot about the quality of character in this young man. If Edsall doesn’t last past the regular season, it’ll certainly be a huge storyline to watch.