Maryland Uses Big Plays To Top Duke in Terps' ACC Opener, 21-16

It was rarely pretty, but the Maryland Terrapins can't complain about the final result: at the end of the day, the Terps used a three yard Davin Meggett touchdown run, a 71-yard Da'Rel Scott touchdown reception, and a game-changing 84-yard Tony Logan touchdown punt return to top the Duke Blue Devils in their ACC opener, 21-16. And now, Maryland's 4-1 just one year after they went 2-10.

I'll be frank: this wasn't a game Maryland deserved to win. The first half was one of the worst halves of football I've seen in a long time; Maryland was apathetic and emotionless, couldn't produce on offense and couldn't stop Duke on defense. Duke drove deep into Maryland territory four times in the first half, and got just nine points out of it; three times Maryland forced a field goal, and the other time Antwine Perez intercepted a pass at the goal line.

Maryland ended up going 80 yards after Perez's interception, thanks in part to a 44-yard pass to Torrey Smith and a 3rd down roughing the passer penalty, and Meggett punched in a 3-yard touchdown at the end of the first half. By some miracle, Maryland went into the half at just a 9-7 deficit; a better team would've had Maryland in a 24-0 hole.

But Duke wasn't a better team, and Maryland's second half was wildly improved from their first.

The biggest difference was Maryland's defense, which forced Duke to punt on all of their second half possessions and allowed just 4 first downs until Duke's final two drives.

It was Tony Logan, though, who made the first real tangible change and created the game's turning point: he housed an 84-yard punt return. Nothing really was the same after that; Maryland finally played with some purpose and emotion. That's his second straight week with a punt return TD, and he's looking suspiciously like a Devin Hester/Dante Hall type of punt return star. His speed, acceleration, and field vision are all top-notch, and the regularity with which he makes magic happens is just uncanny. He's a real talent.

That gave Maryland a 14-9 lead early in the third quarter; that was the score until early in the fourth, when Danny O'Brien checked down to Da'Rel Scott out of the backfield, who proceeded to break two tackles and race 71 yards into the end zone to Maryland a lead of 21-9. Duke had a long, touchdown-scoring drive late in the fourth to give the final margin of 21-16, but couldn't score on their next drive, and Maryland left with a win.

Don't let all the positives fool you, though; there are some serious underlying problems here. Elon put up more points on Duke than Maryland did. Danny O'Brien looked mediocre in his second game, and not like the pre-ordained star he seemed against Morgan and FIU. Maryland had exactly two sustained drives: for one, over half of the yardage came from a Duke penalty and a Torrey Smith reception; for the other, they got no points. Without two 70+ yard plays, one of which Maryland's offense didn't touch, Maryland doesn't come close to winning this game.

And defensively, Maryland had pretty much one solid quarter, which is traditionally difficult for Duke; they've only scored 3 points in the 3rd quarter all year. Maryland's defense couldn't come up with a stop until they absolutely had to, and as I already referred to, Duke should've been up by 20, not 2, at half.

But doubts are for later. Maryland got a win and sits at 4-1. After going 2-10, that can't be overlooked. Two more wins and this team's headed to bowl, and there's no hating on that. We'll get to everything else later; for now, enjoy the win.

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