It's been a hectic week for ACC football; N.C. State upset FSU on Thursday, Virginia toppled Miami, Boston College beat Clemson, and UNC had to come back to sweat out a win over William and Mary. But Maryland not only avoided the upset bug against Wake Forest, they blew it out of the water.
The Terps dominated literally every facet of the game: they outgained the Demon Deacons 437 to 155; Danny O'Brien threw four touchdown passes; eight different players found the end zone; Maryland's defense returned two interceptions for touchdowns; heck, they even blocked two Wake Forest punts. All that combined for a dominant 62-14 win to raise the Terps to 6-2 and bowl eligibility.
Of course, that bowl eligibility thing is one of the big deals here, particularly just a year after going 2-10. They should've had a shot at it anyway, but I don't think a lot of people expected it and most certainly didn't expect it this early. So get ready for the EagleBank Bowl, or maybe something a little better.
Sure, they've beaten five teams that combine for an 11-19 record (plus Morgan State), and sure, they got easily handled against the only two truly good teams they've faced, but they played (and lost to) plenty of awful teams last year. This is progress. It might not be enough progress to save Ralph's job (more on that later, probably Monday) but it is progress.
But back to the game. The dominance Maryland played with was extraordinarily impressive. The 62 points Maryland put up equaled the total they scored on Morgan State; it's still the most since the Ford administration. Wake Forest isn't a great team, but there's no team in the ACC so bad that they'd be beaten this badly by another run-of-the-mill ACC squad. It says as much about where Wake stands as it does about Maryland, but it still says a lot about both. Wake Forest played below their capability today and not much went wrong for Maryland, but it was still mighty impressive.
Outside of a single, 85-yard, touchdown-scoring drive for Wake Forest late in the first quarter, Maryland's defense was outstanding. It's not like the Deacons were some kind of otherworldly offensive force here, but they did have their strengths, namely a running game that gutted Virginia Tech just two weeks ago. Star running back Josh Harris - that dude that ran for 241 on VT - was limited to 27 yards and QB Tanner Price was kept similarly in check. WF had a grand total of -3 rushing yards. Kenny Tate and Ryan Donohue both had a pick-six. Tate was fantastic, pitching in a sack, a PBU, a few timely tackles to go along with that pick-six.
Danny O'Brien continued his strong rookie year with a 3 TD performance in the first half, adding another early in the third quarter. He wasn't spectacular but had a few great throws, continued to show major poise, and was helped out by some great field position. His touchdown throw to Quintin McCree was a thing of beauty that showcased his field vision, patience, and arm strength, all of which are better than Maryland's since maybe the sophomore Chris Turner.
To top it off, the Terps also got their running game going again, which was a must after they've gone the past couple weeks without a ground game at all. Davin Meggett had 94 yards and a touchdown, and Da'Rel Scott pitched in 50 more. D.J. Adams came in during garbage time and actually looked great; he had 84 yards a TD, and I wouldn't be surprised if he started to steal some carries.
The losses of FSU earlier in the week and Clemson earlier today make Maryland a sleeper contender for the ACC title. Sure, you can say that Maryland's three ACC wins have come against the three worst teams in the ACC - and you'd be right - but they're essentially tied for first place with FSU and N.C. State thanks to their 3-1 conference record.
With both of those teams still on the schedule, Maryland weirdly controls their own destiny. The odds that Maryland stays in the chase for long is slim to none, but the win here gives them a fighter's chance. We'll know more when the Terps take on Miami next week, potentially on ABC.
As always, grades tomorrow.