After the Morgan State game, I said you wouldn't see a better report card GPA all season. Really, the only to improve on that would be a similarly dominant performance against an even better team, and who that that would happen? This is Maryland football, after all.
Well, it happened.
QB: Take out the touchdowns and interceptions, and Danny O'Brien was average: 13-20 for 168 yards. He missed some throws, sometimes egregiously. He wasn't some paragon of QB perfection.
But put in the four touchdowns and zero interceptions, and it looks entirely different. That 4:0 ratio is as good as you can get as a QB. He missed a few throws, yeah, but he also threw some lazers. He showed poise in the pocket, clearly made his reads, and occasionally made a throw you didn't think he could make. I said it in the game recap: as far as QBs go, O'Brien's the best Maryland's had since at least sophomore Chris Turner, and maybe longer.
That's 13 TDs and 3 interceptions on the year for O'Brien. Take out the second half of the Clemson game, and it's 13:0. Oh, and he virtually didn't play in three games. If he started every game this year, he'd be closing in on Scott Milanovich's TD record - the same TD record that everyone thought wouldn't be broken because Maryland ran a variant of the Air Raid then. And yeah, it's his freshman year.
Anyway, what more can you ask for? The only mistakes he made were some mis-throws, but unlike past weeks he never came close to an interception or a truly bad decision. Four TDs, some of them great throws, is enough to make the grade great. A
RB: Finally. After saying that the running backs get little more than "incomplete" grades the past couple of weeks, they got enough carries and big enough holes to make something happen. Davin Meggett was the most impressive and led Maryland in both carries and yards, coming just 6 yards away from being just the third 100-yard rusher for Maryland all season. Da'Rel Scott didn't get enough carries for my taste and ended up with only 50 yards, but he had a super-impressive 19 yard run and looked much quicker than in weeks past.
Even D.J. Adams got in on the fun late in the game, scoring a touchdown and looking surprisingly great. The redshirt freshman hasn't played significantly all year, but got 16 carries for 84 yards yesterday. He's quicker than you'd think, identified holes well, and looked tough to tackle. He should start to steal some carries late in the year, and he'll be fine as Maryland's secondary back next year when Scott is gone.
Most of this is thanks to the offensive line, but give credit to Meggett, Scott, and Adams; they were smart enough to identify the holes and quick enough to hit them, and both broke at least a couple of tackles. The only real mistake on the day was Adams' fumble, but Devonte Campbell recovered it. A-
WR: This is the epitome of a solid group performance. Before the game, Torrey Smith said he had his burst back; I'm not really sure if that's true, but he did have a couple of nice grabs and an easy touchdown - he would've had another if Danny O hit him on target on Maryland's first drive. He doesn't look like a deep threat yet and he's still easily corralled on screens, but he's improving.
Elsewhere, it was just Maryland spreading the ball around. Quintin McCree got on the touchdown board with an amazing grab from 28 yards out. LaQuan Williams topped off what was a great day on special teams with a touchdown of his own. Kevin Dorsey had a few nice catches of his own, too.
It wasn't an amazing day for the wide outs (or the tight ends, for that matter, who were quiet), but they didn't drop any balls that stand out in my mind. For the most part, they did their job and did it admirably. B+
OL: Pete DeSouza's injury was devastating emotionally, no doubt about it. But whether it's inspired Maryland's offensive line or Paul Pinegar is simply a better tackle right now, Maryland's offensive line has seemed to improve the past two weeks. Yes, the two teams Maryland's played the past two weeks have week defensive fronts, but so did others of Maryland's opponents.
This was the first week in a long time that there weren't a ton of holding or procedural penalties, that Danny O'Brien consistently had time to throw, and that the running backs had room to run. It was poor opposition, surely, but it's a good day whenever Danny O'Brien goes through a game virtually untouched. They still might not be at the level Maryland needs yet, but they're getting close, and I can't think of a single way they could've improved against Wake Forest. A
DL: Maryland got a little lucky, because when they took a big lead early Wake Forest was forced to throw the ball. With a true freshman QB and a star running back, passing was their weak spot, but they really had no other choice. Maryland's defense did a good job to take advantage of it, occasionally pressuring Tanner Price and limiting the running options for Josh Harris.
Harris ran for 241 against Virginia Tech on just 20 carries (good for a 12 ypc average), but only totaled 27 yards on 10 carries against Maryland - that's a 2.7 ypc average. His longest run was 7 yards, and that was a touchdown. Maryland's defensive line did a great job of absorbing blockers and occasionally even getting into the backfield. A.J. Francis was probably the best player on the line: he had 3.5 tackles for loss totaling 20 total yards, and most of those were early, which allowed Maryland's DL to get some confidence.
The only real problem was an occasional lack of pressure on Price, though that was partially due to Don Brown dialing down the blitzes as time went on. When Price was pressured, he almost always made a mistake: a bad throw, a bad decision, or simply a sack. When he wasn't, he usually found his man pretty accurately. They were lucky that he was a young QB. Still, had this game been closer, I would imagine that there would've been more consistent blitzes and thus more consistent pressure. Anyway, the big achievement was limiting Harris. A-
Past that, the linebackers were much like the defensive line: not absolutely perfect, but what more are you going to ask for? They limited Harris well. They got pressure when they blitzed - the Wujciak and Demetrius Hartsfield blitz up the middle directly led to another pick-six. They were consistent in tackling and spread the field well against a very fast running back.
The only real problem, and it's somewhat substantial, came in coverage. Alex Wujciak got beaten in coverage early twice. Darin Drakeford, who was supposed to be better in coverage, got beaten twice himself. I don't know whether its schematic - it probably is, considering WR Michael Camparano was the guy that beat them two of the four times - but it continues to be a weakness for Maryland's 'backers. B
DB: Get the bad out of the way first: yes, Cameron Chism got beaten a few times (again) and unlike weeks past didn't have a few PBUs to boost the résumé. He got called for a questionable helmet-to-helmet hit that resulted in Wake's second TD. Dexter McDougle got burnt once or twice. Even Trenton Hughes missed an assignment.
The cornerbacks are
probably the weakness of this defense, and against a better QB and a better set of WRs, they would've had to pay. But give credit where it's due: McDougle came back with two great PBUs, Hughes made a grand total of one mistake, and even Chism had his moments of solid coverage.
I don't even know why I'm wasting my time writing about CBs when Antwine Perez and Kenny Tate still exist. Tate should be threatening for the Jim Thorpe Award this year and has the potential to leave early: he obviously has the talent and he's more than had the production. He had a pick-six yesterday, led Maryland in tackles, had a sack, broke up a pass, and made a tackle for loss. The only way that day could've gotten better would've been a forced fumble, which he did last week against Boston College. He's a star of a safety and, shockingly, underrated.
Meanwhile, Perez led Maryland in solo tackles and had a sack of his own. He wasn't as impactful as the BC game (duh - he can't force three turnovers every day) but he's a great complement to Tate and should be playing in the NFL next year; remember, he was a five-star out of HS.
The cornerbacks, namely Cameron Chism, might determine the success of this team down the road. It's not uncommon for him to get picked on or make mistakes, and that's surprising considering his past success. The talent of the safeties, though, will usually save this grade. B+
Special Teams: The kicking game needs to get fixed, and fast. Travis Baltz continues his above-average punting, but he's not as good as he was earlier in the year. Nick Ferrara is a major liability on kickoffs now: he couldn't get the ball past the 12-yard-line and Maryland eventually had to start squibbing it to avoid giving Wake short KOs. Squib kicks = bad things. I don't know if it's Ferrara's injury or what, but he needs to improve or Baltz or Ted Townsley need a shot.
Elsewhere, Maryland only returned three kickoffs, and they were uneventful. Wake also punted away from Tony Logan - that is, when they could actually get their punts off. The Terps blocked two Shane Popham punts - Popham hadn't had a punt blocked in his entire career prior to yesterday. One of them led to a FG; the other to a touchdown. One was a pure effort block by LaQuan Williams, who pitched in two more special teams tackles for a helmet-sticker day; the other was an unbelievable leap by walk-on Nick Peterson, who had another tackle of his own. The blocks were major tone-setters and led to 10 points; they were just as big as two long Tony Logan returns would've been. A-
Coaching: I was actually pleasantly surprised again. I saw a bit too much Jamarr Robinson early for the success Danny O'Brien had, but they used him in legitimately creative ways: he actually threw once and ran the triple option twice with moderate success. He's a dangerous runner and good at short throws, so it's nice to see the staff using him in that manner.
Tony Logan saw the field on offense (finally) and that was creative, too: Logan is also Maryland's third-string QB and was a QB in HS, so when Maryland's most dangerous player touches the ball, what does he do? Throw it deep. It didn't work this time, but it might in the future. It was good to see Logan touch the ball in any capacity.
Playcalling was balanced, and the staff stuck with the running game all day (finally). Defensively, Don Brown made a few mistakes - linebackers have to drop into coverage occasionally, but is there any way to put them against slower players? - but ultimately called blitzes at the right time and in the right ways. That Wujciak/Hartsfield blitz where Tate moved up near the line of scrimmage to take away the hot read was beautiful and worked perfectly. They were playing against an inexperienced offense, and took advantage of it. B+
- Danny O'Brien, QB: 4 TDs, no interceptions. Nuff said.
- Kenny Tate, S: Pick-six, pass break-up, tackle for loss, sack, led Maryland in total tackles. Literally all over the field and might be the best player on the team.
- LaQuan Williams, WR: LaQuan will always have a soft spot in my heart for that Rutgers catch; he made his name well-known today with another TD, two special teams tackles, and a big blocked punt.
- Davin Meggett, RB: Meggett just barely edges out Nick Peterson, who had the other blocked punt, and I want the two to split it in a way. But Meggett led a Maryland rushing attack that looked good for the first time in a long time.