The game was a story of halves. For one, Maryland was fine. For the other, they couldn't move the ball. Can't win ACC championships like that.
Luck does not get a grade in this report card, you'll be happy to know.
Danny O'Brien: He threw two unusual interceptions, but one of them was understandable and the other wasn't actually an interception. On the final interception, FSU brought a lot of pressure at the right time and Maryland's line and the line just couldn't hold them off. DOB knew the options were take a sack or see what happens if he threw it up for grabs, and he (smartly) took the latter choice.
Danny wasn't outstanding, but part of that was because he was so limited in his ability to throw the ball down the field. He ended up with almost 270 yards and threw the ball 45 times. Of those 45, I remember only 5 truly bad throws, and that's a pretty good ratio for a freshman. I'm not fawning over his performance, but there's nothing to criticize about it, either. This isn't the game that makes me say this statement, but it is the one that confirms it: for as long as O'Brien's at Maryland, he'll be the star of the team. (And when you consider that Tyrod Taylor, Russell Wilson, Kyle Parker, Christian Ponder, Josh Nesbitt, and T.J. Yates will all (likely) be gone next year, Danny might be all-conference next year). B+
The Running Backs: Where has that been all year? Da'Rel Scott got popped early and came back with a vengeance later, rushing for 87 yards on 10 carries. He was running harder than any of Maryland's three backs have run all year and finally looked like the DRS of sophomore year. Davin Meggett was just as effective himself, with 72 yards on 11 carries. Both looked determined, hit their holes decisively, and broke multiple tackles. Throw in D.J. Adams and the bunch rushed for 171 yards on 6.6 yards per carry. Without a doubt, the best running performance all year. A
The Offensive Line: This one jumps up because it's so related to the above two. Let's be clear here: Florida State's defensive line had been manhandled the past couple of weeks, so this isn't a new phenomenon for them. It is, however, a new phenomenon for Maryland's offensive line, which had previously been the cure-all for all struggling d-lines. Instead, Maryland's scrappy, injured bunch ended up doing pretty well for themselves, opening up holes for the running back and more often than not protecting O'Brien.
The running game was helped out by a lot of misdirection, but the line did a nice enough job of holding their blocks and giving the running backs some room to run. On the passing game, Florida State was the best pass-rushing team in the country, with nearly 4 sacks a game. Maryland held them to 2, and O'Brien was rarely forced out of the pocket. Very effective performance for an embattled group. B+
The Wide Receivers: I know I said it wasn't going to be unit-by-unit, and so far it is. Sorry about that, but there wasn't any performance to single out here. Good enough, but the short passes kept anyone from shining. Will Yeatman and Adrian Cannon both had drops that hurt. Other than that, fine performance with no real complaints, but nothing to write home about, either. I'll take it. B
Trickery: Here's the situation: you're down 10-3 at the end of the first quarter driving with the ball at the 7. It's 4th and 1. You can: a) try a QB sneak, b) put in your massive semi-Maryland I set, featuring 350-pound wrecking ball Zach Kerr at FB, or c) try one of the ballsiest trick plays ever.
Ralph Friedgen and James Franklin went with c), of course.
Maryland comes out in a single back set. O'Brien turns toward the sideline shouting and waving his arms; obviously, I, and presumably everyone else, thinks they messed something up and are about to burn a TO. Then the center snaps the ball directly to D.J. Adams, who takes it off-tackle and just barely gets the first down. Shockingly, the play didn't fool the FSU defense, but props for having the guts to call it, especially in the light of everything else that happened later in the game. A
Front Seven: No real star of this group, but everyone did what they needed to do. With the exception of one running play where Maryland guessed massively wrong, they held the Noles' running game to 81 yards on 29 carries. Nothing to complain about there. They had trouble getting to Ponder consistently, but they forced him out of the pocket a few times and did pick up 3 sacks.
They weren't outstanding, but they were certainly good enough to win this game. B+
Alex Wujciak: I'm not a Wuj guy, but count me in on his performance yesterday. Instead of jumping on top of a thousand piles, he led Maryland in tackles - both total and solo! - and was quiet but efficient. Basically, he's what I loved about Wuj before he went mainstream, announcers started to fawn over him, and is biggest asset became jumping on piles. Great performance at the end of a very good career. A-
Kenny Tate: For as much as I dislike Mike Patrick and Craig James, I can't blame them for loving Kenny Tate. After all, who wouldn't? Now, is he a faster Taylor Mays? I'm not sure about that, but I won't deny it, either.
Tate continued his outstanding breakout year with seven tackles, two TFL, and an interception that set up a Maryland field goal. He continuously displayed his mixture of athleticism and strength, and it's pretty clear that he would fit in just fine in the NFL if he makes the jump. If he doesn't, he'll be a frontrunner to win the Thorpe Award next year. He's the best player on the team. A
Cameron Chism: I give Chizz a lot of hate. I do it out of love, of course, but he's had a rough couple of games. And I can't express how bad I feel for him after the Florida State game.
He came out firing yesterday, with two PBUs and a big tackle for loss early on. Then he forced a fumble. And recovered it. And he was generally able to keep the ball off his side of the field. He did get beaten on the Bert Reed touchdown, but Eric Franklin wasn't supposed to fall down and let Reed run for another 40 yards. All in all, it was a pretty nice day at the office after a really bad year.
Until a punt hit him, unsuspecting, square in the back and bounced right into the hands of a Florida State gunner. This has been the season of death for Cam, but this one wasn't really his fault. He needs to be aware on punt returns, but 95% of the time he's not paying for that mistake and no one even knows about it. Were this anyone else, I'd probably fault them. With Cam, I'm wondering if he's been cursed. B
Travis Baltz: 3-3 on FGs, 2 punts inside the 20. Wish those punts would've been closer to the goal line instead of at the 19, but it's better than a touchback. No complaints. A-
Torrey Smith on Kickoff Returns: Why is he still back there? He's broken all the records he's going to break, and at this point all he's giving Maryland is the worst kick return unit in college football. For the record, I'm not hating: he didn't magically become worse at returning kicks. But either the ankle injury got into his head or the blocking isn't good enough, and either way it's hurting Maryland. What I'm saying is that there's way too much risk for him to be out there. He's Maryland's most dangerous player, and sticking him out there is risking his health for average returns. He's too important to this team to do that. C
Fridgenfranklinstein: For one half, great. For the other half....um, what?
More than anything else, this game came down to Maryland's inability to score in the second half. They only picked up 3 points, and that was on the Tate interception that set them up with good field position. Sorry, but bubble screen after bubble screen, despite Torrey Smith having man-to-man coverage, isn't the way to go. It's almost like they were playing not to lose even though the score was tied.
Florida State's defense made adjustments. Maryland's offense didn't. There weren't a lot of individual "huh?" playcalls (though I'm kind of wondering what's with running the ball on 1st and 10 at the FSU 22 with a minute to go), but the entire strategy deserves some questioning based on the results it didn't produce. 3 points and only one drive upwards of 50 yards isn't going to win the ACC championship.
For the record, no, I'm not giving a lot of credit for this team being ready to go, like they were last FSU game or the West Virginia game. This was a blackout with a (relatively) full house at night for the ACC championship at home against Florida State. If they weren't ready to go, there would be hell to pay.
All that said, I've seen a lot worse from the two. For at least one half, things were okay. For the other half, uh, not so much. C+
Referees: Bad game all-around. Missed call after missed call. The biggest one happened to go against Maryland - the unnecessary roughness on the Scott destruction was the right call, so props on that - but there needs to be some serious talks with these guys. Heck, that call alone would warrant it. The ball hit the ground and it was obvious. D
The Fans: Announced attendance of around 48,000. Not as good as it could've been, but pretty good for a Maryland team that isn't nationally relevant. The blackout was a success, too. Lots of black in that stadium, even outside of the student section. Good showing, all. Expecting better for next year, but I'm satisfied. Now, the lack of timely noise (you have the ability to affect momentum! you really do!) is another matter altogether. We aren't Oregon fans, I guess. Still better to be there than to not. B+
The Jerseys/Helmets: There were a lot of mixed reactions, but I personally loved them. The black/mega-dark red helmets were awesome (maybe throw a red helmet strip on those babies) and should be broken out for future big games. The jersey templates were clean more than anything else (imagine them without the game and you'll get a good idea) and I'm a sucker for clean templates. They cut down a little on the random piping and it looks better because of it, especially in black. Big fan of the shoulder numerals, too. Those always look cool.
Take out the camo and replace it with a red or white panel and/or the very light turtle shell overlay from the basketball unis and you've got a winner in all three colors. Actually, you can see the turtle shell pattern forming as a branding opportunity: basketball is going to be better than expected this year and probably next (and the recruiting has seriously picked up there) and the football team has a ton of potential next year. Like, winning the ACC potential. Meanwhile, soccer is soccer and baseball is on the way up. The next few years can be very good for Maryland sports, and that pattern might become very recognizable. B+
- Danny O'Brien, QB: Danny's the guy for good. Statline would've been a lot prettier without the two interceptions, but they are what they are.
- Kenny Tate, S: Tate may not be a faster Taylor Mays, Mike Patrick, but he is good. Actually, he might be a faster Taylor Mays. Maybe Eric Berry with better hands.
- Travis Baltz, K/P: Did his job and did it well. Nothing more to say.
- Da'Rel Scott, RB: His final two seasons weren't what they should've been, and I feel bad for him for that. But he played great yesterday. Heartwarming.