What: Maryland tries to send Ralph Friedgen out in style in the local bowl game against East Carolina
Where: RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.
Where to Watch: ESPN
Gameday Weather: 42 and sunny
In a Turtleshell
Maryland Offense vs. East Carolina Defense: This one isn't much of a fight. Maryland's offense isn't particularly dynamic - 63rd in passing, 94th in rushing, and 42nd in total points. But they're better than the stats indicate and have been coming together in recent weeks, particularly with the big numbers put up in the passing game against N.C. State and the demolition of Wake Forest.
Not, of course, that it really matters. DeMatha's offense would probably light up ECU, which has to be in the running for worst defense in the country. A statistical sampling of their terribleness:
- 118th in scoring defense
- 115th in rushing defense
- 108th in passing defense
- 104th in sacks
- 119th in 3rd down defense
- 120th in total defense - yes, that's dead last
Remember when Maryland gave up 14 to Navy? The Midshipmen dropped 76 on East Carolina. The Terrapins utterly destroyed Wake Forest earlier in the season, putting up 62; ECU is eight spots worse than WF in scoring defense.
This one won't be a battle. Maryland might put up 70.
East Carolina Offense vs. Maryland Defense: The thing that might save the game, then, is ECU's own ability to put up points. What with all the Mike Leach stuff floating around, it's worth noting that ECU's offense is extremely similar to Mike Leach's Air Raid. In fact, head cocach Ruffin McNeill - Leach's former DC at TTU - has borrowed many of Leach's former personnel to create the offense.
Unsurprisingly, it's a wide-open system that involves a lot of passing, a lot of yards, and a lot of points. Many of their numbers are Leach-esque: 12th in the nation in scoring, 7th in passing, 23rd in total offense, and 3687 yards for starting QB Dominique Davis, among a few other hefty numbers.
There is one big difference: unlike many of Leach's systems, which used slowfooted QBs, ECU has a mobile QB in Davis. He's run the ball 61 times with a 4.2 ypc average (when you take out the sacks) with 9 TDs. A spy will likely be necessary, and that adds another wrinkle to what was already a complicated scheme to defend.
There's a lot of depth in the passing game, with two top receivers: Dwayne Harris and Lance Lewis. Harris is smaller and quicker, while Lewis is more of a possession guy. They're both capable and have upwards of 80 receptions each, and with the Air Raid Maryland's cornerbacks will need to be on their toes.
That's another interesting dynamic: cornerback depth. Maryland will likely be without Dexter McDougle, who suffered a broken collarbone earlier in December. McDougle was Maryland's third corner, and their fourth, Avery Graham, has missed the past several games, too. Graham is expected to play, but he'll be rusty. The Air Raid often calls for as many as five wide receivers, and Maryland may occasionally dip to the dime. In that situation, Graham will play, as will one of Travis Hawkins, Eric Franklin, Matt Robinson, or Michael Carter, none of which have seen much playing time this year. Even Graham hasn't. The secondary will be an adventure.
Of course, ECU's strength passing the ball is worrisome for Maryland's defense, which has struggled at times defending the pass with a patchwork secondary. Luckily, they barely run the ball at all, which will let Maryland stack up against the pass a bit. They do run - and, in fact, they're better at it than Maryland - but they pass on a solid 60+% of their plays, which is a very high number.
All of this said, it's worth remembering that ECU hasn't exactly been playing in the Big Ten. Many of their opponents have sported terrible defenses, and the ones that haven't kept them in check. UCF, the nation's 18th best defense, allowed 35 points, but Virginia Tech - #39 - and UNC - #32 - held them to 27 and 17 points, respectively.
Keys in Cliches:
- Take advantage of ECU mistakes. The Pirates are 88th in the country in turnovers lost, while Maryland's 28th in turnovers gained. ECU can put up points, so any limited opportunities will be a big swing.
- Put up points. ECU: 120th in total defense. Enough said. Maryland should be able to put up enough points to run away with this one, regardless of anything else.
- Stay emotionally composed. It's the last game for a lot of players and, more importantly, for Ralph Friedgen. It could either bring the team together or be a huge distraction. Let's hope it's the first.
Players to Watch:
- Dwayne Harris, WR/KR, ECU: Harris is both the Pirates' leading receiver and their punt/kick returner, where he was First Team All-CUSA.
- Emanuel Davis, CB, ECU: A preseaon First Team All-CUSA selection, Davis's season hasn't gone according to plan. He'll have to be good to hope to stop Torrey Smith from dominating in Friedgen's (and possibly his own) final game.
- Da'Rel Scott, RB, Maryland: ECU is a terrible rushing defense, the worst that Maryland's faced this year. Sounds like a perfect time for Scott to go out in style himself.
- Cameron Chism, CB, Maryland: Chism's junior campaign has been rollercoaster for sure, but he'll need a steady game against one of the most prolific passing offenses in the country.
Prediction: It's a de facto senior day for many and Ralph Friedgen's final game against a team with no defense to speak of. Could it end any other way? Terps win, 52-35.