Recap is here. You know the drill: good, bad, average, four standout performances, and then a player of the game poll. Big thought of the day: the offense was terrible, but Maryland went to the #13 team in the country, an undefeated squad with the best offense in the country, their first road game of the year ... and they lost by less than a possession. The offensive execution was terrible, but things could be a lot worse; Chicken Little time is not right now.
Todd Bradford and the Maryland defense. That's right, he's earned his Ds back. Despite facing the best offense in the country on their own turf, missing their most talented player in Kenny Tate, and losing starting linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield halfway through the game, Maryland's D played great. Sure, they got a little lucky with the drops, but they limited an offense averaging 600 yards and 60 points a game to 386 yards and 21 points, 14 of which came on a short field. That's a darn good performance.
Think about it: an offense thought to be unstoppable was stopped, and by a unit missing all three of its linebackers, both of its defensive ends, one of its defensive tackles, and one of its safeties. It was a gutty, stout performance, the likes of which we haven't seen out of this group until now. If this is the true Maryland defense - and, in truth, there's a good chance it isn't - then this team's ceiling is higher than we've previously considered.
Joe Vellano. Here's a mind-bender for you: Vellano had 20 tackles yesterday, 14 of which were unassisted. No, really. I've never seen those kind of numbers out of a DT before. He was a rock in the middle, which is important given how many dives Tech does, and he deserves to start getting some NFL chatter. He's replaced Kenny Tate as the defense's best player, and just makes plays. Big time defensive tackle.
A.J. Francis. Until now, Franchyze has been operating in purgatory under the Edsall regime, being passed over by redshirt freshman Andre Monroe (who proved he deserved to start) and converted offensive lineman Maurice Hampton (who was more questionable). Francis was big today, though, with 9 tackles of his own plus a batted pass. He and Vellano are likely to form quite the combo in the middle the rest of the year, and things will get even better when Monroe returns.
The linebacker fill-ins. Is Mario Rowson good enough at STAR to move Kenny Tate back to safety? I think so. Tate, who dressed but didn't play due to injury, has struggled there; Rowson missed his share of tackles, as everyone else did, but also made multiple crucial downfield stops, many of them in the open field. Same goes for Alex Twine, forced into action by Hartsfield's injury, who made a critical stop on Tech's second-to-last drive that gave Maryland a chance.
Davin Meggett. Maryland's best player on offense. Meggett still lacks breakaway speed, but he's so tough and physical that you can't help but feel good when he gets the ball. Negative plays are rare when he gets it, and if he gets a hole he's a good bet to get a solid chunk of yards, not to mention that he's one of those guys who falls forward, not backward. He's getting better at picking holes and getting up the field instead of stretching plays out, too. He ended up with 86 yards on 18 carries, but he needs to be getting the ball at least 25 times a game.
C.J. Brown, the runner. I don't know if Brown will win the starting job, but even if he doesn't he's solidified his place as a mainstay in Maryland's offense. If nothing else, he'll be a Wildcat QB, running zone reads and option pitches to change the pace. His speed is better than advertised (oh, and it was pretty heavily advertised) and he blazed through a fast Georgia Tech defense for 77 yards. His decisions on the read options are, for the most part, pretty wise. I've seen people describe his 77-yarder as "lucky" and "a fluke", which is just wrong: he made the right read on the option, and then had the speed (and blocking) to properly execute it. When that happens, that's the result. Given that the future of this offense is in the running game, and he's the running quarterback, he's here to stay in some capacity.
Tony Logan. Caught a punt no one else would've dared to catch and got five yards out of it. More importantly, though, he threw a 34 yard pass and kickstarted the Maryland offense. Awesome.
Nick Ferrara. Knocked home a field goal that was tipped, averaged 45 yards per punt, had a touchback on a kickoff, and had a kick downed inside the 5. Considering he does everything kick-related, he's been quite impressive this year.
Resiliency and discipline. These are cliched coach-y words, but I'm going to use them nonetheless. This team gave up during the Temple game, but this is the second gutsy comeback of the year, and that says something about the make-up of the team. Meanwhile, Maryland got called for only a single penalty, a false start; they couldn't afford to shoot themselves in the foot today, and they didn't.
Gary Crowton's playcalling and offense. Or, excuse me, Crwtn. Let's start off with the incredibly backwards idea that O'Brien, the pro-style QB, was forced to run a spread for four weeks, and then when they finally bring in Brown, the spread QB, they run a pro-style that his him under center and handing the ball off. It took an entire quarter of him under center for them to realize he should be in the shotgun, doing the things that Danny was doing weeks ago. It makes no sense, and I harped on it several times in the GameThread.
With that out of the way, now let's take a gander at the myriad terrible playcalls: throwing the ball four times with the ball at the 8-yard-line; throwing a back-shoulder fade on 3rd and goal at the one; throwing whatever that final pass was that ended Maryland's final drive. You'll notice the common word: "throwing." In fact, none of those playcalls were terrible in theory - the fade, in fact, would've worked perfectly if someone could deliver the throw - but with Brown in, who couldn't throw at all yesterday, they were ridiculous. So, too, was starting the game with 3 passes, and passing so heavily early on. They finally figured out that running the ball was their best shot, but it ended up being too little too late.
Crowton was forcing those playcalls, and they were a big reason why Maryland lost - in fact, the biggest reason. The rule yesterday: when Maryland gets too far away from the run, their drives stall. Keep that in mind going forward, too.
Though we shouldn't completely ignore the fact that his offense also struggled to execute his playcalls, not just that the playcalls themselves were bad. Remember, the passing playcalls were only bad because the offense couldn't pass. The drops and missed throws early on were a befuddling. Both playcalling and execution left a lot wanting yesterday.
C.J. Brown, the passer. 4-17 is pretty indefensible. I will say that he's probably had minimal time to get the timing down with his receivers, which is what everyone said was Danny O'Brien's problem a few weeks ago, so that may factor in. (Many of his passes did look like miscommunications.) But Brown was consistently off-target yesterday, and sometimes missed his reads (like on the final play where he had a man open underneath). Perhaps that will improve. It has to, if Brown is going to pose a serious challenge to O'Brien's QB spot.
Danny O'Brien. A lot of people are giving the staff flak for pulling O'Brien in favor of Brown, and for the life of me I can't figure out why. O'Brien has played horribly the past four weeks. To clarify, much of the problem is Gary Crowton's scheme, into which DOB simply doesn't fit, and it's begun to mess with his confidence. It's not his fault for being put in a bad situation, but that doesn't change the fact that O'Brien is playing poorly. He had a quick hook, admittedly, particularly given the drops, but his season as a whole was enough to justify what happened after that slow of a start. It was his fourth straight poor game, and at some point some action needs to be taken.
The wide receivers. I don't remember how many drops this group had, but it was far too many. Ronnie Tyler dropped two, one of which was a first down and the other of which was a touchdown. (I know the TD was tipped, but it was tipped to Tyler.) Kerry Boykins dropped one or two more. Jeremiah Wilson, who is actually a running back but who I'll throw in here just because, dropped another. I know they weren't getting great service, but they've got to help their QBs out a bit here.
Slow starts. Maryland has started slowly every game since Miami. West Virginia? Furious second-half comeback. Temple? Duh. Towson? Fourth quarter by far the best. And then today. They need to step up their early performances. They aren't good enough to play catch-up every week.
Lyndon Johnson and the special teams unit. A lot of things lost Maryland this game. Special teams was one of them. If not for Tony Zenon's 79 yard kickoff return, Georgia Tech's offense likely doesn't score, at least likely not a touchdown, to begin the second half. Which, of course, would likely mean a Maryland victory.
Oh, and that's to say nothing of the fact that Ferrara had a field goal tipped, or Zach Laskey's 26 yard punt return, or that Tony Logan hasn't had a seam all year. Johnson is Edsall's guy, so it's unlikely that there'll be a change after a year, but there are serious problems in the third facet of the game, where Maryland has been so strong in the past decade.
Randy Edsall. Maryland lost, and Edsall's hires - namely, Johnson and Crowton - were two big reasons why. But I also have to question a lot about Edsall himself, from the decision to not kick a field goal (again) as well as the continuing absence of D.J. Adams. The aforementioned 1st-and-goal at the 8 was the perfect time to go to Adams four times, but, of course, he didn't see the field. There's obviously some problem between the two of them, and it's disconcerting. If there's a legit reason for him not seeing the field, it better be a good one.
And, of course, his team lost, and a loss is almost never a good thing for a head coach.
Justus Pickett. I can see Pickett's potential, clear as day. He's a complete back, with a lot of shiftiness, speed, and good vision. Next year, he'll almost certainly be the primary man, and I'm intrigued to see how he'll perform in that setup. But I'm not in love with him right now, like Edsall apparently is. He's best as a rare change-of-pace back, until he proves otherwise; 10 carries is about 5 too many, most of which should be going to Meggett, who came out of the game too much.
C.J. Brown, the QB. I'm going to have a larger QB controversy post, but I'll summarize Brown's standing thusly: he doesn't have the starting QB spot after yesterday's performance, but he's put himself in the conversation. His passing troubles are well-documented and seriously troubling. But if Danny O'Brien doesn't improve, then Brown is little worse throwing the ball. More importantly, though, Maryland is looking like a running team right now, and if they are Brown - the running QB - is a much better fit. There's no reason Brown can't be a Taylor Martinez/Colin Kaepernick-type QB, if Maryland is willing to make some minor alterations to its offensive scheme. If neither QB is passing well, might as well go with the one who fits the scheme and can run.
Maryland's bowl hopes. Obviously, a loss hurts, given that Maryland has its work cut out for it to get to a bowl almost halfway through the season. But I feel much better about Maryland's postseason potential right now than I did yesterday morning, for some reason; perhaps the defense, perhaps the emergence of Brown, whose bandwagon I am currently driving, or perhaps the resiliency. Either way, I'm not ready to chalk this season up to being lost quite yet. The offense needs to improve, but there's time for that to happen.
Davin Meggett. Was the best player on offense, and might've been Maryland's best player at all.
Joe Vellano. Wait, nevermind. Vellano had the game of his career, with 20 tackles, the vast majority of which were solo. He's a star on the defensive line.
Nick Ferrara. Just about the only good thing on Maryland's special teams.