I never thought I'd say this, but Joe Theismann summed up Maryland's situation pretty well:
"Maryland needs to find a couple guys like that - a couple guys that people fear," Theismann said. "Right now, nobody fears anybody on the Maryland team."
More or less, yup. Game recap is here.
D.J. Adams' return to the gameplan. I sort of feel like this is a "He's alive!" moment, because I wasn't quite sure D.J. even still existed prior to Saturday. Randy Edsall stuck to his word, though, and gave D.J. plenty of playing time. Must've had something to do with that sign.
Adams, in fact, ended up as Maryland's leading rusher. He picked up 16 carries, seven more than Davin Meggett, who was the next closest carrier, and finished with 56 yards. Most of his attempts came in short-yardage situations, so the yardage is a bit misleading; more importantly, he picked up what he needed to do more often than he didn't. Hey - he even had a short TD run.
I don't think he was quite the revelation some were likely expecting, but he was definitely above-average and has almost certainly fought his way back into the regular rotation. With Davin Meggett graduating at the end of this year, I'll be intrigued to see if Adams can emerge as the heir apparent as the primary back - and if he wants to stick around to accept it.
A.J. Hendy. Seriously, where's he been all year? Making his first start of the year in relief of redshirt freshman Titus Till, Hendy was very impressive. He wasn't flawless - no one was, given that Maryland lost by 24 points - but he was certainly a breath of fresh air, exhibiting some impressive athleticism and productivity. For one, he led Maryland in tackles, and didn't whiff any times I can remember. He also made a jarring hit early in the third quarter and promptly got in the face of Tyler Eifert. Normally I'm not in love with that, but given how flat Maryland's looked all year, any emotion was a very welcome change. I'm sure that emotion will lead to a silly penalty or two down the road, but at least he's showing something. Has the potential to be fixture for the next three years.
Quintin McCree. Very happy to see the light turn on for McCree, even as late as it's been. Excepting the early TD drop against Virginia, he's been fantastic the past few weeks. He finished with 5 catches, 76 yards, and a touchdown, but most impressive was his ability to run after the catch. He's seriously fast and is getting better at translating that to actual yardage. His physical tools give him a chance to find his way onto an NFL roster as an UDFA training camp invitee type.
The pass rush. Maryland's defense did a lot of things poorly, and even many of those who were involved in the pass rush messed up in other areas, but let's give credit where it's due. Notre Dame's offensive line had allowed five sacks all season; Maryland got three on Saturday. That's production.
Dexter McDougle. He just keeps getting better every week. Had a great open-field tackle early in the game on a wide receiver screen and was responsible (that is, broke up) two of Tommy Rees' mere seven incompletions. I think you have to feel comfortable with him as the #1 corner next year.
C.J. Brown. Brown's been better - Clemson, for instance - but it's pretty tough to complain about how he did on Saturday. 6-10 is a pretty good rate for Brown, and I liked that he wasn't afraid to push the ball down the field, which - believe it or not - was sort of lacking for Maryland's offense with Danny O'Brien. Likewise, he was as dangerous as ever when he pulled the ball back on the zone-read, taking in a 31-yard rush for Maryland's second TD. That's part of the reason I like him so much: when he pulls it down, he's that type of player Theismann was talking about, the type of guy that a defense fears.
He certainly didn't change the paradigm of the passing offense, though, and remember that by the time he came into the game Notre Dame had more or less already secured the win. They certainly weren't as sharp mentally, and they didn't even have their starters in on the final drive, which resulted in a TD. For that reason, it's tough to say he was particularly great.
Still, as I said before, that aren't really any complaints about what C.J. showed on Saturday (in fact, he had the best-thrown pass of the afternoon, a 21-yard throw to McCree that was floated beautifully. I'm still intrigued to see him play in the final two games, especially as he knows a starting job for next year may be on the line.
Joe Vellano. Eight tackles is still a very high number for a defensive tackle, but Vellano's performance yesterday was more memorable for being beaten by the Irish running backs pretty consistently. Tough to blame a DT for not being able to make an open-field tackle on Cierre Wood, but it happened on multiple occasions in pretty critical situations.
Trenton Hughes. Making his first start of the year, he drew a touch match-up across from Michael Floyd. Floyd had his usual great game and Moss'd Hughes pretty badly on his touchdown catch, but Hughes was also occasionally able to stay with him. Also got blown up by Cierre Wood on a crackback block.
Alex Twine. Twine was one of the real bright spots early in the game, coming up with one of the sacks and picking up three tackles for loss. As the game went on he found himself overmatched and missed a few big tackles, but hey - given what his expectations were at the start of the year, I'm still a bit amazed at the season's he's been having.
Eric Franklin. I've been bullish on Franklin's performance all year, so it hurts me to say that he really struggled yesterday. Like, really badly. Especially early on, when he missed multiple tackles in the first quarter, got beaten in coverage, and extended a Notre Dame drive with a helmet-to-helmet hit on Michael Floyd. He pulled things together as the game went on, but never really made up for those early mistakes.
Justus Pickett. Not necessarily because he played poorly, but rather because he didn't play. He'll be a major factor every year he's still in College Park, but it looks like D.J. Adams has reclaimed his spot.
Danny O'Brien. I'll keep this one light because Danny has a broken arm, but he looked pretty off all day. The touchdown drive was great, but he was at the helm of 8 drives. One of those ended in points. The miss on the first throw of the game and the interception were both pretty rough. For the record, I think he would've played at least as well as C.J. in the fourth quarter, but I can only judge what's there.
Run defense, third down defense, and tackling. Look, it's pretty obvious that anytime a team runs for upwards of 200 yards that the run defense was bad. In fact, really bad. And it's happened against Maryland six straight times.
I can't think of a much better way to describe Maryland's defense the past few weeks. I'm not quite sure how they aren't dead last in rushing defense right now. And it falls on everyone. Every member of the front four. All the linebackers. Ralph Friedgen, for his recruiting. Injuries. And, of course, Todd Bradford, who hasn't shown an ability to do anything to stymie any part of any offense. I feel like he calls plays like he's playing NCAA 12.
Perhaps the worst part of Maryland's defensive effort was performance on third downs, which leads me to believe Bradford had much to do with it. (I'm not sure why the players would perform markedly worse on 3rd downs than they did on 1st or 2nd.) Notre Dame converting two third-and-longs on Cierre Wood draw plays - a third-and-ten and a third-and-seventeen - is absolutely killer, and a big demoralizer for the defense.
Gary Crowton and the offense. Maryland's defense wasn't good enough to win. But I can't help feeling like they would've performed significantly better had they had any support from the offense. When the offense punts on their first five possesions, it not only robs the defense of any rest, it also makes it almost impossible to garner any momentum when the defense does get a stop. By the time Maryland's offense woke up, the game was already out of hand.
Randy Edsall and slow starts. That last sentence leads me to my final point: how is that Maryland consistently performs so poorly at the start of every game? Maryland's defense hasn't kept a team out of the end zone on their first drive of the game since the Clemson game; they haven't forced an opening-drive punt since the Towson game. And they haven't scored a touchdown on their own opening drive since, again Towson.
I have trouble blaming that on the players when it's so consistent. Edsall seems to have a clear problem motivating players out of the locker room, and/or his coordinators can't seem to figure out the opposing scheme until they see it live. Maryland's performed poorly enough as it is. There's no need to start every game in a hole, too.
- D.J. Adams, RB. Welcome back to the party, D.J.
- A.J. Hendy, S. Strong debut.
- Nick Ferrara, K/P. Seven punts, two inside the 20, and a net average of 40.7. One of Ferrara's stronger games, though he certainly got enough practice.
- Quintin McCree, WR. Finishing out his career strong.