Georgia Tech 33, Maryland 13: Stock Report and Helmet Stickers

Rob Carr

Recap, stats. This is about a thousand words shorter than most of these have been, because c'mon: Maryland was starting a linebacker at quarterback. Reading into too much is a little unfair. Which doesn't mean we didn't learn anything; just less than we usually do.

STOCK UP

Stefon Diggs. In case you forgot, Diggs is still the future. His statline suffered yesterday, as you might expect, but that's not what mattered. He still was the sole source of points for the offense, scoring the only two touchdowns with two traditional Diggs-ian plays: the first was his trademark lightning change-of-direction, stopping on a dime to let the defender overpursue before motoring up field; the second was a play we haven't seen from Diggs, a jump ball that a defender had position on that Diggs miraculously came down with, reaching over and around the defender to grab it and hold on.

Diggs is yet to disappoint even once this season. Over four quarters, he's bound to dominate eventually. Like I mentioned in the recap, he's a rare talent and Maryland only has two more years of him. You could make an argument that he's already a top five player at his position - name me even a handful of receivers you'd prefer to Diggs for one game - and he'll only get better. Maryland is not a program that can afford to waste his talent, as I'm sure Mike Locksley and Randy Edsall are well aware. There's a window here, and the pressure is on the coaching staff to capitalize on it.

Brandon Ross. Wes Brown was out for most of the second half with an injury - of course it came after he took snaps in the Wild Crab - and Ross, not Justus Pickett, was the primary fill-in. And he did surprisingly well, finishing with 66 yards on 12 carries. He had the advantage of the defense playing off and with a lot of backups in, but hey, progress is progress.

Tyrek Cheeseboro. Maryland's special teams warrior. Ryan Schlothauer has been that guy the past year or two, but it's Cheeseboro's spot now. Even if he works his way up into the wide receiver rotation, I hope he keeps playing on coverage teams, because he's simply too good to leave off. He forced the fumble early in the game that gave Maryland some hope, and later delivered a massive shot on a kick return.

HOLD

Shawn Petty. Just like the other three quarterback starting debuts, this game established the baseline for Petty as a quarterback. And that baseline is ... well, more or less what was expected. He finished 9 of 18 for 115 yards, despite having relatively few bubble pass opportunities. He showcased decent pocket awareness that'll only get better over the next few games, plus a decent enough arm to be a viable option physically. He's not lightning-quick as a runner like Devin Burns, but he has enough speed to be a threat (and enough toughness to bowl over defensive backs). He also is inconsistent with his accuracy, puts the ball behind players, and doesn't see some defenders, but hey - he's a linebacker.

For what it's worth, I'm encouraged by his late improvement, but less than a lot of other people are. Danny O'Brien saved his reputation here last year by coming in late in games, after opponents had shut off, started to play off receivers, and had backups in. Georgia Tech did the same, so I'm wary about chalking that improvement up to permanence. Still, it's good for his confidence.

The Wild Crab formation. I liked it. Especially because Stefon Diggs wasn't the one taking the snaps. It's not something to look at for the long-term, but over the next three games it's a good way to get yardage.

STOCK DOWN

Brian Stewart and Maryland's defense. Look, Georgia Tech's offense is tough. It's complex. And Maryland's defense is battered, both physically and mentally. I don't begrudge them a bad performance. But allowing 370 yards on the ground and 33 points to an offense that managed all of three points against BYU? Well, it confirms the suspicion some have nationally that Maryland's defense is something of a paper tiger. They looked like they hadn't ever seen a triple option before - and to Stewart's defense, I don't believe he actually has. This was a tough lesson for them, and tough one for Stewart. And it does little to engender confidence that this buffeted crew will do much to keep Maryland in the next three games, which come against the #1, #2, and #3 scoring offenses in the ACC.

Kenneth Tate. I want to make something clear: I'm not criticizing Kenny, who is one of the most purely talented and right-headed players to come through Maryland in years. But he looks a shell of his former self, and you have to wonder if his knee is completely shot. It's tough not to feel for him. As I've said a thousand times, for anyone who has the gall to criticize a player making a personal decision about leaving early for the draft - in either sport but especially in one as physical as football - let Tate's situation be a cautionary tale.

Maryland's S/C coach, or the turf, or their cleats, or something. We've been discussing this for a period of time, but I've never done it in the blog proper that I can recall. But it's time to do so: eventually, all of these injuries stop being coincidence and start being something systemic wrong in the program.

Now, freak injuries happen, and they're no one's "fault." I'm not doubting that. Perry Hills' leg buckled. Devin Burns' foot was fallen on. Caleb Rowe went down awkwardly. C.J. Brown cut wrong. These can happen to anyone, and any team in the country.

Except they didn't happen to any team in the country. They happened to Maryland. And they're accompanied by three Kenny Tate injuries in the span of a year, Joe Vellano being hobbled, Demetrius Hartsfield going down, Kerry Boykins being out for the year, Matt Robinson missing serious time, Wes Brown getting hurt, semi-long term injuries to Sal Conaboy and Bennett Fulper, and a career-ending injury to Nick Ferrara. Virtually every player who's started for Maryland has been listed on the injury report.

Maybe it's the turf. Or S/C. Or trainers. Or the Under Armour cleats. I don't know - maybe it is, in fact, nothing. But it's not outrageous to raise questions about this extraordinary, almost-certainly-worst-in-the-country injury record. In fact, it's more outrageous for even a discussion about it to be out-of-bounds.

Kevin Dorsey and Matt Furstenburg. Both dropped passes that were thrown behind them, then Dorsey missed a block on a reverse that could've sprung Stefon Diggs for big yardage. I'm not upset about the drops, but man, if you're gonna have a chance starting a linebacker at quarterback, you've gotta get more from your vets.

Maryland's kicking game. Let me put it this way: Maryland has three kickers on scholarship right now. It's probably worth spending another one before next season starts.

Randy Edsall's job security. All of the injuries have led people (who like him) to talk about what a job Edsall's done, and some other people (who don't like him) to talk about how he has a get-out-of-jail-free card. Both are kind of true, but neither encapsulates the entirety of the situation. It's clear that Edsall's improved upon last year and could have this team challenging with some better luck, but at the same time finds himself in a very precarious position. Whether that's fair or not depends on your opinion of him, but that's the situation.

Don't believe me? Let's assume the next three games go like they'll probably go: a tiring defense continues to fade down the stretch, an offense starting a linebacker at quarterback continues to struggle, and three teams who are much better than Georgia Tech beat Maryland by fairly large margins. We're all hoping it doesn't happen and will continue to think it's possible that it won't go down like that, but anyone looking rationally and without bias at the situation knows that's the most likely outcome. Maryland turned out 33-some-odd thousand for this game. Florida State - the blackout game that the A.D. will hugely hype up - is likely going to be a noon kick and might draw 30k, if they're lucky. If the next three games go like this one, they'll lose the final four games by something like 138-55. And Edsall will arguably have the hottest seat in the country going into his third year, which is usually when results are demanded.

That's tough luck, maybe, because had there been no injuries he could've made a bowl this season and earned himself an extra year or maybe even two of job security. But that's not the way job security works, and he'll go into season #3 needing postseason play in a bad way.

Helmet Stickers

Shawn Petty. Not the best performance, but he played with heart and did all you could ask of him.

Stefon Diggs. 'Nuff said.

Cole Farrand. Led Maryland in tackles and looked like the defense will probably be built around him and Darius Kilgo next year.

Tyrek Cheeseboro. Is anything more likable than a special teams warrior?

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