The Edsall Bowl didn't turn out so well for its namesake. Randy Edsall's Maryland Terrapins fell behind 14-0 early to his former team, and simply lacked the offensive firepower to make it up. Despite some late heroic efforts from Stefon Diggs, Maryland's overall offensive ineptitude - summed up perfectly in their final four plays, which took a minute off the clock and resulted in a loss of seven yards - ultimately ruled the day, with the Connecticut Huskies edging a 24-21 win.
And so cue the "Edsall lost to UConn" storylines.
Like most of Maryland's games this year, you can't fault them for fight. Just like against Temple and against W&M, the opportunities to fold were there, and last season I'm almost certain they would've. Instead, they continued to fight back, capitalizing on opportunities and getting some timely big plays from their big players.
But unlike the other two games, you really saw some of the inexperience and incompetence on both Maryland's roster and staff. The offense found it impossible to sustain anything for large chunks of the game, partially due to the struggles of Perry Hills and the offensive line, and partially due to some quite frankly Crowtonian playcalling from Mike Locksley. Throw in a secondary that still struggles to cover, poor clock management, and a few killer penalties, and there was just too much for Maryland to overcome.
This loss is frustrating, and should be. It showcased just how little ready this team is for primetime. They're still too young, with not enough talent or depth in key positions. Long-term, there's actually plenty to be encouraged about. Stefon Diggs is the truth, Wes Brown got the ball and showed that he deserved to, and the defense is still pretty well set. There are bright points here, and if they're built around this team has some true potential down the road.
They're just not there this year.
We expected this to be an ugly affair, and ugly it was, for both teams. Some poor punt coverage by the Terrapins let Nick Williams go 58 yards for the opening score; another shoddy punt gave the Huskies a short field and set up their second touchdown, a three-yard Scott McCummings touchdown run that capped a 37-yard drive. Maryland, at that point desperate for some momentum, found it when Stefon Diggs took a short slant for 18 yards on a fourth-and-five. Two plays later, Wes Brown took a run up the gut 18 yards for a touchdown that got Maryland back in the game.
The second half was more or less like the first, with Maryland getting shut out of the third quarter and hardly showing any signs of offensive life at all. They took advantage of UConn facemask on a Maryland punt to score one of the touchdowns of the season - a Diggs reception off a Marcus Leak deflection - and seemed to have something going, but gave up the game-winning touchdown on the very next drive. That put Maryland back down two scores, and despite getting one of them - an 11-yard Perry Hills touchdown run - they didn't have enough time to find the second.
The star of the game was undoubtedly Diggs, who finished with 223 total yards. The fact that he gets so few touches on offense - four today, and one of them wasn't even thrown to him - is a continuing travesty. He's Maryland's best player by a mile, especially on offense. Brown impressed as well, though, showcasing his combination of vision, speed, and strength that'll make him a handful for most defenses. Maryland's struggled to find a runner this year, and with Brown putting up upwards of 5 yards per carry on what was one of the stingiest defenses in the country, I don't think the staff can do anything but keep playing him.
But I'm officially befuddled by Mike Locksley's playcalling. Brown's at his best running between the tackles, especially out of a pro-set, but the majority of his touches came on zone-read options to the outside. The options rarely worked for Maryland, with Hills often struggling with reads despite his aptitude as a scrambler. Meanwhile, Locksley often let Hills throw it deep despite the young QB clearly struggling with the deep ball, and he waited until the second half to start calling screens despite the aggressiveness of UConn's defense.
Frankly, the scheme didn't make sense today. It was mis-matched given Maryland's personnel and who they were facing. I harbor hope that it'll improve given more time for Locksley to analyze things and make adjustments, but today was not a good showing.
We'll have more later, but I'm on the road and so need to wrap this up. Maryland had to lose one of these eventually, but with some improvement I could still see four or five wins. But the bowl game fantasy has died.