In this space last week, we covered a lot of positives and not many negatives after the Maryland football team pulled off a 38-31 homecoming win against Iowa. This week, there aren't nearly so many positives to write home about for the Terps, who underwent a surprisingly thorough thrashing at the hands of the Wisconsin Badgers, 52-7, on Saturday. Running a stock report after a game like this brings up some interesting issues, because while just about everything was completely terrible, a 45-point loss probably isn't indicative of where this team's players stand. Still, it wasn't good. Let's get to some specifics.
Blue-chipper: Deon Long
Growth stock: Jesse Aniebonam
Long had grown less and less involved over the past few weeks, so it was encouraging for Maryland that he managed to do a little damage on an otherwise horrid offensive day for the Terps. Long managed six catches for 59 yards, including a 22-yarder that went for Maryland's second-longest play of the ballgame. For this offense to function at anything close to maximum efficiency, Long needs to be a major player. Saturday didn't bring many steps forward, but perhaps this could be one. We'll see how Long does next week against another tough defense at Penn State.
Aniebonam is a depth piece this year on Brian Stewart's defense, but he's going to be crucial for the 2015 Terrapins. The Terps will lose their entire defensive line and two of their three primary outside linebackers (along with both starting inside backers), so they'll need Aniebonam to improve in the way Yannick Ngakoue has this year. Aniebonam grabbed the first half-sack of his career and assisted on two other tackles in somewhat limited action, a week after playing well against Iowa. He wasn't earth-shatteringly impressive or anything on Saturday, but Aniebonam is showing promise.
Polarizing investment: Randy Edsall
The lopsidedness of this game – and of others in recent years at Clemson and Florida State – makes for truly awful public relations for Edsall and the Maryland football program. Losses like this are embarrassing on a lot of levels, and Edsall was right when he said after the game that, along with being outplayed, he and his staff were out-coached against Wisconsin. It was an incredibly bad day for him.
But it was just a day. It doesn't mean a whole lot for Edsall's future or that of his program. It wasn't especially reasonable to think Maryland was ever going to win a game like this on the road, and the big margin just confirms what we already knew – that Maryland isn't as good as a quality-but-not-quite-elite team like Wisconsin. The Terps are still 5-3 and 2-2 in conference play during their first Big Ten season. If they can win two of their final four games, it'll be a successful season. If not, they'll have had bigger problems than the monstrosity that occurred on Saturday.
Polarizing investment: C.J. Brown
Growth stock: Marcus Leak
Mutual fund: Maryland's defense
Brown is, by all accounts, an excellent teammate. He's Maryland's most or second-most efficient running back on any given day. Given Caleb Rowe's torn ACL, he's still the team's safest option at quarterback. But he hasn't progressed as a passer at all this year, and Saturday's performance was about as impotent as it can get for a college quarterback. Brown couldn't connect on passes of any length, finishing 13-of-29 for 129 yards and a NSFW 4.4 yards per attempt. That's just gross, and without doing the math, it has to be a rounding error away from impossible to win a Big Ten road game with quarterback play of that quality. There is not a single qualifying quarterback in the country whose yards-per-attempt is within more than a half-yard of that over the course of the year. Was it just a really bad day against a really good defense? That probably played into it, but then again, the next defense Brown will face – Penn State – might be even better.
Since a four-catch, 93-yards-and-a-touchdown effort against Syracuse on Sept. 20, Leak, the Terps' talented third receiver, has been underwhelming. Before Edsall held him out of yesterday's game, he had five catches in the previous three games for 51 yards, including a bad-looking play against Ohio State where he seemed to give up on an overthrown ball, allowing the cornerback covering him an effortless interception. Leak hadn't been involved in the Maryland offense much at all lately after a strong start, and it's never a hopeful sign when Edsall benches a player upon a vaguely termed "coach's decision." The Terps have a lot of depth behind their starting receivers, but they'll need Leak to be present and effective against the next couple of opponents they see.
Defensively, obviously, the Terps were bad. Very bad. Turnovers by the offense gave the defense a number of field position problems, and the Terps actually "limited" Wisconsin to 6.3 yards per carry, which is better than many have done against Melvin Gordon and company. But the defense offered no real resistance from early on in the game. The secondary - even including the ordinarily brilliant William Likely - couldn't keep Wisconsin receiver Alex Erickson from racking up 121 yards and a touchdown on five catches. The front seven put together a season-low three tackles for loss and couldn't make life hard on quarterbacks Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy.
Obviously, the offense could fit here just as easily. Any time a team spends 35 of 60 minutes on defense, gives up 52 points and scores 7, it's a collaborative failure. The Terrapins need to turn a corner quickly as they prepare for next Saturday's date with Penn State at Beaver Stadium.