The Maryland football team grabbed an important seventh win on Saturday at Michigan, getting past an avalanche of offensive and special teams mistakes to beat the Wolverines on their own field. The Terps wound up being outgained, 398-312, and saw their time-of-possession problems continue (just 26 minutes of offensive field time), but Maryland's offense looked better than it had in well over a month. Many of Maryland's usual problems reared their heads again, but this time, Maryland's seniors and best players stepped forward to push the Terps to a win.
This stock report is, as usual, not totally exhaustive; we'll almost certainly leave off someone who deserves (for better or worse) to be included, because there are a lot of players on a football team. But here's our best shot at pegging some of the Terrapins' individual performances:
Blue-chipper: Brad Craddock
Growth stock: Wes Brown
Safe investment: Jeremiah Johnson
Penny stock: C.J. Brown
With Craddock, we're approaching (or maybe we've already passed) the point where his inclusion in this category is misleading. His stock was through the roof at a 14-of-14 field goal clip entering the day, but he was so important to Maryland's win that not placing him here seems silly. Craddock hit three field goals (from 38, 41 and 24 yards), and he also played a pivotal role when Michigan's Jourdan Lewis contacted him after a fourth field goal in the game's last quarter. Craddock fell to the turf ("I would have gone down anyway. He took my leg out," Craddock said afterward.), and Lewis earned a roughing-the-kicker-flag. Instead of the three points from Craddock's kick, the Terps got seven on the next play. So he was close to directly responsible for 16 of Maryland's 23 points in the game. When you're good, you're probably lucky, too. And Craddock is most definitely good.
Wes Brown, in his second-straight start at running back, closed the game for Maryland in an impressive fashion. The Terps' running game has been stalled for weeks, which makes their 4.2-yard team average yesterday seem better than it probably is. Even though Brown only ran 13 times for 39 yards, he saved his best for last. On the Terps' final drive, Brown carried the ball six times, including runs of 7, 6, 9 and 6 yards. His runs, combined with Brady Hoke's poor timeout management for Michigan, meant the Terps could wind the clock to all zeroes as Michigan's offense watched. That was as big-time a drive as a Maryland running back has had in a long time.
Jeremiah Johnson, too, deserves praise for his work yesterday. Will Likely is Maryland's best cornerback, but Johnson, a senior, spent much of the game lined up against Michigan's best wideout, Devin Funchess. The senior was responsible for a key fourth-down breakup of a Devin Gardner throw to Funchess in the fourth quarter, and he keyed the secondary effort that held Funchess to 5 catches and 30 yards. Randy Edsall said afterward that it pained Johnson to only play in nickel situations in the Terps' previous two games. "J.J, you love all those kids in there, but J.J.'s, maybe, I don't know," Edsall said. "You might love him a little bit more."
And plaudits, of course, should go to C.J. Brown, the more-than-embattled quarterback who had the best moment of a hard final season on Maryland's last two drives. Brown scored on a smart misdirection keeper to tie the game at the start of the fourth quarter, and he stepped up to deliver a gorgeous 36-yard deep ball to Amba Etta-Tawo on Maryland's next drive, setting up Wes Brown's game-winning score. Brown has had a million different struggles this year, but on Saturday, he delivered when his teammates needed it most.
Penny stock: Maryland's offensive line:
Like its running back, Maryland's offensive line saved some of its best work for last. The Terps' new-look unit, with Jake Wheeler at left tackle and Michael Dunn shifting to the right side, had a few problems protecting C.J. Brown during the game. At the end, though, the line opened enough holes for Wes Brown to catalyze Maryland's game-sealing drive as time drew to a close. The Terps' 4.2-yard rushing average behind this line wasn't great, but it's the fourth-best figure any offense has put up all year against Michigan's stingy defensive front.
Solid buy: Maryland's special teams:
All in all, the game was close to a wash for the special teams. Craddock was his usual marvelous self, and Likely had some explosive returns. But the Terps gave up a 52-yard run on a fake punt that led straight to Michigan points, and only a really pointless back-block by a Michigan special-teamer kept them from giving up a touchdown on a bouncing punt late in the game. The Terps made some pretty serious mistakes on their punt return team, and they were exceptionally fortunate to only give up three (not 14) points as a result. Nathan Renfro was also out-punted by 4.5 yards per kick by his Michigan counterpart, Will Hagerup. Craddock and Likely continued to be stars, but the rest of the special teams' performance had a lot of warts.
There are a few other comments that could be made in this section. Maryland's receivers and tight ends had five drops, and all of them played a role in killing drives. But even the worst dropping culprit of the day, Jacquille Veii, atoned with important catches of 21 and 17 yards to help set up Maryland late.
It wasn't perfect, but most of Maryland's performance on Saturday was strong. The Terps have seven wins now, and a strong conclusion against Rutgers next weekend would set the Terps up to play in one of college football's better bowls. Such an outcome would be an unmitigated success in the program's first Big Ten season.
"That's something I told our guys this morning," Edsall said. "We needed to come out here today and create some memories. So 20, 30 years from now, we can sit around and tell these stories and have a great time."