Yesterday's loss was one of those typical, last second gut punches that so many Maryland fans are accustomed to experiencing. But after the first quarter, I wasn't worried about this being a gut-punch loss; I got the impression that this was going to be one of those West Virginia losses, where they're unstoppable on offense and one or two players continually comes up with big play after big play, ala Steve Slaton. Which brings me to my first takeaway...
Maryland fought their way back into the game
Did they win? No. But when they were down 28-6, you immediately felt the game was getting out of hand, with a potential 48-9 defeat peering around the corner. But Maryland responded with touchdowns on three of their next four possessions, trailing by just one point in the third quarter. It was another reminder that the mindset of this team isn't one that will simply rollover when they're down. We saw a similar mentality last week against USF and while Saturday's game didn't result in a win, it was good to see the team battle until the end.
West Virginia and Clint Trickett look very good
I don't think anyone expected Maryland to beat West Virginia 37-0 again this season, but I also don't think many expected Trickett and WVU to jump out to an early 28-6 lead, either. Trickett was simply flawless to start the game and finished with over 500 passing yards. He picket apart a very good Maryland defense, especially in the first half.
Trickett shined throwing the deep ball, either by floating the ball into the hands of his receivers or tossing up fades where his receivers could jump up and come down with it. A lot of the other throws Trickett made shorter, on target throws, but resulted in a lot of yards after the catch. Maryland struggled mightily with making the initial tackle yesterday, allowing West Virginia receivers and running backs to pick up a lot of second chance yardage. Injuries to Matt Robinson and Cole Farrand, two of Maryland's best linebackers, didn't help matters in that regard.
West Virginia is a good team. Maryland could have won the game, but at the end of the season, I don't think this loss will be the equivalent of losing to the 2013 version of the Mountaineers.
Maryland's special teams continues to shine
While they did allow a blocked punt that resulted in a safety, Maryland's special teams played a huge role in keeping Maryland in the game yesterday. Will Likely showed why he's so dangerous on special teams, running a 69-yard punt back for what was a game-tying touchdown. Brad Craddock hit all three of his field goal attempts and all of his extra points and also had four touchbacks on his nine kickoffs. Maryland was also able to block a West Virginia field goal attempt late in the fourth quarter that kept the game tied at the time.
C.J. Brown is still the starting quarterback...but questions are building
When C.J. Brown took a vicious hit that briefly knocked him out of the game after his helmet came off, Caleb Rowe entered and quickly led Maryland on a 51 yard touchdown drive, culminating in a 26 yard touchdown pass to Jacquille Veii as the first half wound down. Many immediately asked if Rowe would stay in for Brown, even if Brown didn't have a concussion. That question was quickly answered as the third quarter kicked off, with Brown back under center to start the second half. On the first play of the half, Brown ran the ball 75 yards for a touchdown, pulling Maryland within one.
"He might have started a hair slow, but that is the way C.J. [Brown] has to play in order to be successful," head coach Randy Edsall said following the game. "I thought he had fun out there even though he might have taken a couple of tough hits. You can see the kind of threat he is as a dual-threat quarterback with the big runs that he had since they had guys locked up and nobody in the middle. That is advantageous for us for him to go play like that and perform his way and I think he looked a lot more at ease today and that was good to see. I think this will give him more confidence and that is the way he has to play in order for us to be successful."
Brown once again missed several throws to open receivers. As former Terp quarterback Scott McBrien noted on the BTN game broadcast, it appears C.J. might not be following through on a lot of his throws. One thing you noticed immediately when Caleb Rowe was in the game was the increased velocity of his throws, especially compared to C.J.'s. Hopefully that's something Brown can work on in the coming weeks.
Brown was able to find Stefon Diggs for an easy touchdown and continued to show why he's a treat with his legs. There is no doubt that C.J. needs to continue to improve on his passing, but he certainly played better at times against West Virginia than he has in the first two games of the season. There may be no quarterback controversy brewing inside Gossett, but the rest of College Park certainly has attention placed at the position.