Maryland suffered a wrenching loss at home on Saturday against West Virginia. There were positives (big plays!), negatives (700 yards!) and plenty in between. We take stock of the Terps after their 40-37 loss:
William Likely: The Terps' top cornerback had an interesting day. On the one hand, West Virginia had 511 passing yards against a secondary in which Likely is a leader. On the other hand, Likely's 5-foot-7, and the receiver who did the most damage against him, Kevin White, had eight inches on him and generally requires several players to contain. And on a third hand, Likely pulled off three truly game-altering plays: He forced a fumble deep inside his own territory in the first quarter, had an interception in the second, and ran back a game-tying punt return in the fourth. Likely's every bit the punt returner Stefon Diggs is, and his explosiveness will be a big asset for Maryland going forward.
Stefon Diggs: In a way, it doesn't make sense for a player who's so obviously highly touted to be on a "stock up" list. But Diggs' importance to Maryland's offense was accentuated yesterday, to an extent where Mike Locksley will have no choice but to emphasize that he get more touches going forward. Diggs didn't have an offensive touch in the first quarter, and it's no coincidence that Maryland could muster no more than a field goal in that quarter. When Diggs got a shovel pass from Brown in the second, he made a 9-yard scamper out of it. Later in the quarter, he found himself open, adjusted to an imperfect throw from C.J. Brown, and left West Virginia's safeties in his wake on the way to the end zone. He finished with a Diggs-like 127 yards on 5 receptions. Maryland needs to give him the ball more often.
Yannick Ngakoue: "Young Yannick," as coordinator Brian Stewart called him last week, finds his way onto this list for the second-straight week. Ngakoue had three more tackles for loss on Saturday, all on run plays. He is second in the Big Ten in that department, with 6 TFLs on the year. Ngakoue strikes me as very raw on the pass rush, as he doesn't have an easy time getting around offensive tackles to the quarterback. But he's excellent at getting off blocks and moving horizontally, which is how he's managed to wrap up six ball-carriers behind the line thus far. He's going to be a terrific player.
Caleb Rowe: Do you think Maryland fans will be interested in seeing him throw more passes going forward? Probably not.
Brandon Ross: I struggled with Ross's placement. He couldn't put together any semblance of a good run against the West Virginia defense, but he was important in the passing game on several drives. He finished with 5 catches for 50 yards, including a few plays where he really rescued C.J. Brown by making himself available and creating good yardages. He lost his starting spot yesterday to Albert Reid, but Reid couldn't get anything going, either. I think Maryland's running backs' biggest problem yesterday (those who played, anyway) was an outplayed offensive line. It'll be interesting to see what the situation is for next week with Wes Brown, who Edsall chose to hold completely out of the game.
Maryland's offensive line: The Terps' offensive line didn't play well at all against the West Virginia front. The Mountaineers threw a number of different looks at the Maryland line, sometimes using their linebackers as down linemen, sometimes dropping linemen backward and sometimes bringing extra rushers from the secondary. Just like Stewart predicted, the Mountaineers moved around a lot. Unfortunately, the Maryland line couldn't handle a lot of it. Right tackle Ryan Doyle had a hard time containing West Virginia end Noble Nwachukwu in the pass-rush, and the entire line struggled in run-blocking. C.J. Brown was only sacked twice, but he was under duress frequently. The statistics say Brown didn't suffer a single quarterback hit, but I'm virtually certain that's incorrect. The offensive line needs to be better.
Maryland's safeties: Sean Davis and Anthony Nixon are good players, both firmly entrenched in their starting jobs. But they had, together, a lousy day at the office on Saturday. Clint Trickett threw three first-half touchdowns to wideouts Mario Alford and Kevin White of 43, 44 and 36 yards. On each of them, a Maryland cornerback was beaten over the top (more understandable, given the caliber of the two receivers) and desperately needed safety help to prevent the touchdowns. The safeties, obviously, didn't break up the throws. Davis and Nixon are hugely important parts of Maryland's defense, particularly so because Maryland's cornerbacks are neither big nor all that experienced. The Terps need them to be beter going forward.
C.J. Brown: Maryland's starting quarterback had by far his best numbers of the young season against West Virginia. He threw for almost 250 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. He was legitimately great as a runner, accruing 161 yards on 18 carries and a brilliant 75-yard touchdown where he did a lot of the work. And yet, there are a lot of questions about Brown's performance. He bounced balls or overthrew reasonably open receivers on a number of occasions, including a cover-your-eyes miss of a wide open Malcolm Culmer on what would have been an easy touchdown in the first half. West Virginia often runs a 3-3-5 defense with an extra defensive back, but it didn't seem like they deployed that set all that frequently against Maryland. The Mountaineers forced Brown to make throws, and he made a couple but missed too many. Add in that Caleb Rowe looked, well, really good on his one drive after Brown was hurt at the end of the first half, and things look troubling for Brown. With that said, he's still clearly Maryland's starting quarterback. There's a lot going on here.
We'll have more on Brown's performance tomorrow, including a film breakdown of all of his passing attempts from yesterday's game. Check back throughout the week as Maryland gets ready for Syracuse.