I'm starting the references this week off with an Elvis classic. That was a tough way to lose. Last second field goal at home? Brutal. Was Saturday's game entertaining? Hell yeah. Was it a bitter pill to swallow? Yes indeed. We're gonna work our way through this one little by little until we can stop watching Bridget Jones' Diary. I saw the tears and it's going to be okay.
Pat Benatar's hit 'Heartbreaker' feels appropriate here given how Clint Trickett was the best player on the field on Saturday. Unfortunately he wasn't wearing a star-spangled uniform. If you haven't seen his numbers yet, he was 37/49 (that's 75.5%) for 511 yards with four TDs and a pick. He was devastating and carved up the Maryland defense like it was a Thanksgiving turkey. Trickett is now third in the nation in passing yards with 1,224. His main target on Saturday, Kevin White, is second in the nation in receiving yards with 460, only 11 yards behind Baylor's KD Cannon. White had 13 catches for 216 yards against the Terps.
Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee
It's entirely possible that the Terps' defense needed a burial following the game after giving up nearly 700 yards of offense. What was supposed to be the strongest part of the team was a liability instead. I reminded you of three things before the game. The first was that it is very hard to prepare to play against this offense in only one week. The second was that Maryland needed to control the tempo of the game (West Virginia controlled time of possession 34:46 to Maryland's 25:14). The third was that if WVU topped 40, they would probably win. Unfortunately all three came true and I predicted that Maryland would win 31-28 because, apparently, I'm a moron.
However, there were still some positives. Maryland won the turnover battle, 4-1. Will Likely will likely (sorry) be added to some award watch-lists with his performance (a punt return touchdown, a forced fumble, and an interception) and Darius Kilgo was huge for the Terps, recording a sack, recovering a fumble, and blocking a late field goal attempt. This defense had its moments. WVU's offense was just too much for them and Clint Trickett was just too good.
One of my favorites from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. It was only a matter of time. Special teams played a crucial role for both sides in the game. West Virginia couldn't seem to cleanly field punts, had a field goal blocked but also kicked a field goal as time expired to win the game. Maryland had a punt return touchdown and a pair of field goals but also had a punt blocked that turned into a safety. Those field goals needed to be touchdowns. It helps that Brad Craddock has been Mr. Automatic for the Terps kicking field goals this year but Maryland wins that game if they score touchdowns instead of settling for field goals. Both sides had special teams victories and special teams woes. Maryland won the special teams battle but West Virginia made the play that mattered when they needed to.
Running Down a Dream
Let's stay with Tom Petty and take a look at the run games for both teams. What a weird sight to behold. West Virginia actually ran the ball more times than they threw it! They ran the ball 59 times for 183 yards. In the end they only averaged 3.1 yards per carry. Maryland's run defense was and continues to be solid. The Terps ran the ball 27 times for 163 yards and an average of 6 yards per carry. That was almost entirely due to C.J. Brown. So the Terps were able to effectively run the ball against the Mountaineers' defense but strangely, despite the yards gained on the ground, didn't stick with the run game. The Terps were behind for most of the game which might explain why they threw it more but even so, the Terps remained balanced on offense with 27 runs and 38 throws.
West Virginia dwarfed that by running 108 plays! Yeah. Take a second to think about that. 59 runs and 49 throws. Wow. If you want to know how soundly beaten the Terps were on offense and defense on Saturday, just take a look at that statistic. Another statistic that is important is 3rd down conversion. The Terps converted on just 4 of their 15 3rd down chances. That is awful. West Virginia by comparison was able to extend drives by going 11/24 on 3rd down. That made a huge difference with field position and the opportunity to score. Maryland typically had further to go on every drive and they just couldn't march up and down the field at will like West Virginia did.
Our first Bob Dylan song! Since we're on the topic of desolation, let's talk about C.J. Brown. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "extreme sadness caused by loss or loneliness." Yep, that sounds about right! I know that some of you had an involuntarily twitch by just reading his name but we have to talk about him. C.J. Brown was bad throwing the ball again on Saturday. He was 19/35 for 241 yards, a TD and a pick. A 54% completion rate isn't acceptable. The definition of mediocre is "barely adequate". That is how I would define C.J. Brown's ability to pass at the moment. It does need to be stated that without C.J. Brown's running, the Terps probably would not have been in a position to win. He ran for 161 of Maryland's 163 yards. The closest runner to him was Albert Reid, and he only had four yards on three carries. Talk about one dimensional. The only thing Maryland had going on the ground on Saturday was C.J. Brown. Like it or not, the starting job will continue to be his until he screws up so badly that Caleb Rowe replaces him. Some Maryland fans wished that Rowe, who threw a TD pass in his only appearance in the game, had stayed in to start the second half. Brown can't do it all on his own and if Maryland wants to end up on the other side of these kind of games, they will have to throw better. 54% isn't going to cut it.
Bound to Lose, Bound to Win
One more Bob Dylan song for the road! What did we learn from the game? What can we take away to comfort us until the next game? A couple of positives from the game: One, they were fighters. They didn't go quietly. They came back from being down 28-6 and tied the game up at 37 and had a chance to win and at the very least, send the game into overtime. That is definitely positive. This team will play hard even when they are down. Granted it's easier to do that in a big home game on TV than it is on the road but they still did it.
Second, the Big Ten is down as a conference across the board. Ohio State is clearly not as strong as everyone thought they would be. Michigan State might have to run the table and win the conference title just to make the playoff. Michigan and Iowa aren't as good as we thought and Penn State keeps squeaking out wins. That means that Maryland could still be competitive in their first year in the Big Ten. They might not win every game or even most of their games but Saturday's loss to West Virginia tells me that Maryland should be in every game they play this season.
Signs of life from Stefon Diggs! He had five catches for 127 yards. 77 of those yards came from his one touchdown catch where Diggs got behind just about everybody on the West Virginia defense and C.J. Brown found him for a score. Who would've thought that it would take Stefon Diggs until Week 3 of the season to get his first touchdown catch? It's nice to see a breakout game from Diggs and hopefully we'll have more games like this as the season progresses. He'll be going up against a pretty good Syracuse defense in the Carrier Dome this weekend.