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Film breakdown: The good and bad against then-No. 14 Michigan

The Terrapins’ areas of promise were overshadowed by shockingly bad moments

Lance LeGendre Maryland football Sarah Sopher / Testudo Times

Maryland football suffered its sixth loss — out of its last seven outings — against No. 14 Michigan on Saturday.

The Wolverines capitalized from the opening kickoff and never looked back en route to a 38-7 victory. While the final score was lopsided, the Terrapins did well to limit major plays and made Michigan work for its scores.

Here is a look at the good and bad from Saturday’s loss:

Special teams was the biggest let down

The special teams units have been one of the lone positive mainstays for Maryland football in its recent history, but coordinator John Papuchis’ unit looked like a train wreck against Michigan.

On the opening kickoff, wide receiver Giles Jackson was able to rip off a 97-yard return touchdown, instantly putting the Wolverines up 7-0.

Maryland linebacker Keandre Jones got sucked in to a block towards the sideline — which opened up a clear lane for Jackson to burst through. Kicker Joseph Petrino was suddenly faced with stopping Jackson, but his approach angle was too far off to cut off the speedy return man, who took it to the house.

The unit was breached again towards the end of the first half — despite the Maryland defense gaining confidence — by a fake punt attempt. Michigan took its chance on fourth-and-1 on its own 27 yard line, putting a man in motion to then seal off the edge for linebacker Michael Barrett. The sophomore received the direct snap and rushed for 14 yards.

After holding the Wolverines to consecutive three-and-outs, the Maryland defense gave up a touchdown after this fake, evaporating the confidence that was being built.

The one positive for Maryland on the special teams unit was running back Javon Leake, who tied Torrey Smith’s Maryland record with his third career kickoff return touchdown. This one was 97 yards — one of the few kickoffs from Michigan that didn’t go out the back of the endzone — and was ultimately the lone Maryland score of the afternoon.

Quarterback play continued to be inconsistent

Maryland has suffered from mediocre quarterback play ever since its loss to Temple, and this week was another example to add to the pile.

After Michigan took a 14-0 lead, Maryland was finally driving with ease, when quarterback Josh Jackson was intercepted in the red zone by defensive back Josh Metellus. The Terrapins attempted to cut block on the left side of the offensive line — which would have opened the passing lane for the slant route by Sean Savoy — but the Wolverines read it well and were able to apply pressure to Jackson quickly and force a tipped pass.

Jackson didn’t have much time to get rid of it, but he seemed to be stuck looking downfield for an open receiver. After three missed blocks up front, he had just a couple seconds, if that, to make a throw. Jackson was just a hair too late on his release, as the first of three free rushers hit home immediately, causing an errant pass.

One positive for Maryland at the position, however, was the play of true freshman Lance Legendre.

Legendre — who was in his first game action since Aug. 31 against Howard — was used intermittently to run the ball in the first half and was given a chance to lead Maryland’s final drive of the game. Though the clock ran out while he was in the red zone, Legendre finished the game with 1-of-2 passes completed for seven yards and added 39 yards on seven rushes.

That final drive, which spanned 51 yards on nine plays, echoed the feeling that quarterback Tyler DeSue showed in his action against Minnesota — that there is more energy at the position on the bench. Jackson and Tyrrell Pigrome have gone back and forth with less than stellar and stale play, while DeSue and Legendre have brought a new feeling to the field.

The defense responded from the Minnesota loss

Despite the final score of 38-7, the Maryland defense did its part in making things tough for Michigan.

On his second pass breakup of the afternoon, linebacker Keandre Jones did a stellar job after reading the pressure and quarterback Shea Patterson’s eyes to drop back and bat the pass away. Maryland was able to generate a solid amount of pressure in the pass game even without blitzing, which played a hand in the defense tallying five deflections.

After giving up 321 yards on the ground to the Golden Gophers one week earlier, the Maryland defense showed a real improvement by allowing just 155 yards on the ground to the Wolverines.

Michigan ultimately had just two plays over 15 yards and was forced to slowly chip away at the Maryland defense throughout the game. If the Terps had been backed by a touchdown instead of a red zone interception and a made field goal by Petrino, the scoreline could have given a bit more credit to the Terrapin defense.

The bottom line

While a loss stings and a record of 3-6 is not where you want to be, positives and negatives both were a part of Saturday’s game.

Turnovers at poor times from the offense and missed chances on special teams are not only points that affect the score, but also allow a defense that has been stepping up to build confidence and regroup. As long as one or two phases of the game are played poorly, positives from the other parts of the team will be harder to notice.

Head coach Mike Locksley and his staff are likely working on formulating gameplans against Big Ten opponents and finding out what each players’ strengths and weaknesses are across the board as they head into their first full offseason.

The Terrapins will be using these final three games against Ohio State, Nebraska and Michigan State to evaluate the staff and players alike to assess the programs for its needs moving forward.