Guest post by Patrick Guthrie
What you’re talking about at the water cooler this morning:
Let’s get this out of the way now: regardless of whether you thought the uniforms were awesome (I did), or whether you thought they looked patently absurd, they did what they were supposed to do; they got people talking. You, me, Sports Center, Bill Simmons, even the great King LeBron took notice from his lofty throne long enough to decree “#EWWWWWW”. The old statement of any publicity being good publicity is true, as long as there is substance to the questionable style.
And there was, because we beat the Hurricanes in their natural element, and even though there were some rough patches that I will address later, there are a lot of reasons to be excited.
In my pregame preview, I thought the offense would be in fourth or fifth gear, with a chance of Crowton maybe considering downshifting depending on the weather. Well, instead he flipped the nitrous switch. If that first drive by the Terps didn’t get you excited, you should probably grab the nearest defibrillator. After finally getting a QB capable of running it, Crowton dusted off a spread attack that ironically looked a lot like what Mike Leach would have installed.
And did the quarterback ever look good running it. In 44 throws, O’Brien made one bad decision (the one time he should have used his legs instead of his arm), and one questionable one (the throw back across the field to Furstenburg near the goal line, although he was under significant duress). His already impressive line (31/44, 348 yds, TD, INT) should have an extra touchdown (the Boykins drop), and a few more yards (at least 5 more drops over the course of the game).
Two of the most important traits in a quarterback are sound decision-making, and confidence. The completion percentage and ability to go through his reads under pressure put a check in the first column, and the 52-yard dagger to Kevin Dorsey emphatically puts a check in the other. This kid came out to very high expectations, and he raised the bar, and although there are other good quarterbacks in the ACC, I wouldn’t trade O’Brien for any of them.
Speaking of Dorsey, it looks like it didn’t take O’Brien too long to find a new favorite receiver. Dorsey is a big target who can shed defenders after the catch, and when he gets pressed, he can make a defense pay deep. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Furstenburg was great down the seam, as well as Ronnie Tyler’s blocking and touchdown catch. But even in this system where the wealth is distributed almost evenly, look for Dorsey’s paycheck to be a little bit bigger than his peers every week.
Of course, all of this spread business would be much more difficult to execute without demanding defensive respect for the run. I’m guessing that plenty of people had the same reaction that I did in the fourth quarter when Davin Meggett’s stats flashed across the screen. “Wow, how have we thrown it this much, and Meggett is close to a 100 yard game?” Meggett may have had the most consistently great performance of anyone. He grinded out some big yards on the ground, was sound in his blitz pickups, and after a few early drops, pulled in 34 yards through the air including one very difficult cross field catch.
All things considered, this game was a spike of adrenaline for the team, the program, and the fan base. It was awesome, it was a lot of fun, but…
What you’re hoping nobody else mentions around the water cooler:
It should have been a lot more fun. Maryland outgained Miami 499-367, they only punted once during the game, and they had plenty of chances to absolutely bury this game. So why was everyone sweating out the last two minutes?
Well, as impressive as the offense was to watch, it struggled in the red zone with one bad decision from its QB, and a few questionable ones from the OC. After the O’Brien pick, Crowton got bizarrely conservative inside the 20. Miami’s defense was grasping for straws defending the spread, so why change up the game plan and start running it in the red zone?
It’s not like the passing routes that were utilized most of the game were designed to go past 20 yards, so the playbook wasn’t necessarily that restricted. The team put up 32 points, and it should have been 35, so this is nitpicking. However, Crowton needs to show a little more trust in O’Brien inside the red zone.
No, the reason this game was close was the other side of the ball. Before I get into my opinion on Maryland’s defense, it’d be stupid and biased to not give credit where credit is due. Miami tailored their game plan to their massive offensive line, and successfully pushed Maryland off the ball on rushing plays. Lamar Miller was electric on his touchdown run, and on plenty of others during the game. It was apparent which unit was missing the glut of their starters, and which one was mostly intact.
Also, Jacory Harris can go ahead and get custom fit for his sideline headset. Stephen Morris’ two bad throws to end the game shouldn’t overshadow what was an exceptionally steady, poised performance in a very difficult environment. He’ll have some growing pains as a sophomore (as the missed throw on the wheel route and the game-clinching pick were evidence of), but he’s a starter and a good one at that.
Now time to get down to the ugly stuff. You’ll notice that during the entire broadcast, Todd Bradford was not shown once. I can only assume it’s because he was hiding his head in shame. It was only one game, but it was a bad one. The defense made three very good individual plays (the two forced fumbles and Chism’s great route jump on the INT), and Bradford made one noticeably good play call (the blitz on the wheel route).
Other than that, the defense was boring, predictable, and as well disguised as a guy in a fake mustache. Now, in Bradford’s defense, maybe the team is still picking up the intricacies of his system, so he kept it relatively simple. But simple was an understatement for this defense. This defense is not talented enough, especially in the secondary, to simply lay your cards on the table in a base look and just out-athlete the other team. It was maddening to watch 4 man rush after 4 man rush fail, leaving the inexperienced safeties in coverage for way too long.
It needs more pre-snap movement, it needs more blitzes, it needs Kenny Tate back in the secondary where he doesn’t get swallowed up by offensive linemen on every play. All things considered, this defense gave up 28 points to a Miami team missing their offensive game breaker. In two weeks, they face a better quarterback with better receivers. These things, along with a leaky kickoff coverage unit, need to be fixed.
But at the end of the day, Maryland is 1-0, and more importantly 1-0 in the ACC, and if they go 2-0, the uniforms won’t be the most nationally recognized thing about the Terps.
Patrick Guthrie is a contributor to BaltimoreSportsReport.com and University of Maryland alumnus. You can read his thoughts on all things sports on his personal blog “Two Years Too Late.”