The Maryland Terrapins, coming off of a dismal 2-10 season, have been the beneficiaries of very low expectations this season. The fan base has been dwindling after years of lackluster performances, the head coach has been labeled a dead man walking (and I have joined in that chorus), and reasons for optimism this season have bordered on comical at times. But yesterday afternoon the Terps may have proved that they have the toughness in the trenches to take on and defeat even the most dynamic of opponents.
What surprised me most was not the fact that Maryland won, but how they won. They won by shutting Navy down at the goal line, by denying them the end zone time after time, and displayed a kind of toughness and tenacity that was completely lacking from the team last season. My first instinct is to look at Navy being undersized and chalk it up to that, but this is the same Navy team that nearly knocked off Ohio State last season and held its own en route to a 10-win season. I have always been a fan of Navy, and it is hard to be from Maryland and not have a soft spot for the Midshipmen, but this win told me a lot more about the Terrapins than it did about the Mids.
Coming into the game I was gravely concerned about how raw passer Jamarr Robinson would handle being forced to throw consistently when the ground game was stymied- I felt that Navy would render Davin Megget and Da’Rel Scott largely ineffective and that Robinson would have to win it with his arm. That, my friends, is why I am not a coach. Offensive Coordinator James Franklin somehow managed to form an offense that allowed Robinson to throw the ball just 5 times- half as many attempts as Navy QB Ricky Dobbs put up in an offense that is designed for the quarterback to throw sparingly. Granted, Robinson only completed two of those passes for 11 yards and had another pass intercepted, but that only highlights how incredible it was that this team managed to score 17 points and hold Navy to just 14 with a quarterback whose passing ability is still very much in doubt.
However, Maryland will not be able to get away with throwing the ball 5 times in the future. Robinson will have to win at least one game with his arm if Maryland is to even consider a bowl game, but the road does get easier for a little while. Morgan State is on the horizon, with winnable games against FIU, and Duke coming up after a trip to Morgantown to take on West Virginia. If Maryland’s defensive unit can hold to their responsibilities and cover their appropriate lanes against Navy’s triple option, they stand a decent shot of doing so against Bill Stewart’s version of the spread-and-shred. They will have a quick turnaround, with just 4 days to rest and prepare for Morgan State.
In the meantime, Terps fans have a reason to celebrate football, and open up a new rivalry against Navy with a win. As for Navy, this is clearly a disappointing loss, and they will have to figure out why they weren’t able to get into the end zone time after time. That said, they are more than capable of beating any other team on their schedule and I am certain that head coach Ken Niumatalolo will have his team prepared to play next week and roll the likes of Georgia Southern.
The return of the Crab Bowl was everything fans hoped it could be, and for at least one game, so were the Maryland Terrapins.