I’ll start with the obvious: HUGE win for the Terps today, 35-27 over #23 Cal. Soon enough, the IFs and BUTs will come…it’s only big IF it leads to real momentum…it’s big BUT they could easily backslide. BUT for now, if only for a little while, the players and coaching staff have earned some unadulterated praise.
Lots to be proud of today if you’re a Terp fan…the Byrd Stadium crowd was rocking, the team came out fired up, and the coaches had a terrific game plan. Cal had one of those classic West Coast D-lines full of huge, long-haired Polynesian guys, and the Terps found ways to get their offensive skill players around them and into space where they could make plays. Turner was rock solid today, and was kept within himself, if that makes sense. I noticed that if he messed up on a play, they came right back to the same thing or something similar. That was good. And his picture-perfect TD strike to Darrius Heyward-Bey in the third quarter was the offensive play of the game. DHB, Da’rel Scott, and Davin Meggett (87yds/2TD and 82yds/1TD, respectively) all had great games, anchored by Turner’s welcome steadiness, some workmanlike tight end play, and an O-line that at times was straight dominant. Where were the guys who gassed last week in Tennessee? Not that I miss them.
The defense played great, too. They applied steady pressure and did an excellent job containing Jahvid Best — who would have thought he’d be the third-best running back on the field today? Play of the game overall was Kevin Barnes almost knocking Best’s head off (and sending him to the sidelines for a while). Check it out:
(By the way, I think that wide-screen pass play is one of the worst offensive calls in football. It’s never successful, and it makes the receiver a sitting duck.)
As always, of course, there are reasons to temper the enthusiasm. There was a lot of talk and then some about Cal being jet lagged and unaccustomed to the mid-Atlantic humidity. But I think both concerns were validated. Cal came out flat, plain and simple. And the Terps’ kicker, Egekeze, is probably toast. He’s 0-5 on field goals over three games. They can’t stay with him.
But overall, the Terps looked great. Their stars stepped up, they executed consistently, they made plays, and they withstood a late Cal run with (reasonable) poise. In a way, this win makes the Middle Tennessee game all the more frustrating. If we had brought the same focus to Murfreesboro, it would be a different narrative right now…but everyone knows that. It’s a broken record lately with Maryland. It remains to be seen which of these two games will be more representative of the season.
Looking ahead, who knows what can happen this year in the ACC? It’s anybody’s conference and that’s the truth. I’m not saying Maryland is now a top ACC contender, but who would have thought a week ago that the Nov. 15 tilt between Maryland and North Carolina might have BCS implications? There’s A LOT that can happen between now and then, of course. But for just the “now” part, we’re looking pretty good. No IFs, ANDs, or BUTs about it.