With 11:23 left in the fourth quarter in last night’s game between Maryland and JMU, I stood up with my hands on my head in disbelief. I was in the last row of Section 205, looking down on Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium, and surrounded by my wife and her six friends from JMU. The Terrapins had just given up a 70-yard TD run on a misdirection play by Dukes QB Drew Dudzik. Maryland had fallen behind 35-28 to a CAA team in the fourth quarter. I thought my worst fears had been realized, and I’m not talking about swine flu.
As our friends yelled “in your faaaaaaace” and “the Terps suck” at me, I couldn’t help but wonder how this game had gotten so out of hand. Maryland had been up 21-6 in the second quarter, but since then JMU seemed to have solved Maryland’s defensive strategy. With an aggressive blitzing scheme in place throughout the game, the Terps were barely getting penetration, and seemed to be losing the battle at the line. JMU must have watched film of the Maryland vs. Middle Tennessee State game from last year because they were using staggered timing and misdirection to throw the Maryland blitz off. The Terps seemed to succeed at bottling the Dukes up for two or three plays at a time, but once JMU got past the blitz there seemed to be nobody in the secondary to make a tackle. The result was that a DI-AA team used the run to beat the blitz, and they went for an astonishing 268 yards on the ground against Maryland.
I hate to say it, but the Terps benefited from a couple of hometown calls at crucial points. Add to that the fact that one of their TD’s came on a kick-off return, and one could argue that JMU was actually the better team on the field yesterday. I know this sounds harsh, but JMU was moving the ball more effectively than Maryland. The Dukes defense also forced the Terps into many crucial third-and-long situations. Maryland converted a fourth-and-four late in the fourth quarter to keep the game alive. The Terrapins won this game by the skin of their teeth, stopping JMU on their first OT possession and getting a field goal from a freshman for a 38-35 win. It was anything but a convincing victory.
There were a few highlights. Chris Turner continued to step-up in pressure moments, and converted passes for first downs over and over. Overall, the Terps were 7-15 in third and fourth down conversions. In fact, Maryland’s offense seemed to do its best when the pressure was on.
Another bright spot was that the new addition to Tyser Tower looks great from the outside. It helps to enclose the stadium a bit more, making the crowd sound a little louder, and the design of the concrete face blends in well with the rest of the stadium. It makes the place look a little more professional in general. There is a gigantic neon Capital One sign on top of the building, but it doesn’t distract from the game action at all. I didn’t see the laminate filled inside of the luxury boxes. My seats were on the opposite side of the stadium, and I was just too plain lazy to make the trek just to see what the inside of a luxury box looks like. Maybe next time.
I don’t know if this is a realistic consideration, but the Terps might want to think about employing a hurry-up offense as a change of pace. They definitely need to go downfield more earlier in the game, if for not other reason than to loosen-up the opposing secondary. JMU regularly stacked the box against Da’Rel Scott, and he once again had trouble finding an edge. Maryland’s receivers showed the ability to make catches downfield and Turner can make the throws. The team needs to start making those plays earlier in the game. There was no reason to wait until the fourth quarter to open-up the offense against a CAA team.
I said it last week and I’m going to say it again – the defense is not staying at home enough, and this aggressive blitz is leaving huge gaps in the secondary. Dan Brown I know you read Shell Games, please leave the safety’s in the backfield. The team is getting exposed back there, and they’re not getting the pressure this scheme was designed to generate.
Maryland faces a similar team next week in Middle Tennessee State. Sadly, this is a revenge game for the Terps. If the team does not make adjustments against the misdirection, then they may face giving MTSU their second biggest win in the history of their program next to last year’s win against the Terps.