Posts Tagged ‘Alex Wujciak

18
Oct
09

maryland football goes from bad to ugly

U-G-L-Y you ain’t got no alibi, YOU UGLY (what what) YOU UGLY! I loved me some Wildcats back in the day.  I even used to think Goldie Hawn was hot.  80’s hot.

On a wet day at Byrd Stadium yesterday, the Terrapins fell to a UVA team that managed only 201 yards of total offense.  While the defense held its own, Maryland’s offense kept coughing up the ball and handed the Wahoos a win.  Four turnovers did the Terps in, including a third quarter Chris Turner Pick-6 that gave the Cavaliers the lead for good.  Maryland’s -1.8 per game turnover margin puts them at 117 out of 120 DI-A teams.

This game was not indicative of the Terps season long struggles with breakdowns in protection.  While Chris Turner seemed to have more time to throw the ball this Saturday, he never got into a rhythm and coughed it up with the game on the line.  The running game was plagued by fumbles.  Offensively, the Terps moved the ball reasonably well, but they failed to get the ball in the end zone.

The defense seemed to turn things around yesterday.  The Terps totaled 5 sacks against UVA and the D was getting constant penetration.  Alex Wucjiak was everywhere, adding 14 tackles to his season total of 77.  Wucjiak is now ranked 4th in DI-A in total tackles.  Demetrius Hartsfield gutted it out with a broken hand to get seven tackles, and Adrian Moten ended up with two sacks.  That was about it for Terps highlights.

Turnovers turnovers turnovers.  Why all the turnovers?  UVA has a good defense ranking 19th overall in total yards, but that’s no excuse for fumbles and interceptions.  I think Maryland’s offense has been too predictable all year.  Check that, they’ve been too predictable since 2006.  They’ve fallen in love with the quick outs and the runs off tackle.  The offensive rhythm is rarely staggered, allowing the defense to time their blitz better and zero in on the football.  I’ve said it before, but I’d still like to see Maryland use more no huddle, especially in the second half.  Chris Turner seems more in control when he’s thinking less, and mixing in the no huddle would keep the defense on its toes.

Otherwise, we all know it’s going to be a long season so let’s just hope for some incremental improvements.  U-G-L-Y the Terps ain’t got no alibi, they ugly.

16
Oct
09

A Maryland-Virginia football preview from celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain

Bourdain-Anthony-3College Park, Maryland.   The crown jewel of PG County may not be much to look at, but if you take the time to immerse yourself in its culture, you find it has a special life rhythm, a unique pre-revitalizational splendor all its own. 

So when my producers told me a visit to College Park was imminent, my response was simple, and immediate:  where do I sign.  When College Park comes calling, my friends, you have no choice but to accept the charges.

The deal was only sweetened for me when I was informed, as we all clambored into that late-model Mercedes SUV, that the weekend in question was, in fact, homecoming weekend

Homecoming weekend. It’s a time-honored tradition in this part of the world.  Friends and family come from far and wide to pay visits to a favorite son, niece, or buddy who, with any luck, is working toward his or her diploma, that ticket to the real world that comes rushing at you like a Pamplona silverback stoned on Vivarin and Fundador.  Revelers of all stripes eat and drink as if the world might end, and above all, they root.  Root root.  For the home team. Throw Midnight Madness in there, and you have the makings of a weekend for the record books, especially as they pertain to the local jail population.

Being from New York City, I admit to some uncertainty over the homecoming phenomenon.  Fortunately for me, College Park offers the perfect initiation.  The street food — hamburgers and hot dogs grilled in the open air, Thermonuclear hot wings, doughy Ratsie’s pizza — provides a veritable culinary rainbow for a humble, road-weary New York City traveler like myself.  After a bite to eat and a drink or five, we head to Lot 4.  And that’s where I see it for the first time.  A father and son, both members of the same fraternity, wearing matching Under Armour shirts just a touch too small, weaving arm-in-arm through the crowd, vomiting on shoes, calling everyone gay.  That’s when I finally understood.  Though I hadn’t known it when I’d first set out, this was what I had come to see.

Oh, and I have also come for a football game.  A football game between two teams bad enough that an ersatz rivalry was in order for the locals, and their football heroes, to give a crap. Maryland linebacker Alex Wujciak derided Virginia students as essentially a group of preppy snobs. Virginia coach Al Groh said that had he known about standout Terp receiver and Virginia native Torrey Smith, Smith would be playing for the Cavs right now.  I suppose there is, after all, some legitimacy to this rivalry. As Ralph Friedgen points out, these campuses are relatively close, and a lot of the players know one another.  Nevertheless, talk of this being some sort of blood feud rings as hollow to me as my road-weary footsteps on the lonely midnight pavement of New York City, where I grew up.

Even as the schools are close, so too are their teams. Virginia has rebounded from a winless start (which included, you’ll recall, a loss to William and Mary) to marshal a 2-3 record, nearly equalling Maryland’s illustrious 2-4.   Star Cavs running back Mikell Simpson is doubtful for the game, which could put the pressure on big fullback and alleged felon Rashawn Jackson.  Maryland, again, is in a similar boat. With their ground game gaining only 62 yards last week without Da’rel Scott, QB Chris Turner now may wish to seek out Torrey Smith, who is no doubt looking to show UVA what they missed.  The aerial attack may be the Terps’ best chance, but it will face a UVA defense ranked third in the ACC against the pass and led by reining ACC Defensive Back of the Week Ras-I Dowling.  You may remember that he picked off a pass in last year’s 31-0 Virginia romp over the Terps.

And there’s my segue. I’m from New York City, so I don’t know much about the state of Maryland. But in doing this show, I now know the state of Maryland football.  They want revenge for last year’s butt-kicking, but frankly speaking, the signs are not encouraging. The predicted bad weather could turn this into trench warfare — not a strong suit for the Terps. We’ll see if Davin Meggett and the linemen are up to the task. My belief is they are not. Field goals will soar through the rain-soaked air like the mortar shells thumped over the treetops of Bastogne. And in the end, the Cavaliers will prevail. And the revelry in College Park will take a turn for the worse. But you know something? That’s my kind of party.

Prediction: Virginia 19, Maryland 9

06
Oct
09

Demetrius Hartsfield: New Star on Defense?

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During the Clemson game, Demetrius Hartsfield, the least-heralded of the Terps’ linebackers, quietly began to rack up tackle after tackle. And I thought to myself, nice I’m gonna write down his name and post about him dude you are such a keen observer of the game I can’t believe it you’re so smart. But then, Demetrius kind of outkicked the coverage on me; his performance went from quietly strong to loudly strong. Like deafening.

The final stat line for this Raleigh, N.C. product (he turned down Duke to come to Maryland…yay, f*ck Duke!) includes 10 tackles (eight of them solo and 2.5 of them for a loss), one sack, one fumble recovered. And as the game approached its finale, he only got bigger: four of his tackles came in the final quarter. And of course, it all culminated when Hartsfield, with 27 seconds left, sacked Clemson QB Kyle Parker, forcing and then recovering a fumble to seal the victory.

The accolades have been pouring in, and rightly so. He’s the first defensive player this season to be named ACC Rookie of the Week. No one less than Lou Holtz gave Hartsfield a “helmet sticker” during ESPN’s college football show. It’s all well-deserved, but what about me? I was ready to tout the untouted guy. It’s just bad luck, is what it is.

I always figured Alex Wujciak would emerge as this year’s top dog and/or Next Great Maryland Linebacker, and if not him, then Adrien Moten probably had the next-best shot. And don’t get me wrong…Wujciak is a warrior. All accounts are that he hobbles around like Earl Campbell during the week but always brings it on game days. You can’t knock a guy like that. But the unit needed more than just a stopper — they needed a game changer. And on Saturday, that’s what they got — literally — from Demetrius Hartsfield. We’ll see if he can keep it rolling against Wake.


(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

16
Sep
09

Wujciak: Walking the Talk?

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When your defense gives up 90 points in two games, it kind of gets fast-tracked to the top of the oh-shit list. As previously noted, I think the Terps’ defensive success hinges on middle LB Alex Wujciak. Wujciak has a team-high 17 tackles. He’s certainly not playing poorly. But on further review, Wujciak has six solo stops, only 0.5 tackles for loss, no TOs forced or recovered. He’s like NFL Lavar Arrington — always getting there just quickly enough to jump on the pile and high-five his teammates. Put another way, Wujciak needs to do more than make tackles. He needs to make plays. And so far, he hasn’t made enough, in my opinion, especially in this new blitz-happy scheme.

A recent quote of his got my attention. When asked for his reaction to CB Nolan Carroll’s season-ending injury, he responded thusly:

“He broke his leg? That’s going to hurt us. He’s our leader.”

Interesting choice of leader, when Wujciak was the unit’s clear standout last year and earlier this summer discussed pretty extensively his desire to be a big-time player.  Is it just me, or is he reluctant in (or abdicating) this leadership role?  (Also, way to be aware of your teammate’s situation.)

I know he’s only 21.  And there’s plenty of blame to go around for the defense. Not every star player has to be William Wallace or Stephen Hawking (you know, minus the Lou Gehrig’s disease) out there. So maybe I’m drinking too much Haterade.  But he’s one of my favorite guys on the team. I have high expectations. Big hopes.  And out of the gate, it’s clear the D needs some on-field guidance. Wujciak was teed up by everyone — including himself — to provide that guidance. Here’s hoping he does. Soon. Anytime is good.

(Photo credit: Adam Fried/The Diamondback)

14
Sep
09

Dear Meow Mix Bowl organizers

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Dear Meow Mix Bowl organizers,

My letter to you today serves a dual purpose.  First of all, I want to apologize to you and the entire Meow Mix family. I have belittled your bowl game event in the past, and I realize now that I was remiss in that.  Meow Mix is a very high-quality brand of cat feed.  Maybe the best.  I have found your Hairball Control variety to be particularly effective, with my fictional cat now horking up, oh, say, 25 percent less hair, thanks to your special blend of enzymes and catalysts. It also comes in little Xs and Os, much like our human cereal.  I like that.  Did you determine that those shapes make the feed more, like, visually appealing to the cats?  Brilliant.  Again, a tip of the cap to you for all the great work you do.

I sing your praises today, however, not only because of your unwavering commitment to delivering first-rate cat feed at affordable prices, but to ask that you add a new team to your bowl game watch list: my beloved Maryland Terrapins. I know, I know, we’re just two games in, and they’re 1-1. And they now finish a relatively easy homestand with Middle Tennessee State, Rutgers, and ACC opener Clemson. Not too daunting, but they probably need to go 4-1 to be a “contender,” and 3-2 to be respectable. Truth be told, after JMU I wonder about the prospects of obtaining either of these records. The ACC is soft this year and can definitely be had, but still, I wonder. And I worry.

And that, Meow Mix Bowl organizers, is where you come in.

You see, the thing is, we haven’t played particularly well as of yet. Our young and executionally challenged lines mean that we stall on offense, and need our defensive playmakers to overblitz and play help roles. And we have injuries. Big left tackle Bruce Campbell and little safety Jamari McCulloch are both out again this week, and now CB Nolan Carroll is likely done for the season. This is not good. And don’t get me started on Alex Wujciak. That’s another letter.

So anyway, this all brings me around to my request. Maybe you can go ahead and slot us in for Meow Mix this winter? Kind of like early admission to college; we won’t accept any other bowl offers, but you have to give us preferential status.  I know we would be honored to play in the Meow Mix Bowl. And I can speak for the program on that one. Really. I have that authorization.

So in closing, thank you again for providing such a top-flight cat feed formula — the cat feed formula so good, so delicate in its flavor profile, so toothsome for the feline pallette — that cats literally ask for it by name. Can Whiskas make a similar claim? They cannot.  When did you last hear a cat request Fancy Feast?  It is unpossible.  But also, and almost more importantly, thank you for considering the Maryland Terps for the Meow Mix Bowl, which provides an amazing fan experience for consumers young and old, who receive not only valuable exposure to the Meow Mix brand and family of products, but also to a moving and spectacular American football demonstration. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
Bobby the sick boy with cancer

08
Sep
09

Terps Defense Needs a Hug, Alcohol

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My name is Don Brown. I’m from Quincy, Mass. I don’t have any hobbies, but I do like to get >beeeep< after a victory on Saturday night.

–Don Brown, Terrapins Rising

Great quote, Don. After all, who doesn’t like to get beeped after a Terps W? Sometimes, I like to get so beeped I can’t even beep. However, I have a feeling he might have been downing quite a few mini bottles on the flight back from Oakland following the season-opening dismantling at Cal.

To further what is likely an inappropriate motif here on this back-to-work Tuesday, Patrick Stevens over at D1scourse has a rather sobering breakdown of Brown’s Maryland debut. It’s enough to make you want to hurl. Not since 2001 have the Terps given up 500 yards in one game, and only once in that time have they given up more than 40 points. Eight Cal plays alone racked up 300 yards. This signals that Brown’s attacking style kinda, sorta didn’t work at all. If you’re gonna send the blitz from all positions and angles, you’ve got to a) consistently make big plays in the backfield, and/or b) keep enough guys in the secondary area to put up some kind of “defense” against the home run. If you’re gonna try to confuse the offense with your super-complicated packages, it’s probably a good idea for the executors of said packages to not also be confused.

Also, what happened to all those big, big stars we were supposed to have? Where was highly touted D-line replacement A.J. Francis? Oh, he was invisible? But his training camp interviews were so colorful! He wants to be a rapper omg I can’t believe it that’s so cool. What didn’t translate for the redshirt freshman? He must be secretly injured. Even more surprisingly, though, was the absence of Nolan Carroll, our fifth-year senior and supposed leader in the secondary. Oh, was that him eating Jahvid Best’s road exhaust on the opening touchdown? At least he was on the screen. I didn’t see Alex Wujciak once. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — Wujciak is the key. I’ll leave it at that.

At this point, let me add the disclaimers — just one game, hindsight’s 20-20, it’s a new scheme, this was the best team on the sked, it’s a young group learning on the fly. But after this meltdown, it’s clear that the defense is not just “a few plays away.” No. They need to work. So for the sake of Terp livers everywhere, get to it! James Madison — beatable, but no pushover — looms.

(Photo credit: Tony Avelar/AP)

24
Aug
09

It’s ALL about Alex Wujciak

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Ahhh, training camp. Burning questions abound! Who will emerge as the fourth-string tailback? Who, dammit? WHO!?!?!? Who’s gonna be the backup punter? THIS AIN’T NO FU*KIN GAME, MAN!!!! YOU GOTTA LET ME KNOW!

Not to say that there aren’t legitimate battles going on (kicker comes to mind), but with all due respect to the Gary Douglases of the world, I’d like to focus on the players who are actually going to play. In the real games. Is that a weird thing for me to say? Sorry. I hope you’ll indulge this old codger’s cockamamie notions. I’m much obliged to you.

So with that in mind, I’d like to discuss Alex Wujciak, the long-haired linebacker with the onomatopoetic surname. I know I’m not exactly dropping a new name here, but when the bullets start flying in September, I think Wujciak will be the most important guy on the field for the Terps, on either side. Yeah, he was good last year, but he’s gonna have to be really good this year. Like All-America good. And you know what? I think he can do it.

A quick review. In his sophomore campaign last year, Wujciak made 133 tackles — good for second in the ACC and 13th in the nation (fifth among returning players). Maybe that’s why he’s on the watch lists for the 2009 Bednarik Award (nation’s top defensive player) and Nagurski Award (nation’s top linebacker). He’s fast, he’s strong, and he’s athletic. This season, he wants to attack more. New defensive coordinator Don “Attacking Style” Brown should be able to accommodate him.

But. And you knew there was a but coming. They lost four LBs after last season (Philistin, Fokou, Chase Bullock, and Rick “Douche” Costa). The only other guy on the unit with a start is Adrian Moten. And as you probably know, Wujciak had his knee scoped this offseason — nothing major, and he should return at full speed for the first game, but still, it was a surgical procedure, and it’s gonna raise some questions until we see him back 100%. (Have you seen that guy in the green jersey on Terrapins Rising who high-fives everybody and has hair like Troy Polamalu? That’s him.)

Perhaps this is why, despite Wujciak’s presence, the Terp LB unit is ranked seventh in the ACC by several sources. But this unit is still the most highly regarded on the Terps defense — the perception is that the secondary seems deep but not especially talented, and that the D-line is fairly, uh, green, to say the least. So as the middle linebacker and the unquestioned best player on that side of the ball for Maryland, Wujciak is going to have to make his own plays, make other peoples’ plays for them, and generally act as the quarterback of the defense, all while not letting the younger guys get too down on themselves if something goes wrong. Which it inevitably will.

So it’s a tall order for Wujciak. To reiterate, he was definitely good last season, but I never did a double take when I watched him. When E.J. Henderson was at Maryland, he seemed at times to be a one-man gang out there. Every so often he would elicit a “whoa, did you see THAT?!” as we watched him. I don’t get that feeling from Wujciak. In other words, he’s been solid, but unspectacular. I think he’ll need to raise that up and become truly dominant. And not “dominant for Maryland,” or “dominant through the rose-colored glasses of a Terp fan.” I mean dominant dominant. This is not to say that other players can’t step up. But if Wujciak doesn’t become a consensus, no-brainer top two or three defender in the ACC (or better), then I don’t see this unit having the spark it needs to be in the ACC’s upper echelon. And he seems to have a lot of factors lining up for him. We shall see.

(Photo credit: Lindyssports.com)




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