The Terps overcame a lot of adversity to come back from a 21-3 deficit in the second half. Starting quarterback Danny O’Brien was benched in the first half. Starting Left Guard Andrew Gonnella suffered a serious injury in the fourth quarter – so gruesome that ESPNU refused to show the replay.
Note: I went back and watched the replay, his knee was at an awkward angle and Gonnella was convulsing on the ground. Reports are coming out that a bone was sticking out of his leg. Not a pretty sight.
Backup quarterback C.J. Brown – who has slowly started earning more playing time the last two weeks – came in and didn’t play well for two quarters led the Terps to two scoring drives in the fourth quarter. The loss drops the Terps to 2-3 (1-1 in the ACC), Georgia Tech goes to 6-0 for the first time since the 1960′s.
Brown’s play was up-and-down. While Brown brings a dimension of speed from the QB position, his throwing leaves something to be desired. He was just 4-for-17 for 36 yards and an interception, but had 124 yards on the ground, including a 77-yard touchdown. With a huge game against a top-10 Clemson at home next week, the QB controversy will be one of the big topics of discussion all week leading into the game.
Play-calling and decision-making from the coaching staff also seemed to be a huge issue. Maryland had a fourth and goal from the 8 and decided to go for it, rather than taking the points. The decision ultimately backfired. As did the play call on the game-deciding fourth down as Maryland ended up going deep on a low percentage throw.
Special Teams was a huge issue for the Terps today. The kick coverage unit gave up a 79-yard return on the opening kickoff of the second half. The kickoff and punt return units were poor again. Last season, Tony Logan was one of the premier returners in the country, this season not so much. He’s not even getting good chances on punt returns and looks to force returns.
One thing that cannot be argued is the loss of Andrew Gonnella. He was a senior, captain, and the leader on the offensive line. The loss of Gonnella will be huge. Not that his backup, Pete White, can’t fill in admirably – and he did – but Gonnella was a feel-good story that everyone enjoyed rooting for.
The defense responded well today, especially without their star Kenny Tate. Even after the team lost LB Demetrius Hartsfield, the defense responded well with Freshmen Mario Rowson and Alex Twine filling in for the injured Linebackers. The two Freshmen joined LB Lorne Goree, S Titus Till and DL Keith Bowers amongst Freshmen in the game on defense. Defensive tackle Joe Vellano finished with 20 tackles (1 for loss) on the game, alongside him Defensive Tackle A.J. Francis finished with 9 tackles and a pass break-up.
At the end of the day, today has to be seen as a positive for the players. They lost on the road to an unbeaten top-15 team by 5 points. A lackluster defense played its best game of the season, despite being without 5 starters. An offense that sputtered for 3 quarters nearly led a comeback in the final fifteen minutes. None of these players will be happy with a loss, and the coaching staff has a lot of important decisions to make, but today could have been a lot worse.
The team has a week to rebound before next weeks homecoming game against #8 Clemson (currently up 23-7 at the half of Boston College). The game will air at 7:00 ET on ESPNU next week.