Maryland had a week to prepare for their conference opener against Wake Forest. Despite the extra rest, and Wake Forest’s last minute-suspensions, the Terps left it until late to seal the victory over Wake Forest, 19-14. Despite all the advantages given to the Terrapins, they still struggled against statistically the worst defense in the ACC. Something Maryland Head Coach Randy Edsall addressed after the game.
“I would have hoped we would have been further along then we were offensively.” Edsall continued “I don’t want to say anything until I’ve had a good look at the film, but I think there will be some things, from a personnel standpoint, that will be a little bit different for next week on offense.”
Edsall’s disappointment was obvious, but he wasn’t willing to put all the blame on Freshman QB Perry Hills.
“Perry [Hills] needs to be more consistent. I love Perry to death, we all love Perry, but he’s missing some things out there. He could make it a lot easier on himself, and be more productive offensively if he just threw to his checkdowns and progressed through his reads.” Edsall said about his Freshman signal caller.
Edsall continued that those mistakes would need to be eliminated. Edsall also mentioned that the coaching staff worked on a package for backup QB Devin Burns, but “the opportunity never presented itself.” It wouldn’t seem like a quarterback controversy is brewing, but it appears as though the coaching staff will make a change before it gets to that point.
While Hills struggled early in the game, he again showed up in the fourth quarter when he was needed most. After taking a sack on a first down play, Hills responded by stepping up in the pocket and finding Stefon Diggs in the middle of the field around the first down marker. Diggs did the rest, evading a defender before breaking outside down the sideline before splitting defenders and nearly scoring the touchdown.
The 63-yard pass play was easily the Terrapins longest of the day, and it allowed Diggs to make up for a few mistakes he had earlier in the game. Diggs muffed a punt in the third quarter and dropped a pass that was luckily negated by a roughing the passer penalty.
“I tried to move forward from it, I got down on myself because that’s how I play and I love the game and I think mistakes like that shouldn’t happen.” Diggs continued “I had to get it back someway, somehow, but it was probably the worst game of my life and I just need to get back in the lab for Virginia.”
Diggs, admittedly frustrated over the mistakes, still was able to produce when he needed it most, much like Hills. Coach Edsall also acknowledged that the play was great from Stefon Diggs, but he could be doing better. No word on if he’ll force Diggs to call a fair catch on a punt.
“That’s a slippery slope with Stefon [Diggs]. Something he has to understand – he wants to make big plays – is sometimes it’s not going to happen.” Coach Edsall said frustrated. “He has the ability to make the big plays, but sometimes he hurts himself more than he helps himself.”
Edsall is aware of how special a talent Diggs can be, but in order for him to perform his best he needs to play under control. However, through all the chaos, Diggs still makes plays whenever he is given space. While Diggs and the offense have gone through their struggles, the defense again played outstanding for the Terrapins.
“It’s a team game, but you have to take your hats off to our defense, they keep us in every game.” Said Edsall.
While the defense did give up a 73-yard touchdown early in the game, they put the clamps down on the Demon Deacons for the rest of the game. The defense surrendered just 166 yards the rest of the game after the first drive. A big part of that was linebacker Kenneth Tate. Despite having a limitation on plays, eventually the coaching staff decided that he was just too vital to have sitting on the bench.
“You only want to play him so many plays, but when he’s out there – there’s a steadiness, a calmness and you just hope tomorrow he isn’t sore. It got to the point where I told the defensive coaches ‘Keep him out there’ and when you have a guy out there with the intelligence that he has, it helps your defense.” Edsall reluctantly admitted.
The linebacking core has been the rock of the defense so far this season. With Darin Drakeford rushing the quarterback off the end, and Demetrius Hartsfield cleaning everything up in the center of the field, using Tate as a specialist seems like a luxury. Hartsfield made the defensive play of the game when he and cornerback Dexter McDougle combined to make a goal-line stand on fourth down to keep the game in hand during the second quarter.
Defensive Linemen A.J. Francis and Joe Vellano both praised everyone around them for the play on fourth down. Francis even said he didn’t know what happened until he heard all the home fans cheering. He explained that his job was to cut lineman’s knees and was at the bottom of the pile and couldn’t see what happened.
At the end of the day, the Terps won and improved to 3-2 on the season, and opened up their conference schedule with a much-needed win. The Terps will look to improve to 2-0 in the conference next week when they travel to Virginia. We’ll have to wait to see what changes Randy Edsall and the offensive staff make to the offense, but ultimately the Terps will be fine if they can just continue to win.
For more on the Terps, follow Brendan Darr on twitter: @BrendanDarr