I told anybody that would listen to me after the Clemson loss (and corresponding Carolina win over Florida State) that if we took care of business against Wake and Carolina we would definitely find a way to blow a trip to the ACC Championship Game against Maryland. Who didn’t see that one coming? TOB has never won a conference championship in his 14 years as a head coach and the knock on him has always been that he struggles to win the big games. Add to that the fact that Ralph Friedgen and the Terps have absolutely owned the Pack (now 7-3 against us) over the past decade.
Even though I had strong doubts that we would win this game, I let myself get caught up in the ACC Championship Game hype so the loss felt like a Mike Tyson left hook to the gut. I had started putting together tentative plans for a weekend long party at my place. I was trying to find extra beds for buddies coming in town. I was looking to track down extra tickets. Now I can just relax this weekend, get some stuff done around the house Saturday morning (namely Christmas decorations), and go to the game with no pressure and just enjoy it. At least I take some solace that Maryland is not the Atlantic Division representative.
Looking down the road, though, I worry that the Pack’s window for winning an ACC Championship may be closed. Florida State has better athletes and what seems to be a darn good coach in Jimbo Fisher. Maryland has Friedgen and Freshman ACC ROY QB Danny O’Brien for the next 3 years. Clemson always has superior football players and will be very dangerous if they just get rid of Dabo Swinney and get a coach that has a clue. Boston College is always disciplined, consistent, and they never beat themselves. I don’t see Wake Forest as a threat, but kudos to them for taking advantage of their one and probably only ever opportunity and winning the ACC Championship back in 2006. Combine all that with our current recruiting class being ranked dead last in the ACC by both Rivals and Scout and the loss of our two best playmakers in Nate Irving and Russell Wilson (yes I’m assuming he plays baseball and doesn’t return next season) and I just don’t see how we go up from here.
Anyway, let’s get to the game grades. Once against I’m gonna pass on the position by position breakdown and just hit some areas I feel were the most noteworthy. Feel free to add any additional grades you feel necessary in the comment section.
Jarvis Williams – Grade: A
He must have been pissed about his ejection last week against Carolina because he came out ultra focused and played a great game (8 catches, 78 yards). Sometimes he can get complacent, but that was definitely not the case in College Park. He didn’t match Torrey Smith and his out of this world day, but he did catch every pass thrown to him which is more than the rest of our receivers can say.
Effort – Grade: B+
Even with a trip to the ACC Championship Game on the line I was worried that our guys would come out flat after the emotional win over Carolina the week before. This was not the case. Our guys weren’t jacked up like I wanted them to be, but we jumped to an early 14-0 lead on Maryland so we came ready to play. Then a few turnovers turned the momentum and we couldn’t do anything to stop it, with our terrible game plan and poor execution, until it was too late. The guys didn’t give up and fought hard to the end which never happened last year so that was nice to see.
James Washington – Grade: B
He was surprising effective all day finishing with 101 total yards (55 rushing and 46 receiving) taking over after Mustafa Greene left the game early with a neck injury. He still gets manhandled when trying to pick up the blitz, but he seems to be coming into his own. All the preseason Sonic Boom talk was laughable, but Washington and Greene could form a dangerous running combo for the next few years if our O-line will ever live up to the expectations of a TOB coached O-line.
Offense – Grade: C
Let’s look at our drive chart: TD, TD, Punt, Fumble, Punt, INT, Missed FG, Half, Punt, Punt, FG, Punt, Downs, TD, TD. So we came out strong, did absolutely nothing for the majority of the game, then scored some garbage touchdowns at the end after the game was all but decided. Pretty sad for the offense that spent most of the season as the #1 offense in the ACC. Of course all the drops didn’t help, but we still had plenty of chances couldn’t take advantage of them.
Special Teams – Grade: D
Will our special team woes ever end? Once again we had a 12 yard punt. I haven’t done the research, but we have to be in the top 5 in number of punts under 20 yards. Unbelievable. I was at the game and it was very windy, but a 12 yard punt is unacceptable no matter the circumstances. We also had a field goal blocked right before the half. Not only was it blocked but the Terps picked it up and got it across midfield setting up a field goal for them giving them a 17-14 halftime lead. We also lost the field position battle big time (State avg starting was S26.6 while Maryland avg starting was M39.9) largely due to ineffective return and coverage teams.
Defense – Grade: F
We absolutely stuffed Maryland’s running game early and they totally abandoned it (finished with -9 total yards) yet they still were able to do whatever they wanted to in the passing game and move the ball on will. We somehow forgot about their best receiver Torrey Smith (14 catches, 224 yards, 4 TDs) and decided not only to not bracket/double him like FSU had done so effectively the week before, but to not even cover him at all. Of course I’m exaggerating that a little bit, but there were a lot of times where we let him run free and clear through our zone. The worst part about it was that we made zero in-game adjustments. We didn’t generate any pressure on QB Danny O’Brien all day and made him look like a Heisman Trophy candidate. Did the 2009 NC State defense come and abduct the 2010 unit?
T.J. Graham – Grade: F
He went from being the hero last week to the goat this week faster than his world class track speed. His fumble gave Maryland a short field which by missing a field goal they failed to capitalize on, but it killed the Pack’s momentum and was a sign of things to come. To make matters worse, on the first play of the next State drive a catchable Russell Wilson pass bounced off T.J.’s hands, was intercepted, and returned to the Maryland 3 yard line setting up the game-tying touchdown right before the half. He also returned to his pedestrian ways in the return game with a 1.5 yard average on 2 punt returns and a 13.7 yard average on 3 kickoff returns.
Maryland Fans – Grade: F
Dare I say it, but Maryland fans have now surpassed ECU fans and Carolina fans as my most hated fan base. They just flat out suck. They only get an F because that’s as low as the grades go. I wish I could make a new grading scale to reflect just how much I hate them. I could make a whole blog entry about this, and maybe in the offseason I will, but this has been going on for the past decade and Saturday just put it over the top. If you look up the definition of classless thugs in the dictionary you’ll find a picture of Terp fans.