Three weeks ago, Maryland was 4-2, the only undefeated ACC team in conference play, and coming off a big win at Virginia. Freshman quarterback Perry Hills was starting to come into his own, the defense was consistently performing as one of the top units in the country, and Stefon Diggs was quickly proving to be a threat every time he touched the ball. Then, the Angry Maryland Quarterback Hating God awoke from his ten week slumber, and decided to smite more Terrapin signal callers.
First went Hills, early on against North Carolina State, and Devin Burns followed later in the game (which the Terrapins would lose in a heartbreaker). Caleb Rowe would step in, but he too would be hurt the next week, in another heartbreaking loss to Boston College. Next up was a reeling Georgia Tech team that Maryland would probably have been favored against just a few weeks ago. Linebacker Shawn Petty was slated to play quarterback, and the Terps ended up struggling in all phases of the game, losing 33-13. Let's hand out our unit grades.
Quarterbacks: C. Petty finished 9/18 for 115 yards with two touchdowns and an interception - numbers that are actually extremely impressive when you consider the situation. He also 13 times for 54 yards (not including four sacks), and did well for a true freshman linebacker thrust into ACC quarterbacking play. However, his passing numbers look quite a bit better than he did, and Petty consistently overthrew open receivers. He did show impressive pocket awareness, and his improvement in the second half was notable, but Petty's performance didn't exactly incite excitement among the Terrapin faithful. Included in this unit is also the "Wild Crab" formation, with Wes Brown at quarterback, which worked quite well and will be an interesting wrinkle to look for in the offense.
Running Backs: B. The aforementioned Brown did well before suffering a minor ankle injury, running nine times for 38 yards, but it wasn't enough to save the shipwreck that was Maryland's offense. Instead, it was Brandon Ross who provided much of the spark, rushing 12 times for 66 yards in what was already a blowout. Albert Reid and Justus Pickett each had one rush for a negative yard, but Pickett caught a late 28-yard pass.
Wide Receivers: B-. Realistically, they did what they could. By they, we mean Stefon Diggs. Diggs was the only Terp with more than one catch, hauling in five for 55 yards and Maryland's only two scores. On the first one, he caught a pass over the middle, broke away from a defender, and outran a couple more before stretching out towards the end zone. The second came as time expired in the game, when Petty lofted a pass to the corner of the endzone and Diggs outjumped his defender. In terms of the other guys in the unit, Kevin Dorsey had one catch for 14 yards, Levern Jacobs had a reception for ten yards, and tight end Ryan Schlothauer had his first career catch - an eight-yard gain. Dorsey and Matt Furstenburg each dropped passes, but with how the game was going the final score likely would not have changed.
Offensive Line: B+. Petty was only sacked four times (it bears repeating that he's a linebacker playing quarterback), and seemed to have sufficient time for his insanely long wind-up. Even better, the running game was much improved, thanks to the re-institution of the zone read as the main scheme and the introduction of the Wild Crab. The O-Line did their job, and it showed on the ground.
Defensive Line: D. Yikes. This unit has been so great all year long, and then this happens. Georgia Tech has a very good, complex offense, but the Terps still allowed 370 yards on the ground to them - a team that only scored three against BYU. Joe Vellano was absent the entire game, only recording one (assisted) tackle, and while A.J. Francis and Darius Kilgo did alright (a combined 13 tackles with another blocked kick for Francis), the Yellow Jackets' ground game was nearly unstoppable.
Linebackers: C. Cole Farrand had his break-out game of sorts, with ten tackles, and Demetrius Hartsfield had nine before he got hurt, but this was not a good game for Maryland's defense in any way, shape or form. Kenneth Tate looked exposed at linebacker, and while the unit prevented any large number of breakaway runs from occuring, Tech still averaged nearly seven yards per carry.
Secondary: C+. They barely had to do anything, as Georgia Tech only attempted four passes in the game (they completed two for 31 yards). However, Anthony Nixon continued his surprisingly solid play with eight tackles, and Jeremiah Johnson and Dexter McDougle combined for nine from the corner spots. Tech only had four runs of more than 20 yards, and the Terps didn't give up a long touchdown run all game. Part of that credit goes to the secondary.
Special Teams: B-. Diggs continued to do his thing, returning five kicks for an average of 26.6 yards and one punt for 14 yards, but Nate Renfro struggled again. He punted five times for an average of 35.8 yards, and when he finally got off a good one, Byrd Stadium erupted in its loudest applause of the day.
It was that kind of game in College Park.