Maryland opened up their football season Saturday with a come-from-behind 7-6 victory over visiting William & Mary. It wasn't pretty, but it could have easily gone the other way, and the Terps will be happy to have started out the season with a win. Let's take a look at the team's performance, unit by unit, and discuss how they can improve for Temple next weekend.
Quarterback - C. Only Perry Hills played, and it was a mixed bag. He threw three interceptions, two of them leading to the Tribe's six points, but he also completed two-thirds of his passes and was instrumental in the touchdown-scoring drive. For a true freshman in his first collegiate game, Hills was decidedly all right, and there was marked improvement throughout the game. He also showed some of his effectiveness in the ground game, running five times for 20 yards, including an eight-yard keeper that set up Justus Pickett's touchdown run.
Running Backs - C. Pickett was also all right, gaining 45 yards on 11 carries and scoring the game's only touchdown. Albert Reid ... not so much. The true freshman, who got the start, had 29 yards on 12 rushes, good for a 2.4 average, and lost a fumble. A lot of that can be attributed to the offensive line's inability to stop the Tribe's constant blitzing, but Reid was unable to make any space for himself. Pickett gets a B, Reid a D, and it averages out to the C.
Wide Receivers - B. Hills rarely threw something that wasn't a screen pass, and while the unit didn't end up scoring, they had a pretty solid game considering their limited opportunities. Marcus Leak led the way with three catches for 37 yards, Stefon Diggs had three catches for 30 yards, and Kevin Dorsey had a huge 22-yard reception on third down that helped lead to Pickett's score.
Offensive Line - C-. The only thing keeping this from being a D is the play of Bennett Fulper - specifically his huge block to spring Dorsey on that third down screen. The rest of the line was pretty bad, and while Hills was only sacked once, the pressure he repeatedly received led in large part to those three interceptions. Reid and Pickett both struggled to find holes in the running game, and the Tribe repeatedly got through the line.
Defensive Line - B+. Joe Vellano was great in his first game at end, with eleven tackles (two for a loss) and an interception, A.J. Francis had five tackles and half a sack, and Darius Kilgo was a pleasant surprise at nose tackle, with four tackles and a sack. Keith McBride and Meltoya Jones still managed to combine for 95 yards, but the three linemen did a very good job stuffing the line.
Linebackers - B. Demetrius Hartsfield was the star of the defense, with thirteen tackles and a fumble recovery, Cole Farrand and Darin Drakeford each pitched in six tackles of their own, and Alex Twine had five stops. Twine was particularly impressive, with four of his tackles coming on solo efforts.
Secondary - D. Yikes. I would like to preface this section by saying I am a big fan of Dexter McDougle's, and I think he has all the tools necessary to become a great playmaker at cornerback. However, that was one of the worst games I've ever seen from a defensive player - he finished with six tackles, but was called for three pass interferences and was beaten badly three times, including one play that would have been a touchdown if the receiver didn't drop the ball.
Special Teams - A-. Brad Craddock's missed 25-yard field goal is the only thing that keeps this unit from getting an A on the day. Nathan Renfro was excellent, averaging 53 yards per punt and pinning the Tribe on their own two-yard line at the end of the game, and Stefon Diggs was electric, returning three punts for 50 yards. There's a lot of potential in this unit, if they can get a solid kicker.
Now for the three things Maryland most desperately needs to improve before the game against Temple.
- Limit the offensive mistakes. Maryland turned the ball over four times against William & Mary - all errors made by true freshmen. As the season continues, those mental mistakes will become less frequent, and the quicker that happens, the better.
- Focus on limiting rushing yards. The Terps have a lot of problems in their defense against the long ball, but that's not likely to be a major problem against Chris Coyer and the Owls. The front seven didn't give up any big plays on the ground to William & Mary, but they can't let Matt Brown and Montel Harris eat up yardage.
- Make field goals. With this offense, you can't miss 25-yard field goals, no matter the angle. Hopefully Nick Ferrara will be back next week. If not, here's hoping Craddock improves.