COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The Maryland Terrapins lost to the West Virginia Mountaineers this weekend, 37-31. They were down as many as 24 points in the second half and nearly completed a memorable comeback before Danny O'Brien's third interception did them in. Those are the facts.
We're going to talk about what cost the Terps in a little bit, but let's take a second to recognize what went right. Maryland was dynamite on the ground, particularly in the second half. Davin Meggett had a career day and D.J. Adams showed that he could be the short-yardage back that the Terrapins were missing against Miami. After a very disappointing first half, the coaching staff was able to make some adjustments that brought Maryland back into the game. Fans were booing the play-calling early on, but the offense started going down the field in the second half, so the play-calling obviously improved. Finally, what can we say about wide receiver Kevin Dorsey? He is a legitimate No. 1 option and could evolve into an actual pro prospect in this offense.
Now, let's get to the bad stuff.
The Terrapins fought back into this game valiantly, but they just couldn't get over the hump. They were finally moving the ball on offense, and the defense had shut down the running attack of the Mountaineers. But it was the West Virginia passing attack that did the Terrapins in.
You can basically take your pick of the statistics that show just how badly Maryland defended the pass. The most obvious is that West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith threw for almost 400 yards. You could also point out that three West Virginia wideouts had over 100 yards receiving. But to me, the best stat that shows just how bad the Maryland secondary was on Saturday is that both safeties had at least 10 tackles. If the secondary was playing well, the West Virginia receivers wouldn't have gotten the ball far enough into the Maryland defense to force the safeties to make that many plays. They were simply called on too much.
Maryland coach Randy Edsall was asked about the secondary after the game, and he thought that it is just a matter of technique.
"We don't have a lot of margin for error in the secondary," Edsall said. "Those guys have to understand how important is it to play with the correct technique. If we do that, we make plays. If not, we get beat."
Cornerback Cameron Chism was the perfect example of the lack of technique. Chism was called on two enormous pass interference penalties when the Terps had a chance to stop the Mountaineers. They don't show up in the stat book, but they completely changed the momentum of the game. Even on his biggest play -- a pass breakup in the end zone at the end of the game -- the ball simply hit him in the back of the head when he failed to turn around and locate it. The Terrapins simply need more from their best cornerback going forward.
Safety Matt Robinson, who actually had a very good game recognized just how big those penalties were.
We all just need to read our keys better and just have better technique," Robinson said. "They got us on a couple pass interference calls and they broke some big runs because we weren't reading out keys a little bit. In coverage, sometimes (Geno Smith) got flushed out of the pocket and some people dropped off their man a little bit. That affected us on a couple of the big plays."
There's that "technique" word again. Seems like Edsall had something to say to that affect in the locker room after the game.
Both Edsall and the players all seem to think that they have the type of players that can match up with just about anyone, but they need to play the right way to do it effectively. Star safety-turned-linebacker Kenny Tate made it sound like it just wasn't going to be their day.
"They had some good receivers on offense. We weren't getting as much pressure as we wanted on Geno, and he has definitely gotten better at throwing the ball," he said. "His receivers were mainly running timing routes. We started locking them down late in the game but they made some big plays on us early."
But when he talked about how they might improve, that little "T" word was one of the things he mentioned.
Definitely just watching film on a team, knowing what they are about to do; working on our technique every day," he said.
There were a lot of areas that the Terrapins need to improve based on their performance on Saturday. But their play in the secondary, their "technique" specifically, has to be the most glaring. The Terrapins have a few games against lesser competition to get that fixed, but if they want to win games in the ACC, it must be addressed.