Maryland got a huge win Saturday in Philadelphia, defeating the Temple Owls 36-27 to start the year out 2-0. It was Maryland's first road win since November 13, 2010 (beating Virginia in Charlottesville) and the Terps' first win against an FBS opponent since the season opener against Miami last year. Maryland almost gave it away, but the defense held strong and a late score by Justus Pickett secured the victory. Let's hand out our grades, unit by unit.
Quarterback - B. Perry Hills was much improved in his second collegiate game, almost hitting ten yards per attempt and scoring three total touchdowns. He completed just over half of his attempts and was key in the last drive, but it wasn't all great - he was sacked four times, lost a fumble, didn't break the 200-yard mark, and ran for 38 yards on 11 carries (excluding sacks). Still, it was a big improvement, and it's hard to ask much more of a true freshman.
Running Backs - B-. Wes Brown was explosive in his debut at running back, running seven times for 50 yards, but he lost two fumbles. Justus Pickett was inconsistent, but finished with 69 yards on 21 carries and scored the game-clinching touchdown for the second week in a row. The Terps outgained the Owls by nearly 100 yards on the ground, and the Brown-Pickett combo seemed to work out pretty well. Albert Reid didn't see any touches (a la Brown in week one), but Edsall said that is only because the right scenario didn't occur (as he said about Brown in week one).
Wide Receivers - B+. Very much a mixed bag. Marcus Leak and Stefon Diggs were excellent - Leak had three huge catches for 90 yards and a touchdown and Diggs was explosive every time he touched the ball (nine times for 137 yards of total offense) - but Kevin Dorsey (one reception for eight yards) was the only other wide receiver to catch a ball. Kerry Boykins, Nigel King, and Tyrek Cheeseboro were completely absent on offense (it is worth noting that Cheeseboro was fantastic on special teams), but Leak and Diggs put in fantastic performances to even it out a little. We're going to include the tight ends in this unit too (because they don't get enough action to merit their own), so Matt Furstenburg's early 22-yard touchdown catch bumps this up to a B+.
Offensive Line - C+. Hills was sacked four times, and Maryland only averaged three yards per carry, but it was a improved effort from last weekend's terrible outing against the Tribe. In particular, De'Onte Arnett and Sal Conaboy played very well.
Defensive Line - A+. Without these guys, Maryland loses this game. Joe Vellano played out of this world again - while he only had four tackles, he had two key ones for a loss (including a sack), and forced a fumble. A.J. Francis only had one tackle, but it was a sack on a big third down play in the second quarter, he recovered a fumble and he had the blocked field goal midway through the fourth quarter. Darius Kilgo had three solo tackles and Keith Bowers had a stop - the defensive line combined for nine tackles (all solo) with three for a loss, two sacks, a fumble forced, a fumble recovered, and a blocked kick. They didn't pile up the tackles like we may be used to, but they came up big when they had to.
Linebackers - A-. Cole Farrand had a nice game, with six tackles (one for a loss) and one fumble forced. Darin Drakeford had five tackles and Alex Twine had two (including one big hit), but the real star was Demetrius Hartsfield. The senior had four tackles, including one sack for a ten-yard loss, and two turnovers (a fumble recovery and an interception). The pick came on Temple's last drive of the game, and while the Owls' didn't have much of a chance anyway down nine with 40 seconds left, Hartsfield put the nail in the coffin.
Secondary - D. Ugh. More of the same from this unit. This time, it was true freshmen Sean Davis and Anthony Nixon who were exposed, leading two an opposing touchdown apiece. Eric Franklin had five tackles, and Dexter McDougle had four (including one for a loss), but more importantly only got beat once. Of Temple's three touchdowns, two were on passes of more than 30 yards and the third was set up by a 29-yard completion to Jalen Fitzpatrick.
Special Teams - B-. Pretty much the inverse of last week, at least in the kicking game. Brad Craddock made both of his field goal attempts, including a 45-yarder, and all four extra points, after missing a 25-yard field goal in his debut. Nate Renfro, on the other hand, averaged a dismal 31 yards per punt on four attempts, although he did land one inside the Owls' 20. Stefon Diggs did his thing, with four total returns for 59 yards, but he muffed a key punt, turning the ball over and bringing this unit down to a B-. Wes Brown had one kick return for 22 yards.
Now, for the three things Maryland most needs to improve for this week's game against UConn.
1. Limit turnovers - This is two straight games where Maryland has turned the ball over four times and still managed to win. All eight have come from true freshmen (four from Hills, two from Brown, one from Reid and one from Diggs) but that has to stop, and soon.
2. Find consistency in the running game - Brandon Ross isn't even back yet, but the Terps have found three options that have worked at times on the ground - but none that have done so reliably. With more practice time and more looks during games, Mike Locksley should be able to find the right rotation.
3. Whatever you do, stop the long ball - Maryland's biggest weakness this season has been giving up deep throws, and Dexter McDougle, Sean Davis and Anthony Nixon have all struggled. Hopefully Matt Robinson comes back soon, because that would be a gigantic boost to a secondary that has looked putrid.