Archives for posts with tag: Tyrrell Pigrome

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Halfway through the season, we not only start to trim the list of potential College Football Playoff participants but figure out exactly who the Heisman Trophy candidates are.  Round up the usual suspects:  Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was the runner-up last year, and this fall he’s joined by his former backup/teammate Jalen Hurts who transferred to Oklahoma.  LSU QB Joe Burrow has been lights out this fall after making a big splash in the Tigers’ win at Texas, and Ohio State’s Justin Fields has picked up where Dwayne Haskins left off.  Wisconsin’s 24-23 loss at Illinois didn’t just torpedo the Badgers’ Big Ten West hopes; Jonathan Taylor’s Heisman candidacy takes a hit.

This should be no surprise; during this decade only one running back has won the award…can you name him?  Yes, I had to look up Alabama’s Derrick Henry too.  Tailbacks used to dominate the balloting, once enjoying a stretch where they won it 11 straight years.  But the 21st century favors the passer, and since 2000 16 of the 19 Heisman winners have been quarterbacks.  Not many are talking about the nation’s leading rusher Chuba Hubbard, who on name value alone is awesome, because even though the Oklahoma State running back has 1,265 yards and 15 touchdowns his Cowboys are 4-3.  Boston College’s A.J. Dillon is second in FBS, but his Eagles are also 4-3.  It’s a pitch and catch world, and the teams making playoff pushes can each air it out.  Sorry, Earl Campbell.

 

Alma Mater Update- the 27-20 loss to Pitt drops the Orange to 3-4.  The season that began in the Top 25 is almost certain to end Thanksgiving weekend.  Instead of wondering about bowl eligibility SU should be wondering if it’s going to go winless in the ACC as there are no soft touches remaining on the slate.  The fun continues at Florida State, a team the Orange torched last fall in the Carrier Dome.  Somehow I don’t think this will be as fun.

 

Maryland (3-4, 1-3 Big Ten) came up short against Indiana 34-28.  The Terps had a pair of chances to take the lead in the final four minutes, but turned the ball over on their final two possessions of the day.  Likewise, the team had two chances to inch closer to bowl eligibility but winds up finding itself three steps shy with a remaining schedule that’s a combined 27-8.

Terrapin Triumphs:  Javon Leake rushed for 153 yards and two touchdowns, the first a 60-yard scamper for a score.  Tyrrell Pigrome threw for 210 yards and two TD’s.  Dontay Demus caught 5 passes for 82 yards and a touchdown.  Chance Campbell tallied ten tackles while Antoine Brooks added seven stops plus and interception.

Terrapin Troubles:  the defense took a while to get in gear, allowing the Hoosiers to reach the end zone the first two times they had the ball.  They also allowed backup quarterback Peyton Ramsey to come in and complete 20 of 27 passes.  While penalties (six this week) were down, the two fourth quarter turnovers killed their comeback hopes.  Ball security by Leake and decision-making by Pigrome need to improve.

Next: Saturday at noon at 7-0 Minnesota.

 

Virginia (5-2, 3-1 ACC) snapped a two-game losing streak by blasting Duke 48-14.  After shutting down the Blue Devils in the first half, the offense scored the first four times they had the ball after intermission.  When Duke did finally score, Joe Reed returned the kickoff back for a UVa touchdown. The season of possibilities is back as they once again stand alone atop the Coastal Division.

Cavalier Congrats: Bryce Perkins ran for three touchdowns while Wayne Taulapapa ran for 78 yards and a score.  Joey Blount tallied 10 tackles and an interception while the defense held the Blue Devils to 2-14 on third down and secured five takeaways.  Brian Delaney made both of his field goals while Reed continues to shine on special teams.

Cavalier Concerns:  Perkins completed just 50% of his passes while tossing an interception.   It was nice to see Chris Moore and Joey Blount finish 1-2 on the team in tackles, but one never likes to see the defensive backs making all the stops.

Next: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. against 4-3 Louisville.

 

Virginia Tech (5-2, 2-2 ACC) needed six overtimes to get by North Carolina, finally prevailing in a 43-41 marathon.  The win gives the Hokies a bit of a bounce entering their bye week, and the fact remains that they control the path to the ACC Championship Game.

Hokie Highlights:  the quarterback carousel paid off, with Hendon Hooker completing 8-12 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown before going down with an injury. Ryan Willis stepped in to throw the go-ahead TD pass in the second quarter. Quincy Patterson II ran for 122 yards and a touchdown in the second half while also tossing a TD pass in overtime.  Rayshard Ashby notched 17 tackles while Jarrod Hewitt added 2.5 sacks.  Oscar Bradburn averaged 49.2 yards per punt.

Hokie Humblings: Brian Johnson missed 41 and 42 yard field goals that would have won the game.  The defense coughed up 348 yards through the air.  The offense lost two of their three fumbles on the afternoon.  Turnovers all but torpedoed the season in September; they’ll have to keep the mistakes to a minimum if they want a November to remember.

Next: November 2 at No. 8 Notre Dame.

 

Navy (5-1, 3-1 AAC) posted another dominant effort, crushing South Florida 35-3.  The difference this fall has been a defense that is much more disruptive than previous units.  The usual offensive efficiency saw Malcolm Perry join Keenan Reynolds, Napoleon McCallum and Chris McCoy as the only Mids to post 3,000 career yards rushing.

Midshipmen Medals: Perry rushed for 188 yards and two touchdowns while the team gains 434 yards on the ground. Diego Fagot notched 10 tackles as the defense tallied five sacks and kept the Bulls out of the end zone.  Owen White averaged 47 yards per punt.

Midshipmen Miscues: Perry’s legs may be legendary, but his arm remains a work in progress after an 0-3 performance that included two interceptions.  Six penalties for 45 yards isn’t a big deal at most schools, but it is at the Academy.

Next: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. against 5-2 Tulane.

 

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College football will have more games with higher stakes, from the conference championship games on tap next weekend to the College Football Playoff in early January.  But it almost feels anticlimactic after the weekend that was.  High scoring affairs included a 74-72 seven-overtime (septuple-OT for those grading at home) game between Texas A&M and LSU as well as a 59-56 regulation runaway between Oklahoma and West Virginia (or, just another night in the Big 12).  Rivalries with ill feelings included fights during the Ole Miss-Mississippi State (they’ll have their eggs over easy for the next year) and North Carolina-North Carolina State (goodbye Raycom Sports) games.

Once again, and with apologies to Alabama-Auburn and Washington-Washington State, the centerpiece to the weekend began at high noon Saturday in the Big Ten.  And once again, Ohio State was the effective roadblock standing between Michigan and a shot at a Big Ten (as well as a potential national) championship.  Just like the Wolverines kept John Cooper’s title-contending teams out of the Rose Bowl in the 90’s, the current Buckeyes appear to be the bane of Jim Harbaugh’s team this decade.  And this time is was even more painful for the school up north:  a 62-39 thumping that turned the maize and blue red-faced.  That makes the man in khakis 0-4 against Urban Meyer, whose school is suddenly back in the playoff conversation.  Winter never seemed so cold in Ann Arbor.

 

Alma Mater Update- it was also on the cold side in Chesnut Hill Saturday- but the Orange left alumni and faithful headed home warm after a 42-21 win at Boston College.  For me, it was a great day to meet up with my roommate from freshman year as well as friends from high school the night before in a class reunion.  For SU, it’s the best regular season since 2001 and a second-place finish in the ACC Atlantic Division.  The two league losses have come against the two division winners, while the third is against unbeaten Notre Dame.  It’s off to Orlando.  Or El Paso.  I’m just happy there’s no Pinstripe Bowl Banner in this team’s future.

 

Virginia Tech (5-6, 4-4) somehow salvaged what could have been its worst season since 1992 with a 34-31 overtime win over Virginia (7-5, 4-4).  The Cavaliers rallied from a 14-point halftime deficit to take a seven point lead with under three minutes left in the fourth quarter.  But just like the Hokies have had a hex on their instate foes since joining the ACC, wouldn’t you know Ryan Willis would find Dalton Keene for a 45-yard hookup on third and 10?  And wouldn’t you know that Tech would fumble later in the drive only to have Hezekiah Grimsley recover the ball in the end zone for a game-tying touchdown?  And doesn’t it make sense somehow that Bryce Perkins—who had put the Cavaliers on his shoulders all afternoon and all season—would fumble in OT?  Now Virginia Tech has beaten Virginia 15 straight seasons.  That means that no fifth year player on the Cavaliers’ roster was on the same team as anyone who played alongside anyone who beat the Hokies.  Staggering.  Hokie Highlights: senior Steven Peoples went out in style, rushing for 96 yards as Tech tallied 254 on the ground.  The defense held the Cavaliers scoreless in the first half.  Special teams returned a blocked punt for a touchdown.  Hokie Humblings: Ryan Willis threw a pair of interceptions and the offense converted just 6-of-18 third downs.  The defense allowed touchdowns the first four times UVa had the ball in the second half.  Cavalier Congrats: Bryce Perkins threw for 259 yards and three touchdowns while running for 112 more.  Joe Reed caught four passes for 119 yards and two TD’s.  Juan Thornhill tallied 14 tackles while Jordan Mack made 10 stops while recording an interception.  Lester Coleman averaged 44.8 yards per punt.  Cavalier Concerns: in addition to his defeat-sealing fumble in OT, Perkins lost a ball at the Hokie 12-yard line on their deepest drive in the first half.  Next:  for Virginia Tech, a December first duel with Marshall at noon to see if they can become bowl eligible.  For Virginia, a long winter of discontent–until men’s basketball begins ACC play.

 

Navy (3-9, 2-6 AAC) fell behind Tulane 21-3 before rallying to take a fourth quarter lead over the Green Wave.  Unfortunately, the Mids’ defense allowed the Green Wave to drive 71 yards on seven plays to retake the lead for good in a 29-28 Navy loss.  Midshipman Medals: Zach Abey threw for 167 yards and a touchdown.  Taylor Heflin led the defense with nine tackles.  Owen White averaged 51 yards per punt.  Midshipman Miscues:  the offense went three and out in four of six first half possessions and finished 2-for-15 on third down.  The defense was gashed early and then couldn’t stop the Green Wave when it counted in the fourth quarter.  Next:  December 8th against 9-2 Army.

 

Maryland (5-7, 3-6 Big Ten) after losing by two points two weeks ago and then falling by one last Saturday were never close in a 38-3 loss at #15 Penn State.  A season that showed plenty of promise amidst plenty of tragedy comes to a close with questions surrounding the future of the current coaching staff and the athletic program in general.  Terrapin Triumphs: Tyrrell Pigrome threw for a career-high 185 yards on a day the run was bottled up.  Isaiah Davis paced the defense with nine tackles while graduate transfer Tre Watson closed out his Terps career with four stops to finish the season leading as the Big Ten leader.  Wade Lees booted a 50-yard punt and placed five of eight kicks inside the Penn State 20.  Terrapin Troubles: the running game never got in gear, with the tailback triumvirate being held to 53 yards on 19 carries with a long of seven.  The offensive line also allowed five sacks.  The defense coughed up 310 yards rushing (7.0 yards per carry).  Next:  August 31, 2019 at home against Howard.  After the offseason press conference that wraps up a third coaching search in eight years.

 

James Madison (9-3) was one of five CAA schools to see action in the first round of the FCS Playoffs, and the only one to advance.  The 20-6 win over Delaware sends coach Mike Houston’s team to the round of 16 for the third straight December.  Duke Do’s: Ben DiNucci threw for 223 yards and a touchdown while the offense held the ball for over 37 minutes.  The defense held the Blue Hens to 2-of-14 on third down and kept the Blue Hens out of the endzone.  Duke Don’ts: the running game had issues, generating just two yards per carry.  Eleven penalties cost JMU nearly an entire football field.  Next: Saturday at 1 p.m. against 9-1 Colgate.

 

Towson (7-5) took a 10-3 halftime lead over Duquesne in its first playoff appearance since the 2013 FCS Championship game, but the Dukes dominated the second half as the Tigers tumbled 31-10.  But coach Rob Ambrose gets quarterback Tom Flacco back for his senior season, and a program on the right track.  Tiger Takeaways: the tailback tandem of Shane Simpson and Kobe Young averaged almost six yards a carry while the team gained 230 yards on the day.  Simpson also caught a pair of passes.  The defense held the Dukes to 5-of-14 on third down.  Tiger Takedowns: Tom Flacco completed just 10-of-33 passes as the offense went scoreless after intermission.  The defense allowed 282 yards rushing.  Next: August 31, 2019 at the Citadel.

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On college football’s front page the DMV lays decidedly below-the-fold.  Yes, Virginia Tech has dominated the ACC’s weaker division and Navy plays Army every December, but for the most part those schools plus Maryland and Virginia are watching the party rather than being in the middle of it.  And then there’s Howard– an FCS school in the MEAC that has more ten-loss seasons over the last decade than winning campaigns.  If the DMV is below the fold, the Bison are tucked in the second-to-last page next to the car ads.  So when former Richmond and Virginia coach Mike London took over the program last offseason, the usual shrugs and nods were given.  The opening week slate that had Howard visiting UNLV didn’t really catch our eyes- the Bison have served as September cannon fodder for the likes of Maryland, Boston College and Rutgers over the last few years.  The fact that HU was a 45-point underdog was no surprise.  But the 43-40 upset was;  somehow Caylin Newton (younger brother of Cam) tallied 330 yards of offense against the Rebels and Howard stole the Labor Day weekend thunder away from the likes of Alabama, Michigan and even Maryland.  The Bison battle Kent State in week two.  I’ll be watching.

Alma Mater Update- so the Orange didn’t cover the 46-point spread.  And it wasn’t a victory over Connectict…but Central Connecticut State.  And yes, SU was held to under four yards per carry.  But even though they were held in check after jumping out to an early 21-0 lead, Dino Babers’ team is 1-0.  And at least the defense didn’t cough up 76 points.  With games against Middle Tennessee and Central Michigan up next, I’m hoping we’ll be called “the worst 3-0 team in the nation”.  Meaning I’m hoping the Orange can put together two more wins before their trip to (gulp) LSU.

 

Maryland won the early part of Saturday with a 51-41 victory over #23 Texas.  While the Longhorns probably shouldn’t have been ranked, this is still a win at a highly regarded foe.  And potentially a program-changing triumph in coach DJ Durkin’s early tenure.  More than a statement, this felt like an exclamation.  Now for the bad news:  quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome (ACL tear) and Jessie Aniebonam (fractured ankle) are done for the year.  Terrapin Triumphs: the true sophomore Pigrome completed 9 of 12 passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 64 yards and another score.  Jermaine Carter notched seven tackles and two sacks.  Special teams blocked two field goals…returning one back for a TD.  Terrapin Troubles: the kicking game giveth, the kicking game taketh away:  Texas scored on a punt return as well as a blocked field goal.  The offense converted just 3 of 11 third downs.  The defense coughed up 482 yards.  Ten penalties (and nine after halftime) will get a second look on film-review day.  Next: Saturday against 1-0 Towson.

 

Virginia turned back the CAA demons of years past in a 28-10 win over William & Mary.  It’s the first time the Cavs have won their season opener since 2013.  Cavalier Congrats: Kurt Benkert threw for 262 yards and three scores while directing a turnover-free offense.  The tailback tandem of Jordan Ellis and Daniel Hamm tallied 115 yards on 26 carries…providing a nice counterpoint to Benkert’s passing.  Malcolm Cook’s 13 tackles and a sack led a defense that held the Tribe to 1 of 11 on third down conversions.  Just three penalties for 15 yards.  Cavalier Concerns:  Tough to find a flaw in a double-digit home win.  Benkert did throw a ton of short stuff (under 10 yards per completion) which worked against a CAA team…how will that work in the ACC?  Next: Saturday against 0-1 Indiana.

 

Virginia Tech wrapped up the local weekend with a 31-24 thriller over #22 West Virginia.   For the first time in a while, FedEx Field felt like a really cool stadium.  It’s a shame these two former Eastern Independents/Big East Conference foes can’t get together once every four years.   Hokie Highlights:  Josh Jackson in his first game as a starter passed for 235 yards and a touchdown while running for 101 more and another score.  Offensive balance had the Hokies running for 234 yards and passing for 235.  Andrew Motuapuaka tallied 12 tackles while the defense held the Mountaineers to 5 of 19 on third down.  Oscar Bradburn averaged 46.5 yards on eight punts.   Hokie Humblings:  Joey Slye missed a pair of field goals…inclulding a 32-yarder that would have made it a two-possession game with under two minutes left in regulation.  The defense coughed up 592 yards and allowed West Virginia to drive the length of the field in the final minute of play.  Next:  Saturday vs 1-0 Delaware.

 

Navy began the weekend with a Friday night kickoff…and a Saturday morning lightning delay in its 42-19 win over Florida Atlantic.  I doubt they made a whole weekend of it in Boca Raton by showering on Sunday and flying back on Monday.  Midshipman Medals:  Zach Abey ran for 235 yards and two touchdowns while throwing for another score…as the ground game gained 416 yards.  Sean Williams led the defense with eight stops.  Midshipmen Miscues:  three lightning delays?  I’m going to say the “multiple lightning delay playbook” didn’t exist before last Friday–now it does.  The Mids missed a 29-yard field goal and averaged under 35 yards per punt (even though there were no touchbacks).  Next: Saturday vs 1-0 Tulane.  Already looking into the weather forecast. 

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Sport’s most important regular season kicks off this weekend as the tradition of college football is like none other–hold on, the season actually began last weekend?  With a game in Sydney, Australia?  In a sport where shifting criteria used by a 12-member committee determines a 4-team playoff field and a conference doesn’t even need to have divisions to have a Championship Game (thank you, Big 12), it almost makes sense.  In a world where tradition is trumpeted yet leagues change membership like shirts and schools have 75 different uniform combinations, college football is the fickle mistress that dazzles us one moment while confounding us the next.  She knows we’ll be back–and we are once again.  Special thanks to #2 Ohio State for rallying past Indiana Thursday–you saved me from having to completely rewrite my opening thoughts to the season.  And good luck next week against 7th ranked Oklahoma.

Alma Mater Update- Excuse me?  The Orange are playing a Friday night game?  Didn’t we leave the Big East to avoid garbage like this?  SU entertains Central Connecticut State as Dino Babers begins his second season resurrecting the once-proud program.  Hopefully the defense will be better than the one that surrendered 76 points to Pitt (the Panthers men’s basketball team averaged 73 points in two games against the 2-3 zone).  The offense has a heralded quarterback in true freshman Tommy DeVito, who depending on your age and influences either reminds you of “Goodfellas”, or “Jersey Boys”.  Hopefully he’s redshirted–let’s hang on to the eligibilty he’s got.  If he isn’t redshirted, brace yourself for Joe Pesci and Four Seasons references early and often this fall.

Friday-

Navy at Florida Atlantic, 8 p.m., WFED 1500 am and ESPNU.  In our preseason preview I marveled at how coach Ken Niumatalolo had been the head man for nine seasons while the rest of the AAC coaches had a combined eight years in their current jobs.  They’ve got nothing on Lane Kiffin, who’s had five different gigs in the last ten years.  Kiffin was actually coach in the NFL at Oakland when Niumatalolo began his tenure in Annapolis.  After being fired by the Raiders, Kiffin has held top jobs at Tennessee and USC while also serving as Alabama’s offensive coordinator.  Exactly how long do the Owls expect him to stick around?  Zach Abey takes over the reins…but the junior is by no means a first-year starter after seeing action against Army and the Mids’ bowl game last December.  Midshipmen begin with a bang, 38-21.

 

Saturday-

Maryland at #23 Texas, 12 p.m., FS1.   After taking most of summer workouts to determine who would start at quarterback (sophomore Tyrrell Pigrome gets the nod), the Terps tangle with a Longhorns team that’s coming off three straight losing seasons for the first time since 1938.  Texas also returns ten starters on defense…and if there’s one thing Maryland did not do well in 2016 it was protect the passer:  their 49 sacks allowed were the most in the Big Ten.  Conventional wisdom is if somebody’s going to steal a win in Austin it’s while coach Tom Herman and staff are still installing their program as well as weeding out non-contributors.  Can Herman translate what he did with Houston to sophomore QB Shane Buechelle (60% passer with 21 touchdowns in 2016) against a defense that was near the bottom of the Big Ten in turnovers and total defense?  These two teams last met in the 1978 Sun Bowl in a game where the Longhorns won 42-0 behind three guys named Johnny Jones:  they were known by the monikers Lam, Ham and Jam.  Oh, the good ole days.  Terrapins tumble, 34-17.

Virginia vs William & Mary, 3:30 p.m., ACC Network.  Something about facing in-state schools always makes the Cavalier faithful uncomfortable:  they opened last year with a loss to Richmond and almost fell to William & Mary in 2015.  UVa may have caught a break this year though, as the Tribe will be starting a new quarterback and runningback.  The good news for the Cavaliers?  They return eight starters on defense. The bad news?  That defense had issues stopping the run (11th in the ACC) and pass (12th in yards, 14th in efficiency) in 2016.  The best news is that there is stability at the quarterback position for the first time in eons.  Kurt Benkert played well in stretches last fall, and with runningbacks Taquan Mizzell and Albert Reid both graduating he’ll be leaned on a little more in his second season as a starter.  Back for another fun fall are my tailgating pals, Kippy & Buffy.  After their tour of Virginia wineries exclusively in 2016 resulted in a 2-10 campaign, they’re branching out this fall…and beginning with Conundrum White.  This “blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Muscat Canelli and Viognier lures you in with scents of apricot, pear and honeysuckle–and if you’re paying attention, orange and lemon meringue pie.”  Oh, we’re most definitely paying attention as we enjoy a glass with pepper jack cheese on Ritz crackers.  Cavaliers come through, 31-20.

 

Sunday-

#21 Virginia Tech vs #22 West Virginia (at FedEx Field), 7:30 p.m, ABC.  Former regional and conference rivals reunite:  the two schools met 51 times between 1912 and 2005…and between them won 10 Big East conference titles from 1993-2011.  Both teams will feature new quarterbacks—but while the Hokies are starting redshirt freshman Josh Jackson the Mountaineers have ex-Florida starter Will Grier.  The junior had the Gators cruising to a 6-0 start in 2015 when he was suspended for PED use.  The running of Justin Crawford (7.3 yards per carry last year) will make Grier’s transition easier.  Last year Justin Fuente rolled the dice correctly with transfer Jerod Evans last year-but that was with a veteran receiving corps at Evans’ disposal.  Jackson faces an unorthodox defense (WVU runs a 3-3-5), but one that is loaded with inexperience (eight new starters, including the entire defensive line).  Even though the Hokies own the Northern Virginia fan base (sorry, Kippy & Buffy), they don’t fare well in Landover:  winless in three games against USC (understood), Boise State (makes sense) and Cincinnati (what?).  Hokies come up short, 31-24. 

 

Richmond falls at Sam Houston State, James Madison beats East Carolina, Towson tops Morgan State, Howard loses at UNLV.

Last Year:  85-35.

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Stop the pressess!  Maryland has their first string quarterback!  Only they didn’t make him available to the media this week entering the game against Texas.  Sophomore Tyrrell Pigrome gets the nod in a four-way race that involved fellow sophomore  Max Bortenschlager plus transfer Caleb Henderson and true freshman Kasim Hill.  While Pigrome is known more for his wheels (254 yards and four touchdowns rushing) than his arm (two touchdowns passing and two interceptions tossed), Coach DJ Durkin said: “everything was factored in.  You have to make decisions as a program…what gives you the best chance to win right now.  That’s the world we live in.”  And being the #1 quarterback is no guarantee he takes every snap in Austin:  it’s definitely possible two or three quarterbacks play against Texas, and it’s not a stretch that we won’t know the eventual #1 starter until after September 23rd’s game against UCF.

Just twice since 2003 have the Terps started the same quarterback in every game of the season:  Sam Hollenbach in 2006 (9-4 with a Champs Sports Bowl win) and CJ Brown in 2014 (a 7-6 season that included a bowl bid plus wins at Michigan and Penn State).  Other years have seen injuries and ineffectiveness mandate a change…with less than stellar results.  Last fall, the Terrapins went 5-2 in games Perry Hills started and was not replaced due to injury, 1-3 in games he was knocked out of and 0-2 in games where the injured Hills was unable to start.  Finding the right guy is paramount–and keeping healthy is just as huge.  Last fall the Terps allowed a Big Ten-high 49 sacks…and junior offensive tackle Damian Prince knows that needs to change:  “I’m not going to disrespect the offensive line from last year and say we didn’t take it personal…but if we fix anything we have to fix that.”

Let the record show that last year’s O-Line did a fantastic job creating holes for a running game that boasted a 1,000-yard rusher in Ty Johnson;  the Cumberland, Maryland native averaged over 9 yards per carry as a sophomore.  Lorenzo Harrison provides more than just depth–the sophomore had runs of 40, 44 and 62 yards last fall.  DJ Moore returns as the #1 receiver after ranking first in yards and second in catches during the 2016 season.  If they can find the right guy to throw to Moore…and keep him upright…

Defensively the Terps return seven starters, with 57 career starts coming back to the linebacking corps that should be the unit’s strength.   Jermaine Carter anchors the D from the Mike linebacker position;  the senior led the team with 110 tackles in 2016.  Converted quarterback and fullback Shane Cockerille’s tallied 108 stops last fall;  the Baltimore native remains on the shelf recovering from injury.  Getting Cockerille healthy and in the mix is paramount to a defense that has bright spots like defensive end Jessie Aniebonam:  his nine sacks placed him among the leaders of the Big Ten.  Last fall the Terps had 12 takeaways–the fewest in the conference.  “You can have a defense that makes stops and gets three and outs,” Aniebonam says, “but in terms of getting turnovers–strip sacks and picks–that’s a ‘want-to’.  You have to have a savage mentality.” If the defense can develop that mentality and it leads to results, whoever starts at quarterback will benefit from the short fields Perry Hills and company didn’t get last fall.

Unlike previous years, Maryland’s schedule begins with a bang.  For the first time since 2010 the season doesn’t start in College Park (the Terps beat Navy in Baltimore as the home team that year) and the trip to Texas is their first opener on the road since 2009 (a 52-13 loss at California that set the stage for a 2-10 campaign).  The Longhorns boast plenty of heritage and talent, but also have a new head coach so conventional wisdom might be if there’s a chance you might shock the burnt orange it might be Saturday, September 2.  Other non-conference affairs involve home games with Towson (the Tigers played the Terps close for a half in 2011) and UCF (DO NOT call them Central Florida–it’s a branding thing).  The Big Ten slate does not deliver the double-whammy of Michigan and Ohio State on consecutive weeks unlike the previous two autumns, but the East Division boasts three schools in the top 15 with Michigan State also receiving votes.  The Terrapins’ cross-over games are against Wisconsin (#9 in the preseason AP) and Northwestern (also receiving votes).  Granted, Maryland received one vote in this month’s preseason coaches’ poll.  How many votes they’ll receive in December will likely hinge on who gets coach DJ Durkin’s vote as starting quarterback…and how many terms he serves.

 

Home Game to Watch– state school that is known more for basketball.  Wears red.  Sound familiar?  Indiana is the Terps’ Big Ten East twin brother…and the Hoosiers will likely be fighting Maryland for bowl berth pecking order October 28th.  It’s also Homecoming–and I’ve already called bringing Tostitos Scoops to the tailgate.

Home Game to Miss– the Terps Big Ten opener is against Northwestern.  While the Wildcats will be competitive on the field, bickering off the field between graduates of each school’s journalism program over which school is better will turn stomachs.  Especially when Syracuse is better than both of them.

 

Terrapin Penthouse– somehow DJ Durkin’s team upsets an overconfident Texas team that has yet to get its footing under a new head coach.  After opening Big Ten play with a road win at Minnesota, the team falls to earth with losses at Ohio State, Wisconsin and at home to Michigan.  But somehow they find a way to eliminate Penn State from division title contention two days after Thanksgiving, win their bowl game and finish 10-3.

Terrapin Outhouse– Pigrome looks really bad in the loss to Texas.  And the UCF team that took the Terps to overtime get revenge in College Park.  The road is rough again in Big Ten play…even with a win over Rutgers at Yankee Stadium.  A combination of injury and ineffectiveness at QB force true freshman Kasim Hill into the lineup against the November gauntlet of Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State as the Terps tumble to 2-10.