Maryland-Wake Forest notes: Anthony Nixon steps up

October 6, 2012

A smattering of postgame notes following Maryland’s 19-14 victory over Wake Forest,  which pushed the Terps to 3-2 on the season, surpassing their win total from Coach Randy Edsall’s inaugural 2011 season in College Park.

With Robinson out, Nixon stepped up

Matt Robinson practiced throughout the week, but developed a groin injury Thursday that ultimately kept him out of Saturday’s game. The safety never dressed, and true freshman Sean Davis started in his stead. However, Edsall had high postgame praise for Davis’s classmate, Anthony Nixon, who slotted in nicely into the secondary rotation.


Anthony Nixon pulls down Wake Forest running back Josh Harris. (Associated Press)

“I was very proud of Anthony Nixon, “Edsall said. “We needed to move Eric over and have Anthony step up because we’ve been so impressed with what we have seen out of Anthony. In practice he takes great notes and he is very conscientious.”

Said linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield: “I think he did a great job. He might be overlooked what he did, but he had a few big plays and he came through in the clutch. I was praising him for doing good.”

With a defensive front blitzing Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price all afternoon, the Demon Deacons quarterback looked shaky and had plenty of near-interceptions off tipped passes. Save that big 73-yard touchdown, when Isaac Goins blew coverage on the outside, Edsall said the Terps looked strong in the secondary, especially Nixon.

“We definitely got behind him, told him you’re ready,” cornerback Dexter McDougle said. “You’re going to be fine. He came out and made a lot of plays. He stepped up.”

McDougle, he of the three pass interference calls in the season opener against William & Mary, keyed that goal-line stand with an acrobatic tackle over the pile, and blew up a couple more plays at the line of scrimmage. After he cracked a diving Josh Harris on fourth and goal, McDougle went celebrating out toward midfield.

“I don’t know what I was doing,” McDougle said. “I did a little dance, just couldn’t control myself. It’s a feeling I can’t explain. Stopping the team on fourth down, on the 1-yard line, it was crazy.”

Personnel changes coming?

Asked if he will consider making a change under center, with Perry Hills still laboring with his check-downs and decision-making,  Edsall said that the Terps considered slotting in backup Devin Burns during their pregame preparation, but the opportunity never presented itself. Hills finished 14 of 25 for 191 yards and one touchdown, but fumbled once and threw an interception. As has been the case all season, his read options and deep balls were the weak points.

“I would have hoped that we would be a little further along offensively, but that’s just something that we will continue to work on,” Edsall said.

However, Edsall predicted that personnel changes were coming on the offense. Whether that means on the offensive line, where Mike Madaras and Andrew Zeller made their starting debuts; in the backfield, where all four co-starters received carries but none had over 25 yards; or at wide receiver, where Stefon Diggs could begin starting opposite Kevin Dorsey, remains to be seen.

Etc.

– Kicker Brad Craddock was named the “Player of the Game” on the JumboTron, but he had an up-and-down effort all afternoon. The Aussie nailed field goals of 49 and 52 yards in the first half, each a career high, but missed a 44-yarder and an extra point in the second half.

– Now about that extra-point attempt. After Justus Pickett’s one-yard plunge that put the Terps up 19-14, Edsall elected to go for the extra point rather than the two-point conversion, which would have made it a seven-point game had it been successful. During his postgame press conference, Edsall said he felt so confident about his defense’s effort that just going for one made sense. “I guess I thought that kicking the [extra point] was a safer option than going for two,” Edsall said.

– Marcus Leak was held without a catch and disappeared altogether at times on one series in favor of Kerry Boykins. But Leak, Maryland’s second-leading receiver entering the game, made it count with a giant block on the near sideline as Diggs scampered 63 yards to set up the game-winning touchdown. Leak came flying in and took out a Wake Forest defender as Diggs sped by.

– Pretty cool that Paul Vellano, Joe’s dad, was an honorary captain for the coin toss at midfield. Paul was inducted to the Maryland Athletics Hall of Fame on Friday night, for which Joe left the team hotel to attend. Maryland basketball great Juan Dixon, another inductee, was present and got a giant ovation when he was shown on the video board.

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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