Sunday review: Stefon Diggs rebounds from muffed punt

October 7, 2012

Stefon Diggs looks for daylight vs. Wake Forest. (Toni L. Sandys — The Washington Post)

Stefon Diggs put his muffed punt into the rear-view mirror. Then he did the same to Wake Forest’s defenders.

Maryland’s true star true freshman had what he called one of the worst games of his career in the Terps’ 19-14 win over Wake Forest on Saturday at Byrd Stadium, but rebounded when it counted. A 63-yard reception, most of it after the catch, set up Justus Pickett’s one-yard, game-winning plunge late in the fourth quarter.

Aided by a massive block on the near sideline by Marcus Leak, Diggs weaved his way through the Demon Deacons, reminiscent of his sideline-to-sideline run against West Virginia two weeks ago. He dodged, ducked, dipped, dived and dodged after snagging an underneath route, leaving on a high note after two very un-Diggs-like mistakes earlier in the game.

Diggs muffed a punt that directly led to a seven-yard touchdown pass from Tanner Price to Tommy Bohanon in the third quarter, which put Wake Forest up 14-13. He also dropped a catch that would have resulted in a first down (a miscue that was rendered moot by a Wake Forest penalty). But he bookended those mistakes with a trio of levitating catches in the first half — very wizard-like, no? — and that electric jaunt with just more than six minutes left in the game.

“When you don’t have your best game, you have to just keep working,” Diggs said. “Good things are going to happen. I had a couple of passes in the beginning, but that punt was in my mind, should have fair caught it. You’ve got to push through, you’ve got to overcome adversity. You don’t harp on the bad stuff. They pushed me, told me it was going to be okay.”

On that muffed punt, Diggs said he peeked at the oncoming Demon Deacons and took his eye off it, at least for one second. The wind-aided punt drifted away from him, so he never got fully squared up. Unlike some of this season’s teleportation-like efforts, Diggs had space to run and didn’t need to call for a fair catch. But the ball just squirted through his hands.

“I got down on myself a little bit because that’s how I play,” Diggs said. “I love the game and I believe stuff like that shouldn’t happen.”

A mature statement from Maryland’s biggest talent, who’s had to grow up fast in just five games with the Terps. He turned in another 100-yard effort — five catches for 105 yards — and was targeted more than any other receiver. He only had three punt returns for 20 yards, and never got a kick return. Once, Wake Forest pooch-kicked it to Tyrek Cheeseboro. The other times ended in touchbacks.

“It brings a little more attention than I’d like,” Diggs said. “They game plan every week, the game plan was to not kick it to me. They did a great job.”

As for Diggs making a home along the sideline?

“Usually I’m a cutback guy,” Diggs said. “They keep telling me to keep it outside. I like to cutback, but I try to get that sideline. I’ve just gotten great blocks on the sideline. That blocking helps a lot.”

That dangerous speed kind of helps, too.

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