Down to their fifth quarterback, Terps will need Stefon Diggs even more

October 29, 2012

 

Wes Brown turned his head as the ball whizzed by, then stopped for a split second when Caleb Rowe’s third-down pass firmly zipped into the arms of Stefon Diggs. He waited to make a move, surveying the landscape on the Alumni Stadium turf. Then, like a shot, Brown took off downfield, trying to catch his high school teammate, peeling back to make sure no other Boston College player got to him.

It wasn’t even close. Diggs was long gone.

Another game, another electric moment for Maryland’s biggest offensive threat. That 66-yard touchdown gave the Terps a 17-13 lead midway through the fourth quarter. Through eight games, the Good Counsel product has accounted for scoring plays of 100, 66, 56, 42 and 29 yards. Only one of those – the 29-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter against Connecticut that got tipped to Diggs in the end zone – was not the product of a lengthy jaunt, of Diggs again creating something out of nothing.

“It’s a matter of time with him,” defensive lineman Joe Vellano said. “He’s one of those guys, he’s going to make a play eventually.”

With Maryland’s fourth quarterback now sidelined with a season-ending injury, Diggs will likely become an even larger focal point of the offense. Downfield throws will be hard to come by, especially with Marcus Leak having suffered a broken toe against North Carolina State, so the Terps may begin feeding on an even heavier diet of run plays, option reads and West Coast-style routes, relying on running back Wes Brown to grind out yardage and Diggs for that home-run threat necessary to keep opposing defenses from stacking the box.

Don’t expect linebacker-turned-quarterback Shawn Petty to be called upon much in the passing game. If he does, it’ll be through safe, short passes. 

As fast as Diggs may be, Maryland rarely unleashes him deep, instead lining him up in the slot, sending him on short slant patterns into the first level or play-action screen passes, like he did during Maryland’s first-quarter drive against Boston College that ended in Brad Craddock’s missed 35-yard field goal. Diggs had four receptions for 26 yards on that drive, none more than 10 yards, and also dropped a pass after he got hit from behind by the far sideline.

He finished with 11 catches for 152 yards, both career highs, one touchdown and was targeted five more times.

“It was fun,” Rowe said. “Just give him the ball in space and let him do his thing. It’s fun being out there and seeing him score touchdowns.”

But any chemistry that developed between Rowe and Diggs during their time as summer school roommates became insignificant when an MRI revealed that Rowe, like his predecessors C.J. Brown and Perry Hills, had suffered a season-ending torn ACL.

Shortly after the news of Rowe’s injury broke, Diggs penned a passionate Twitter speech, imploring fans to stick with the Terps, affirming his belief in his coaches and teammates. It’s yet another example of what Diggs has brought to Maryland in such a short time on campus.

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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Alex Prewitt · October 28, 2012