Postgame notes: In loss, young playmakers left on high note

November 25, 2012

Some notes and observations from Maryland’s 45-38 loss to North Carolina, which ended the Terps’ season at 4-8, capping off a six-game losing streak.

Redshirt freshman running back Brandon Ross continued to impress as the season wound down, stringing together his second 100-yard performance over the past three


North Carolina’s Erik Highsmith pulls in a 15-yard pass from Bryn Renner.

games, finally ending a roller-coaster season with some stability and production.

Ross was tabbed as the starter this preseason before injuries caused him to miss the season’s first three games. He then rushed for 52 yards on 20 carries against West Virginia, one yard on five carries against Wake Forest and received zero carries at Virginia. Ross then received consecutive DNP-CDs before assuming the starting role against Clemson when Wes Brown was lost for the season.

Against the Tar Heels, Ross rushed for 141 yards on 21 carries, including a 71-yard burst down the near sideline that set up quarterback Shawn Petty’s two-yard bootleg touchdown.

“I want to give thanks to my O-line,” Ross said after the game. “It wasn’t possible without them. As a team, we rushed the ball better.

“As a team, we just wanted to work on finishing as a team, just never quitting. That’s really what we want to take into next season, playing four quarters. Regardless of all our injuries, if you play four quarters you’ll win most of the time.”

After missing the Clemson trip due to an ankle injury and posting a modest three-catch, 45-yard effort against Florida State, Stefon Diggs returned to his wizard-like self, finishing with 248 all-purpose yards, including a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that opened the second half and gave Maryland a 14-point lead.

Diggs also caught eight passes for 82 yards, his second-highest reception total after tallying 11 against Boston College.

He also threw a touchdown pass, wheeling on his back foot after a reverse and lofting a nifty strike to tight end Matt Furstenburg from eight yards with 21 seconds left in the first half following a Terps timeout, the first touchdown pass by a non-quarterback since Oct. 16, 2010 against Clemson.

Diggs finished the season second on Maryland’s all-time single-season all-purpose yardage list with 1,896 yards, and passed Darrius Heyward-Bey for ninth on the single-season receiving yards list with 848.

“Any game you have Diggs, whether you’re playing Florida State or the Patriots, you’ll be in it,” senior A.J. Francis said. “This place will be just fine without us.”

Wide receiver Nigel King, who Coach Randy Edsall has praised for stepping into the rotation after injuries throughout the receiving corps, made three huge catches that helped set up Diggs’s touchdown pass to Furstenburg.

The first was relatively inconsequential, a two-yard reception on second and 16 from the Maryland 19-yard line, but King managed to reel in a one-handed grab behind him on a bad Petty pass. The next play, Petty heaved a prayer downfield that King somehow managed to snare for 43 yards on third and 14. After a short completion to Diggs, King and Petty again hooked up for 21 yards over the middle.

King finished with four catches for 72 yards, exceeding his previous yardage total this season, flashing some excitement that can have the Terps offense looking forward to a potential receiving corps in 2013 of Diggs, Marcus Leak, King and Deon Long, the former New Mexico wideout who has already broken the single-season NJCAA record for receiving touchdowns at Iowa Western Community college.

Both Furstenburg and Kevin Dorsey went out with touchdowns in their final collegiate games, an individual high point after neither really were able to get into a comfortable groove offensively with all the quarterback upheaval.

Brad Craddock hit all five extra point attempts and stuck a 27-yard field goal with 3 minutes and 12 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Not exactly kicking rocket science, but the Australian freshman has, at least for the time being, appeared to have figured things out from short distance, laying a solid foundation heading into an offseason when improving his leg strength will be top priority.

Sal Conaboy reclaimed the starting center role after redshirt Evan Mulrooney had started the past five games.

Sophomore linebacker Cole Farrand left on a cart after suffering an apparent injury to his leg. Obviously, he’ll have the entire offseason to heal whatever it may be, but updates will come as made available.

Linebacker L.A. Goree, still starting in place of the injured Demetrius Hartsfield, had a career-high 14 tackles, including a career-high 11 solo. Dexter McDougle also recorded a career-best 11 tackles.

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 | November 24, 2012