Stefon Diggs jogged to the sideline and received an earful from his coach on Saturday against Old Dominion. The wide receiver had just enthralled the Maryland football faithful again, transposing a blanketed screen pass into a 41-yard jaunt down the right sideline. He shook one defender, stiff-armed another, stutter-stepped to freeze a third and, just for good measure, somersaulted past the pylon and into the end zone.
In less than two seasons, Diggs has endeared himself to Terrapins fans with similar plays, flamboyant in appearance but necessary in practice. He high-steps because, for some reason, it makes defensive backs ease up on him. He dives because sometimes stretching Superman-style is the quickest way to score. He spins because, well, few have caught him yet.
“When you think he’s jammed up, he makes something happen, gets a bigger gain,” Sean Davis said. “Whenever he touches the ball, he definitely has a great chance for scoring.”
Sometimes on the sideline, when Diggs catches a pass, players will mutter, “Touchdown.” And often, their predictions prove correct, the teammates just as captivated as the crowd. But when Diggs reached Coach Randy Edsall after his second touchdown of this young season on Saturday, his coach took umbrage with Diggs’s path. He liked neither the high-stepping nor the somersault, though Diggs felt both were necessary.
“Just a coachable moment,” Edsall said after Maryland’s 47-10 win Saturday. “I just try to make sure that when we have coachable moments during the game, it’s my responsibility to coach the young men up. If we see something, if I see something I don’t think is what we think it should be, to help our student athletes become better, we’re going to address that. Because if we don’t address it, then we’re saying it’s oaky when it’s not okay. And I don’t want to see any of our student-athletes do anything to hurt their reputation or hurt themselves or have people maybe poorly of them.”
Diggs was accordingly hard on himself during postgame interviews. He hauled in a career-high 179 receiving yards, but called Saturday an “okay game.” Then he repeated himself. “I didn’t look at the stats much,” he said. “But I’m thinking I had an okay game.”
Maybe Edsall’s tisk-tisking colored Diggs’s perception, but he once again proved why Maryland made him the face of its program this offseason. As Old Dominion keyed on fellow wide receiver Deon Long, Diggs benefited with seven targets. His 41-yard reception set up Brown’s five-yard touchdown run. His 29.8 yards-per-catch was his best when catching at least four passes, and not since West Virginia last season had he so blatantly dominated.
Diggs agreed that his touchdown run provided a “teaching moment,” but seemed resigned to a now-imposed ban on such antics.
“I do that routinely, but I’ve got the word that we’re not allowed to do that anymore,” he said. “I was just trying to slow the defender down, so it was kind of like instinct, but I guess I have to work on that. The flip. He didn’t really like that too much. Next time I’ll try to get there without it.”
His teammates were split on whether the somersault was even necessary. Diggs probably could have dived face-first into the end zone, but the flip added a little extra flare to an already improbable run.
“Not at all,” Brown said. “It looked like he wasn’t running, like he was trying to set it up so it’d be close, so they couldn’t call it. Who knows.”
Said Davis: “I thought he was trying to score. People were saying that, too. I thought he was trying to score. I’ve got his back.”
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