Maryland football vs. Virginia Tech: Previewing the game

November 15, 2013

(John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

THE INFO

Who: Maryland (5-4, 1-4 ACC) at Virginia Tech (7-3, 4-2)
When: 12:30 p.m.
Where: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Va.
TV: WDCA-20, WJZ-13 (Tim Brant, play-by-play; Dave Archer, color; Rachel Baribeau, sidelines)
DMV radio: WTEM (980 AM), WJZ (105.7 FM).
Satellite radio: Sirius Channel 136, XM Channel 191.
Coaches: Terps – Randy Edsall (third season, 11-22). Hokies – Frank Beamer (27th season, 223-107-2).
Series: Tied 15-15, dating back to 1919.

THE SCRIPT

Can the Maryland football team stop the bleeding? Bowl eligibility remains the low-hanging fruit, just one victory away, but a three-game losing streak has brought forth far more concerning topics in College Park. Criticism of Coach Randy Edsall was reinvigorated after last Saturday’s embarrassing home loss to Syracuse, a game in which the Terps had more turnovers (four) than points (three). More injuries have ravaged the receiving corps, leaving them with just three players who have caught a pass in their college careers. Quarterback C.J. Brown hasn’t been himself since the Florida State game, when a vicious first-half hit dealt the fifth-year senior a concussion, and Maryland’s rushing attack has suffered accordingly. And so the Terps try to rebound against Virginia Tech, riding high after its 42-24 win at 14th-ranked Miami last weekend and in the hunt for the ACC Coastal Division title. The books have pegged Maryland as almost a two-touchdown underdog, and given the way it has slid over the past several weeks, even that seems low. But the message at Gossett Team House this week was simple, even if logic would suggest otherwise: Don’t panic.

THE QUESTIONS

1) Look alive? Team leaders this week blasted the Terps for a listless effort against Syracuse. Maryland will receive even less wiggle room at hostile Lane Stadium for Virginia Tech’s home finale, where an expected sellout crowd will thump to “Enter Sandman” and look to rattle a visiting group desperate for a strong performance. Mistakes have buried the Terps before this season, so they must emerge with energy to avoid falling behind and watching their window close before halftime.

2) Hang onto the football? Four straight possessions against the Orange ended in turnovers, a nasty form of consistency. Virginia Tech’s defense ranks at or near the top of the conference in most yardage categories, and is third in turnover margin (plus-seven). If Brown continues to make poor throws into tight coverage, or if his young receivers cannot hold onto his passes, or even if running backs Brandon Ross and Albert Reid fail to contain the football, the Terps have little shot against the stifling Hokies.

3) Adapt to change? A new starting left tackle, Maryland’s third in as many weeks. A reshuffled receiving corps, missing any true slot receiver with a converted quarterback as the fifth option. Another injury to another linebacker. The deck is again stacked against the Terps, and in the past change has been their enemy. Despite the team’s “next man up” mentality, the backups haven’t performed nearly as well or as consistently as its coaching staff promised. Now, with more change rattling the depth chart’s structure, can Maryland run with it? Or will commotion and unpredictability reign again?

THE STATS

61.1: Percent of Maryland’s total receiving yards this season caught by players who will miss Saturday’s game. Stefon Diggs, Deon Long and Levern Jacobs are the team’s three leading receivers, respectively, and are all currently sidelined by injuries.

0: Touchdowns accounted for by Maryland starting quarterback C.J. Brown since September. This includes all five ACC games in which he has played thus far.

1.000: Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas’ career winning percentage when he commits zero turnovers (15-0).

THE QUOTES

“Losing stinks. It really does. When you’re 4-0, 5-1, it’s fun. All of a sudden we’ve lost three in a row, that isn’t fun. I would hope that people wouldn’t think it’s fun when you lose three in a row.” – Edsall.

“We definitely have to look ourselves as a team right now and what we’re doing, especially after this week, I feel like we’re letting a lot of people down. The coaches are doing their job, giving us a good enough game plan to get the job done, but the players haven’t been executing. It doesn’t matter if we’re missing Stefon Diggs or we’re missing Deon Long, we showed against Clemson that we can play with the team we have now. Teams face adversity all the time. You’ll see Appalachian [State] beat Michigan. It’s definitely Maryland’s turn to be the team that’s facing adversity and picking it up and getting the big wins now. I think we have to look at ourselves as a team and change the mindset. We have to be more intense in practice, more intense in meetings. We have to bring it when we’re between the lines on the field.” – linebacker Cole Farrand.

THE SONG OF SATURDAY

“Sleepyhead” by Passion Pit

MORE ON MARYLAND-VIRGINIA TECH

Injury situation gets worse for Terps.

Ricardo Young moves to WR because of injuries.

Maryland was warned about penalties, committed them anyway.

Back at linebacker, Petty makes his first defensive start.

Brown reflects on ‘dumb’ turnovers.

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 14, 2013