Maryland Loses to ACC Rival Wake Forest, 42-32

By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 11, 2009

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., Oct. 10 -- On the final play of the first quarter Saturday, Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner danced in the pocket until he found his wide receiver of choice. Then Skinner fired a 10-yard pass to Marshall Williams, whose catch represented his team's third touchdown in a game that had quickly become a mismatch.

Any number of plays could be highlighted to illustrate how overmatched and befuddled Maryland's defense looked in the first half of its 42-32 loss to Wake Forest. After taking small steps forward in each of the past three games, the defense took a giant leap backward in ghastly first-half performance few anticipated.

The Demon Deacons (4-2, 2-1 ACC) compiled an offensive highlight reel in a 35-point first-half effort before an announced crowd of 32,780 at BB&T Field. Maryland's players took some satisfaction in cutting a 25-point deficit to 10, but it did little to mask the defense's regression and return to bad habits.

Coach Ralph Friedgen had not envisioned such a disastrous start after his players were focused, energetic and vocal in pregame warmups. Then the game started and "we went out there and were blowing everything," he said. "I guess it was more bravado than substance."

In the first half, Wake Forest had seven plays of at least 20 yards. By comparison, as bad as Maryland's defense performed in its 52-13 season-opening loss at California, it allowed eight plays of 20 or more yards in that entire game.

Big plays weren't the only problem in a game in which Wake Forest racked up 516 total yards and scored touchdowns on its first five possessions. Wake Forest, which collected 17 first downs and converted 6 of 7 third downs in the first half, marched downfield at will through the air and on the ground. Receivers found themselves wide open on several plays.

"That is probably as good a first half of football as we have ever played," Wake Forest Coach Jim Grobe said.

Skinner, the most accomplished quarterback Maryland has faced this season, completed 9 of 10 passes in the first quarter, becoming the school's all-time leader in passing yards. It took all of 26 minutes for Skinner to tie his career high for touchdown passes (three). In all, he completed 24 of 33 passes for 360 yards and four touchdown passes.

Skinner seized control of the game with his team's dominating first-quarter performance. Almost every play call seemed like the perfect call. Wake Forest collected 11 first downs and amassed 213 total yards in the quarter. Maryland, on the other hand, had just one first down and 22 total yards after one quarter.

"We obviously played very poorly in the first half, and they played very well," Friedgen said. "We blew a lot of coverages in the first half. We did not tackle well. It was like we had never played those coverages before."

Maryland's defense had played its best game in a 24-21 victory over Clemson on Oct. 3. First-year coordinator Don Brown had acknowledged improvement last week but said Saturday's test against one of the ACC's most prolific offenses would provide a more definitive answer about the defense's progress.

The answer was not a good one. Throughout the game, Wake Forest repeatedly found open receivers. The Demon Deacons consistently picked on cornerbacks Anthony Wiseman and Cameron Chism, who fell down on a 33-yard pass completion before being beaten on a touchdown pass on the same drive.

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