Speaking on his weekly conference call with reporters, Coach Randy Edsall offered a mix bag of criticism and praise following Maryland’s 37-0 shellacking against West Virginia on Saturday afternoon, trending mostly towards the latter.
What wasn’t to like? The Terrapins registered six turnovers, earned their first shutout in five seasons and snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Mountaineers. Safety A.J. Hendy was named the Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week. And for the first time since Sept. 2011, Maryland received votes in the Associated Press national poll.
“After watching it, I thought defensively we played extremely well yesterday,” Edsall said. “Getting six turnovers was big. Really shutting them down. We just gave up three explosive plays, should have stopped those, but holding them to 2 of 12 on third down, getting those turnovers I thought was huge. We had guys flying around, really doing a good job.”
Yet with a 4-0 record and a suddenly huge ACC Atlantic Division matchup looming against Florida State on Oct. 5, Edsall must nitpick. Last season, Maryland had enough big-picture issues to deal with, chief among them who would play quarterback that particular week. Now that everything has been settled, the injuries healed and the wins rolling into College Park, the Terps can criticize the smaller issues, because it’s those smaller issues that can make a difference between, say, the Sun Bowl or Belk Bowl.
And so Edsall said he was “very annoyed” with the offense for committing seven penalties, doubling Maryland’s season total. The Terps entered the game ranked among the top five nationally at avoiding yellow flags; now, they’re 13th in fewest penalty yards per game and 12th in fewest penalties per game. Still stellar, but nonetheless troubling to Edsall given their sources.
Two wide receivers – Deon Long and Stefon Diggs — committed false starts. So did offensive lineman Michael Dunn and running back Brandon Ross. Tight end Dave Stinebaugh was whistled for holding and quarterback C.J. Brown for an illegal forward pass. At one point, everyone messed up, so the referee just said, “False start. Offense. All 11 players were never set.”
“All those things to me are just focus and concentration issues that we have to get cleaned up,” Edsall said, quickly switching to laud his offense for a 12-play, fourth-quarter scoring drive that burned eight minutes. Running back Brandon Ross received the offense’s game ball after ripping off two big gains on that drive, and finished with 67 yards on 20 carries, one touchdown and one lost fumble.
That Maryland avalanched West Virginia with 37 points despite a career-low 13 receiving yards from Stefon Diggs? Well, Edsall says sometimes that will happen.
“He’s got to understand, there’s going to be some days, it happens in the NFL every week,” Edsall said. “People take guys away. You have to go out and do your job. Just go out and do your job. Some days you’re going to do your job really, really well, but they might do something form a coverage standpoint that might take you away. It’s a team game, it’s not an individual game. Some weeks there will be certain times, because of what teams are doing, you might not get as many opportunities as you did the week before or the week after.”
Brown also at times looked affected by the weather, completing 16 of 25 passes in a steady downpour. Edsall assumed blame for those play calls, saying it was “probably my fault for trying to throw the ball too much in those things.” He also expressed little concern over several high passes that left Diggs and Long vulnerable to hard shots by West Virginia’s defensive backs.
“Sometimes you have to throw the ball a little high based on who’s there,” Edsall said. “For the most part he’s done a good job being accurate. Not everybody’s going to play a perfect game every time out there. He’s out there competing, doing a good job just like everybody else. We’ll correct it, work on it, keep getting better.”
Maryland will practice twice during its bye week, on Wednesday and Thursday. The remaining four days, Edsall and his staff hits the road recruiting. The Terps return to game week preparation next Sunday for their trip into Doak Campbell Stadium against the eighth-ranked and undefeated Seminoles.