Stefon Diggs returned to his teammates on Saturday and sat down on the bench as the television cameras captured his frustration. Maryland’s sophomore wide receiver had run a quick out pattern from the right slot, sprinting straight no more than five yards before cutting toward the sideline. Glancing in the backfield, he saw quarterback C.J. Brown step up in the pocket to avoid a pass rush, so Diggs turned his head upfield, saw open space behind the Florida State secondary and broke.
But Brown had targeted at the out route Diggs had abandoned, and his pass sailed out of bounds. Diggs looked back at Brown, bewildered at the miscommunication. “That’s on you, quarterback,” ESPN analyst Brian Griese said on the broadcast.
For the second straight game, Diggs caught just two passes and finished with less than 30 yards receiving. By comparison, in 11 games last season with four Maryland quarterbacks under center, Diggs’s season-low production came in the opener against William & Mary: three catches for 30 yards. But over the past two games this season, he has had only four combined catches for 37 yards, the least productive stretch of his young but already brilliant Maryland career.
Disparate results make Diggs’s lack of production hard to diagnose. The Terrapins had little need for Diggs against West Virginia on Sept. 21; perfectly content with rewarding other options, Maryland won 37-0. And Florida State’s top-tier defense learned how to defend Diggs last season; of his four least productive games, two have come against the Seminoles.
Diggs played 22 snaps with Brown under center before Maryland’s starting quarterback incurred a concussion that sent him into the locker room. He received three touches and three targets on five drives with Brown, none of which lasted more than six plays.
On Maryland’s first possession, he carried an option pitch for five yards. He dropped a second-level crossing route on the second drive, but Florida State’s cornerback waved a hand in Diggs’s face that appeared to distract him. Later that drive, Brown telegraphed a five-yard dig route that Florida State’s Jacobbi McDaniel batted down. In fact, the defensive lineman (circled below) blitzed off the edge, then stopped as Brown’s eyes followed Diggs the entire way. All he did was jump up and swat the pass away.
Diggs wasn’t targeted on Maryland’s third drive, a three-and-out, but on the next one he nearly hurled his second career touchdown pass on a tricky reverse. He underthrew Deon Long slightly into double coverage, but given the team’s offensive struggles to that point, turning to Diggs for instant magic, even with his right arm, is never a bad thing.
On Maryland’s fifth drive, the team’s longest of the first half, Diggs caught a 19-yard deep out route, fighting back against cornerback LaMarcus Joyner, one of the best cover men in the country. It was vintage Diggs, soaring through the air as the announcers cooed.
But it was all Diggs got before Brown went down. That same drive ended with the miscommunication, and two offensive plays later Brown was trudging into the locker room, and the game began to spiral out of control.
For the second straight game, Diggs was also a non-factor on returns. He fielded two punts against West Virginia for minus-one yard and never even lined up on 10 Seminoles kickoffs. Granted, Will Likely ranks second in the ACC with 28.6 yards per kickoff return, and has returned three of at least 30 yards over the past two games.
But Diggs grades on a different level, among the country’s most dangerous returners, and still ranks eighth in the ACC with 115.20 all-purpose yards per game and 84.8 receiving yards per game. Diggs is every bit still the dangerous player who shattered all manner of first-year program records last season. Even with his production curbed recently, there shouldn’t be much cause for concern, but in situations like Saturday, when the offense stagnates and the energy fizzles, Diggs can, on his best days, provide the spark.
Still, Coach Randy Edsall was brief when asked Sunday about keeping Diggs off returns.
“Just made a coach’s decision to have Will back there,” he said.