Friday, November 4, 2011

game preview: Maryland

Date/Time: Saturday, November 5; 12:30


History against the Terps: 31-42-2

Last matchup: Md. 42, UVA 23; 11/13/10; Charlottesville

Last weekend: UVA 28, Miami 21; BC 28, Md. 17

Line: UVA by 2.5

Opposing blogs: Turtledroppings, Testudo Times

Injury report:


S Pablo Alvarez, LS Charlie Richards, LB Daquan Romero, WR E.J. Scott, WR Bobby Smith, DL Tyler Smith, WR Matt Snyder, LS Michael Terrell, FS Joseph Williams

DE Cam Johnson

OT Sean Cascarano, DT Matt Conrath, RB Kevin Parks


I can't find one.  But starting DE David Mackall will miss the game - and the rest of the season - as he's on indefinite suspension.

The fact that it's Maryland week is story enough, but the storylines attached to this week's game are long and colorful, to be sure.  UVA hasn't won in November since that Orange Bowl thrashing of Miami some four years ago.  That was also the last season we went to a bowl.  Both those streaks can be broken this weekend. 

You know the Terps are taking this seriously: of the four uniform combos displayed as possibilities for this game on the Maryland website, the chosen one was....none of them.  Their captains voted to harken back to when Maryland was still wearing Under Armour's protect-this-house wet dream of the Friedgen era and not the full-blown UA orgy of the Edsall days.  Yellow-over-yellow was an option, and we thank the Terps for not subjecting us to that; they will wear simple red-over-white.  A more classic look for their Senior Day instead of an explosion of Warrior Bullshit.  They want this.  UVA has to prove it does, too; it's a second chance of sorts to carry on the momentum from a big win after the first chance went badly awry.

-- UVA run offense vs. Maryland run defense

Top backs:
Perry Jones: 125 carries, 643 yards, 5.1 avg.
Kevin Parks: 90 carries, 471 yards, 5.2 avg.

UVA offense:
186.13 yards/game, 4.6 yards/attempt
40th of 120 (national), 4th of 12 (ACC)

Maryland defense:
234.75 yards/game, 4.89 yards/attempt
97th of 120 (national), 12th of 12 (ACC)

This section might make the other three completely moot.  For one thing, Bill Lazor has shown a willingness, if the opposing defense is allowing it, to mercilessly hammer the run.  Maryland's defense has been very allowing.  The list of teams that has victimized them is long: BC had 372 rushing yards, Rolandan Finch getting 243 of them.  FSU's top two backs gashed them for 9.3 a carry.  Clemson had 306 yards, Andre Ellington had 212.  Temple, 285 yards.  Even Towson's running back averaged 6.3 yards a carry.  Maryland is allowing more rushing yards per game than all but two teams in the country: Kansas and New Mexico.

There's no doubt that they miss Kenny Tate.  They will also miss David Mackall, who had six TFL and was clearly the better end on the line.  The bright spot: DT Joe "The Situation" Vellano, who is probably the one Maryland D-lineman who could play on most other ACC teams.  Vellano has the ability to be disruptive and can stop you from going up the middle; UVA will almost certainly work the edges and double-team the shit out of him when they want to go up the middle.  Mackall's listed backup is Marcus Whitfield, who's made exactly four tackles all year.  Whether it's Whitfield or someone else, Lazor will probably test him early and often.

It will help Maryland that they get Demetrius Hartsfield back; Hartsfield plays middle linebacker and has been out for a month.  That'll allow Maryland to shuffle their linebackers a little and get a better mix; they've been forced to dip into the freshman ranks and it's been ugly.  They're back up to two of their three expected starters.

You've got to expect that once again, the run game will be emphasized.  And I think it'll be successful.  At least 40 carries by our running backs, for sure, with Parks and Jones combining for at least other words, a playcalling profile similar to the successful ones against GT and Miami.  And both will exceed their season averages.  I would like to say 6 yards a carry for each, but the field at Byrd Stadium sucks ass and I think that might slow them down just a bit.  Maryland hands out 200-yard rushing games like Halloween candy, and UVA is the next recipient.

-- UVA pass offense vs. Maryland pass defense

Mike Rocco: 120/202, 59.4%; 1,412 yards, 6 TD, 8 INT; 6.99 yds/attempt

Top receivers:
Kris Burd: 37 rec., 480 yards, 0 TD
Perry Jones: 28 rec., 314 yards, 2 TD

UVA offense:
228.9 yards/game, 6.6 yards/attempt
83rd of 120 (national), 9th of 12 (ACC)

Maryland defense:
202.5 yards/game, 7.6 yards/attempt
88th of 120 (national), 10th of 12 (ACC)

It's not looking much better here for the Maryland defense.  As a converted safety, Kenny Tate was an instrumental piece of the pass defense, and none of the linebackers they have are quite the pass defenders Tate was.

The cornerbacks are at least respectable here.  Cameron Chism and Dexter McDougle have three picks each.  Eric Franklin is a decent safety on one side, but more in run support than pass defense.  But the injury bug hit the defensive backfield too; with Matt Robinson out for the year, Maryland has the scariest thing a defense can have: a freshman starting at safety.  Lazor should look for ways to victimize said freshman Titus Till, who's been playing only about as well as you'd expect a freshman to.

Rocco probably won't get many chances to air it out, of course.  Probably no more than 25 pass attempts, again.  There's just no reason to pass very much, unless we fall behind by a lot.  I think he'll flourish again, though, without the hated quarterback rotation, and nudge that average over 7 yards for the first time this season.  (He was ever so close after the Idaho game.)  Say roughly 170 yards on 20-ish attempts.  Basically, the passing attack will be no more than a complement to the running attack, just as we've seen in other successful games this year.    Maryland's best hope is that we try to deal with their cornerbacks on the edges, but an underneath attack coupled with a couple deep shots over the middle to work their safeties is the prescription.

-- Maryland run offense vs. UVA run defense

Top backs:
Davin Meggett: 127 carries, 625 yards, 4.9 avg.
Justus Pickett: 55 carries, 236 yards, 4.3 avg.

Maryland offense:
171.88 yards/game, 4.73 yards/attempt
37th of 120 (national), 3rd of 12 (ACC)

UVA defense:
131.63 yards/game, 3.67 yards/attempt
41st of 120 (national), 4th of 12 (ACC)

This is the one thing Maryland's done reasonably well, thanks not only to senior workhorse Davin Meggett, but also to the discovery of C.J. Brown.  Brown, at quarterback, isn't much of a passer, but he's been proven to have a set of wheels.  When he's in the game, UVA will have to be in contain mode and make sure he doesn't break loose.  We're not talking about Tim Tebow here, but Brown is still dangerous.  It was his 77-yard touchdown run that sparked the comeback that put a scare into Georgia Tech.

Meggett, on the other hand, isn't very likely to break one open, but, like the backs UVA has faced in the past two games, he'll get his yardage.  He's stocky like Kevin Parks, and Maryland uses scatback Justus Pickett as a change of pace. 

The previous two games should give us a pretty good preview of this one.  Like Lamar Miller and James Washington, Meggett will get his yards, but he'll have to really grind them out.  Maryland's line is youngish, and honestly they've done a fairly admirable job of patching a line together given the assortment of injuries and self-inflicted attrition they had in the offseason. Still, UVA has a veteran D-line that I expect will be plenty disruptive.  The wrinkle will be Brown; in terms of average he is usally Maryland's leading rusher, and he'll probably do so again.  The key to winning this battle is making sure he goes nowhere; Maryland has put a scare into a couple teams, and it's always when Brown starts running loose.  (The exception was the West Virginia game, when the Terps had yet to put him on the field.)  On the other hand, Florida State held him to zero yards on ten carries.  If UVA can bottle up Brown, they should win handily; if not, well, they still should win, but might not, and either way we're all gonna be holding our breath.

-- Maryland pass offense vs. UVA pass defense

Danny O'Brien: 120/209, 57.4%; 1,275 yards, 6 TD, 7 INT; 6.1 yds/attempt

Top receivers:
Kevin Dorsey: 29 rec., 369 yards, 2 TD
Matt Furstenburg: 24 rec., 298 yards, 2 TD

Maryland offense:
210.5 yards/game, 5.7 yards/attempt
113th of 120 (national), 12th of 12 (ACC)

UVA defense:
197.4 yards/game, 6.4 yards/attempt
26th of 120 (national), 3rd of 12 (ACC)

It's eerie how similar Danny O'Brien's stats are to Rocco's.  For that matter, C.J. Brown's passing stats to David Watford's, too.  Neither team has what you'd call an intimidating passing attack.  Brown's just not effective, and O'Brien is having the sophomore slump el grande, no doubt partly due to having to learn a new system after just dealing with Ralph Friedgen's.

One thing Maryland does do well in this department is spread the ball around; their top four pass-catchers are all within six catches of one another.  Furstenburg is the tight end, and he's an integral part of the passing attack; in fact, I'd venture to say we haven't yet played a team that's used the tight end as extensively as Maryland.  So Laroy Reynolds will have to be on his game.

However.  Their wide receivers are all basically the same guy, and none of them present major matchup issues.  No Tommy Streeter to go out there and Calvin Johnson his way to multiple touchdowns.  And then there's O'Brien.  He was excellent against Miami, pretty good against West Virginia except for throwing a bunch of picks, and has since regressed.  You could honestly make the case that the QB rotation is hurting Maryland the way it hurt us.

So I think the pass defense will rebound from a not-so-great day against Miami.  Other than Austin Davis picking us apart, and Jacory Harris just flangin' it up to Streeter, things have generally gone very well when the opponent tries to attack through the air.  And the common denominator there - senior quarterbacks - doesn't exist here.  The veteran secondary will make sure Maryland can't get it done through the air; I don't think their quarterbacks will top 150 passing yards combined, and will be held to a less than 50% completion percentage.  Furstenburg will lead in all receiving categories as their receivers have a quiet day.

-- Outlook

This blog is in its fourth year of existence.  I've had the fortune to write about a lacrosse national title, a soccer national title, two College World Series trips, even a rowing national title, ACC championships in almost everything, not to mention two major coaching changes.  I have yet to cover a bowl game - or even a November victory.  That changes Saturday.  I know the fanbase is jittery about this one.  Who wouldn't be?  Nobody ever wants to lose to Maryland, for one, and for another, I think most of us set that bowl game as the goal we wanted to see, and here we are with a chance to make it happen.  "Maryland doesn't lose to teams like Virginia," or so it's said by their coaches.  But rebuilding teams that want to stay on the rebuilding path don't - can't - lose games like this.  It's time to take another step to the promised land.

-- Prediction summary

- UVA running backs total at least 40 carries.
- Jones and Parks total at least 30.
- All three backs exceed their season averages.
- UVA piles up at least 200 yards on the ground.
- Mike Rocco's season passing average after this game is over 7 yards per attempt.
- Rocco has about 20 pass attempts for about 170 yards.
- In terms of average, C.J. Brown is Maryland's leading rusher.
- If Brown is held to less than 20 yards rushing, UVA wins by at least two touchdowns.
- Tight end Matt Furstenburg leads Maryland in both receptions and yardage.
- Neither Maryland quarterback completes more than 50% of their passes.
- Maryland passes for less than 150 yards.
- Official attendance is less than 40,000.

- Final score: UVA 27, Maryland 10.

-- Rest of the ACC:

Florida State 38, Boston College 7 - Thursday (Like you're surprised.)
North Carolina @ NC State, 12:30 (It's apparently rivalry week.)
Duke @ Miami, 3:00 (Don't be completely surprised if Duke wins this.)
Wake Forest vs. Notre Dame, 8:00 (ND plays ACC teams this week and the next two. Preview of the coming years?)

Edit: I forgot to mention that this game will again feature Twitterrhea, in which I mini-blog the random crap that pops into my head as the game goes on.  Follow @MaizeNBlueWahoo to get Twitted at during the game.

1 comment:

Dave said...

Off topic, but I'm voting for Chase Minnifield for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award every day, and can't help but notice that his vote percentage falls *every single day*.

Perhaps you could put the link up in the sidebar or something, and admonish your many readers once again! Chase is a great kid!