Thursday, October 11, 2012

game preview: Maryland

Date/Time: Saturday, October 13; 3:00


Record against the Terps: 32-42-2

Last meeting: UVA 31, Md. 13; 11/5/11, College Park

Last weekend: Duke 42, UVA 17; Md. 19, WF 14

Line: UVA by 1

Opposing blog: Testudo Times

Injury report:

Virginia -

S Pablo Alvarez, DT Marco Jones, WR Mario Nixon

DE Billy Schautz, DT Buddy Ruff


WR Darius Jennings, WR Tim Smith

S Darius Lee, DT Justin Renfrow, QB Phillip Sims

Maryland -

QB C.J. Brown, K Nick Ferrara, DL Andre Monroe

WR Kerry Boykins, RB Wes Brown, LB L.A. Goree, S Matt Robinson



G De'Onte Arnett, OT Justin Gilbert, CB Jeremiah Johnson, NT Darius Kilgo, OT Nick Klemm, RB Justus Pickett, LB Kenny Tate, DE Joe Vellano, OT Andrew Zeller

Last week's game had me pining for basketball season, or maybe baseball season already, and I was definitely getting all emo up in here thinking "what's the use of any more previews?  I could at least pump up my prediction record by always saying we'll lose, I suppose that's something."  Then I remembered who we play this week.  And the day I can't get excited about a chance to beat those goons from the trailer parkin' little brother we have on the other side of the Potomac is the day I shut this gig down.

College Park nightlife, or clever artistic statement on the financial condition of Maryland's well-run athletic department?  You decide!

-- UVA run offense vs. Md. run defense

Top backs:
Kevin Parks: 76 carries, 346 yards, 4.6 avg., 3 TDs
Perry Jones: 76 carries, 295 yards, 3.9 avg., 2 TDs

UVA offense:
134.83 yards/game, 4.05 yards/attempt
75th of 124 (national), 6th of 12 (ACC)

Md. defense:
81.0 yards/game, 2.33 yards/attempt
3rd of 124 (national), 1st of 12 (ACC)

This is genuinely concerning (and a great way to kick off the preview.  Not.)  I expected Maryland to be good against the run this year, but not, like, third in the nation good.  The numbers are no mirage; the Terps held the normally outstanding West Virginia offense to 25 yards on 25 carries.  40-some yards if you cut out sacks, but yeah.  Only UConn has put together anything resembling a rushing attack against the Terps, which is weird because UConn's running game otherwise sucks.  But the fact is, this ain't gonna be easy.

You have to start by accounting for Joe Vellano, a legit first-team all-ACC talent.  Vellano looks like he's about one gunshot away from earning made man status, and plays like it too, with seven non-sack TFLs.  For a lineman to be second on his team in tackles is impressive.  Maryland runs a 3-4 these days, which puts Vellano on the outside as a DE, and the defense is working like it's supposed to; Vellano has a bunch of tackles, other DE A.J. Francis is making some plays, and Maryland also has a playmaking linebacker in the form of Demetrius Hartsfield.  Hartsfield has 43 tackles (over eight per game), three sacks, and two recovered fumbles, and an INT for good measure, just what you'd salivate over if you were a 3-4 DC.  Hartsfield patrols the middle next to Cole Farrand, with Darin Drakeford and Kenny Tate on the outside, and the only one who hasn't been productive this season is Tate and it's not like it's his fault; WVU was his first game back from injury.

So all that noise about the progress the offensive line is making is about to be severely tested.  It's not at all out of the question that it's all been thanks to the opponent more than any real improvement.  Vellano demands a double team, and it's best for us if he lines up opposite Morgan Moses, whose ability in run-blocking has never been questioned.  If Darius Jennings and Tim Smith are both out (God forbid) it'll probably increase the number of times we go heavy on the tight ends, which may itself be necessary to get any kind of traction.

I don't see any running room for Perry Jones this week.  If anyone's going to gain yardage, it'll have to be someone who can fall forward after contact.  Running opposite of Vellano is paramount, and no, I don't think any tricky stuff like counter plays will work either, the dude's a veteran, and not slow either.  The best plan is to keep Vellano futilely pursuing from the back side, and hope we can keep Maryland's linebackers off the line of scrimmage long enough to get our backs past it.

-- UVA pass offense vs. Md. pass defense

Phillip Sims: 49/88, 55.7%; 608 yards, 5 TDs, 2 INTs; 6.91 yds/attempt

Top receivers:
Darius Jennings: 24 rec., 339 yards, 1 TD
Perry Jones: 22 rec., 221 yards, 0 TDs

UVA offense:
294.5 yards/game, 7.4 yards/attempt
63rd of 124 (national), 8th of 12 (ACC)

Md. defense:
176.2 yards/game, 6.3 yards/attempt
36th of 124 (national), 4th of 12 (ACC)

I got an idea, let's just not have two of our best receivers available for this game.  Man, I hope Jennings and Smith can go.  Smith's status is an upgrade from last week when he was doubtful, so that's a good sign; I still don't like seeing those two listed on the injury report, ever.

It's much harder to make out what to think of Maryland's pass defense than their run defense.  For the most part, they haven't played good quarterbacks, except Geno Smith, who did Geno Smith things.  Tanner Price at Wake has taken a huge step backwards because teams are daring him to throw at anyone but Michael Campanaro.  Like UVA, Maryland hasn't gotten anything in the turnover department, except for INTs from people not in their secondary.

Cornerbacks Dexter McDougle and Jeremiah Johnson are solid enough, but neither has come up with an INT yet this season.  If we could be sure of having our best receivers, I'd like their chances of getting open, but the Terp cornerbacks are good enough to shut down our reserves.  You can expect them to focus like a laser on E.J. Scott, and I don't think he's ready for a featured role.

Where the defense is exploitable is at safety.  Matt Robinson has horrible luck in the injury department, and he'll miss yet another game this season, leaving true freshman Anthony Nixon to get the start.  If the Hoos can use Jake McGee to try and exploit this, or if Bill Lazor draws up some route patterns to confuse Nixon, Phil Sims just might find some open receivers.  Of course, then they have to catch the ball, but so it goes.

Sims is going to have to win this game, though.  He won't likely have a rushing attack to help him out.  And Maryland can bring a good pass rush from just about anywhere.  I like the odds of getting McGee back into the big-play column, but truthfully I have no idea whether Sims's deep bombs will continue, or whether they'll work if so.  Far too many variables out of our ken, like catching the damn ball and throwing a damn PI flag every damn once in a damn while.  If we win this game, though, Sims will have had a big day.

-- Md. run offense vs. UVA run defense

Top backs:
Justus Pickett: 46 carries, 137 yards, 3.0 avg., 3 TDs
Wes Brown: 33 carries, 150 yards, 4.5 avg., 1 TD

Md. offense:
86.0 yards/game, 2.16 yards/attempt
122nd of 124 (national), 12th of 12 (ACC)

UVA defense:
180.5 yards/game, 4.95 yards/attempt
107th of 124 (national), 9th of 12 (ACC)

Now we start to get to the good news: the run game.  Specifically, Maryland's which is horrible with a side of pathetic.  To make matters even better, their leading RB, Wes Brown, won't be playing.  Part of those butt-tacular numbers are due to the enormous number of sacks they give up, but that doesn't exactly speak to the greatness of the O-line, either.

With Brown out and several of the Maryland O-linemen playing but battling through injuries, there is a chance here to play some old-fashioned shutdown defense.  No Brown means the Terps will split carries among Justus Pickett (also a tad banged-up), Albert Reid, and Brandon Ross.  Pickett has his moments, but has served more as Maryland's short-yardage back.  Reid and Ross aren't a concern.

It's as good a time as any to remind you that the UVA stats are horribly skewed by the Georgia Tech game and without that, UVA is in the top one-third of the country in run defense.  Maryland brings nothing tricky here, except for such times as they might bring Stefon Diggs through the backfield to take a few carries.  At the risk of sounding like I'm on repeat from the past few weeks, any time they do that instead of sending him on a pass pattern is a win.

You'd expect our team's pride to be good and wounded after the past few weeks.  The best place to fix that is right here.

-- Md. pass offense vs. UVA pass defense

Perry Hills: 71/123, 57.7%; 940 yards, 7 TDs, 6 INTs; 7.64 yds/attempt

Top receivers:
Stefon Diggs: 17 rec., 364 yards, 3 TDs
Marcus Leak: 14 rec., 231 yards, 2 TDs

Md. offense:
188.0 yards/game, 7.6 yards/attempt
53rd of 124 (national); 6th of 12 (ACC)

UVA defense:
220.7 yards/game, 6.6 yards/attempt
53rd of 124 (national), 6th of 12 (ACC)

So if Maryland can't move the ball on the ground (we hope) that means it falls on the shoulders of Maryland's freshman quarterback Perry Hills, right?  And that's a good thing, right?

We'll see.  You know how this defense has been with big plays.  UVA has given up 7 pass plays of 40 yards or more, which is more than almost everyone in the country.  And it so happens Maryland has the ability to do that in the form of Stefon Diggs, whose big-play ability has lived up to his five-star rating.

The battle between Tre Nicholson and Diggs should be a classic, and could well decide the whole game.  And Nicholson will need safety help, and not for them to bite on play-action fakes.  There should be no need to; the front seven can handle it.  If the safeties stick to their assignments and stay back, they'll force Maryland to move slowly down the field instead of getting all the yards at once, and Maryland can't do that consistently.

Other than Diggs, Maryland's passing game is on and off.  They don't attempt a lot of passes in the first place, and Hills has all the inconsistencies of a freshman.  Marcus Leak is a decent second option to Diggs, but the Terps are underutilizing tight end Matt Furstenburg, who was the preseason all-ACC choice at his position.

Good news also comes in the form of Maryland's pass protection, which has been hideous.  Hills hasn't helped; he hangs onto the ball too long.  UVA hasn't had a multi-sack game since Penn State, and that was all Steve Greer on blitzes.  Not only do I think we can finally get off the schneid again, I think the D-line can get it done.

It's nice, for a change, to go up against a pass offense that isn't some nasty-good well-oiled machine.  Between Casey Pachall, Anthony Boone, and Colby Cameron, it's been a while since we went against a quarterback who was likely to miss all on his own accord.  The pass defense has been shredded by good quarterbacks.  Perry Hills might be on that level one day, but not now; he's more Matt McGloin than Anthony Boone.  This is the opposite of the offensive line, which has been improving against bad defenses but will be tested on Saturday.  Finally the pass defense gets a break.

-- Outlook

In a Q&A between SBN blogs, Testudo Times said the way to beat the Terps is "pass, and pass deep."  Hm, who do we know who might be willing to do that?  It's been said that if Sims had just been able to connect once or twice against Duke, the whole game might've been different.  I don't know about that, because it wouldn't have stopped our defense from getting torched.  Here?  I'll buy it.  This game should hold a lot of similarity to the PSU game: a defensive struggle decided by a big play here or there.  Back then it was a blocked extra point.  Both Maryland and UVA have the capacity to earn that big play in the pass game, and whoever loses will probably swear up and down that the game would be different if you could just go back and change one or two plays.

-- Prediction summary:

-- UVA finally picks up more than one sack.
-- Perry Jones is UVA's least productive running back on the ground.
-- Neither team has a back gain more than 50 yards.
-- Jake McGee catches a pass of 30+ yards.

(oh what the hell.....)
Final score: UVA 19, Md. 17

-- Rest of the ACC:

Slow week this week.  Clemson, GT, NC State, Wake, all with byes.

Duke @ Virginia Tech, 12:30 - Please please please pleeeeeeeeeeeeeezz.

North Carolina @ Miami, 2:30 - If the Hurricanes become Coastal Division favorites, and nobody's there to see it, does it count?

Boston College @ Florida State, 5:30 - Pissed off FSU = slaughter alert.


Anonymous said...

Here's my biggest concern about this game - how Sims deals with pressure. He's already missing his reads and not going through his progressions ... the MD secondary is susceptible, but if he's rushed, we could be looking at pick 6's.

On the flip side of the ball, I hope we are better prepared for a spread-option type attack that they utilize with Hills. I am concerned about Reynolds and Coley on the edges in space, and I am concerned about Walcott/Snyder's ability to stack the edges. Simply put, defensively, we have to be disciplined in our lanes and tackle well. Sort of like ... the Tech game in some respects, but the Terps aren't anywhere near that talented (although Diggs is the most talented individual player). I expect a lot of short throws to Diggs in an effort to get him the ball, and the safeties really have to step up their game.

I won't go so far as to predict a win or loss, but this is a much tougher Terps team than anyone expected. Where they can probably be beat is in the intermediate area, moreso than the deep area, if the QB is willing to patient and work through the progressions (because with the deep routes, we have to protect long enough, which is no guarantee with the way Moses has played this year).

Anonymous said...

I'm mildly curious if anyone will start a Mike Rocco or David Watford chant. It's a shame that in these winnable ACC games that we are sendingi up a QB that is clearly not ready.

Anonymous said...

Reading other forums, I find it funny how UVA fans are ready and willing to make excuses for Sims, as well as note every time he does a positive thing, without noting his negatives.

Look, I don't dislike Sims on a personal level. He has the most raw talent out of any QB on the roster, including Lambert. Maybe he'll turn it around the next three quarters.

But ... in a game like this, with a defense like ours that is struggling, you need to be able to control the ball. If that isn't through the run, then controlled, safe passes need to be read correctly and completed.

So far, he hasn't done that enough. Maybe he will in the final three quarters. Yes, the Swanson pass was nice, but again, I highly doubt that was the first read on that play. Sims is showing that he clearly doesn't have mastery of playbook yet. If London isn't willing to go to the QB better suited for a game like this, then at least put Watford in there and see what two years of knowing the playbook means. Screw the lost redshirt year. We've burned enough redshirts, and this is a big enough QB mess that Watford, if he isn't willing to switch to Rocco, should be given a look.

Anonymous said...

I see a poster over at HooNation criticizing London's decision to kick the FG. The poster says that we should've gone for it on 4th and 2.

It was the right decision. You want to try and win games, no matter how bad the season is, and getting it to a two score game would've been a good step. Furthermore, it's not like we have many good options on 4th and 2. How confident would any of us be in the run games ability to get those two yards? I wouldn't be all that confident in Sims making any throw less than 10 yards (j/k ... sort of).

It just didn't work.

Anonymous said...

If people didn't have rose-colored glasses on when it came to London, they'd realize that he was making some of the same mistakes as Al Groh did.

a) Wasting redshirts - I noted this last week, but what the heck was the purpose of burning both Severin and Gamble? I'm sure there's other examples, but that's the one that stands out the most to me.

b) QB management/inability to develop a QB - It seems fairly clear that part of the staff wanted Rocco from day 1, last year and this year, but London wouldn't listen to his staff. The end result is burning a year of Watford, and putting Rocco and Sims in such a mess this year. Sims isn't ready, but it seems like UVA fans just don't want to admit that.

Here's the thing about Rocco. He's not the most talented, but he's not devoid of talent, which is what some UVA fans seem to think (saw some comment about him as a rocking horse). He operated the offense the way it was supposed to be, often making pro throws to the spot (which is what most pro QB's have to do), but the lack of consistency at WR hurt. I'm not excusing all his int's or his mistakes, but he operated the offense and knew it well.

The lack of a run game has hurt both QB's this year, but having a QB that knows where the checkdowns are AND is capable of making a play is a big deal. Sims isn't ready for that. I'm not sure why UVA fans keep tooting his horn. They talk about the future with Sims ... but here's the thing - if they don't win, that's going to hurt the future more.

Groh's inability to develop a QB, more than anything else, IMO, cost him his job. A stable QB would've made a difference in the final years.

(continued below)

Anonymous said...

c) Not understanding his personnel - I have no other way to put it right now, but London sure doesn't seem to understand his personnel.

A lot of people seem to want to bash Lazor after this game. His offense is a good offense, though, very similar to what Matt Schaub is running down in Houston with the Texans. Now, I don't think anyone could have predicted that the loss of Mihota would hurt this much (akin to when we lost Hoffman for the 3-4 NT role), but attrition happens in college football. Lazor should've recognized earlier the issues with the OL and adapted more. How, I'm not sure, as he did try to open things up with the short passing game, but it feels like something could've been done. Schematically, reviewing the past few games, Lazor, IMO, has been alright.

My bigger issue is with London failing to recognize and utilize the talent on the defensive side, his forte. It was clear that the loss of veterans up front would hurt, but what I had hoped for early on was that depth would overcome it. Well, it took until this week for London and Reid to really utilize said depth.

I hope to heck that London sees the light and puts Rocco back in there. If not, give Watford a turn. Let's try to get some momentum for 2013 and try and sell the 2014 class on a positive direction. This should've been a decent year. The fact that it's bordering on horrendous to downright ridiculously awful is troubling, and it should put London close to the hot seat if they can't show some positive movements in the 2nd half of the year (and I haven't even touched on how London doesn't seem to be a good game day coach, with odd substitution patterns and poor reaction as a HC to developing plays/situations.

Wake Forest is a winnable game. Get Rocco out there and give us a damn shot.

Anonymous said...

I thought this was ... interesting.

Maryland coach Randy Edsall said he wasn’t surprised to see Rocco in relief, saying he “is the best pure passer of the two.

The opposing head coach can see it ... but our own head coach can't.

Anonymous said...

Well, now that he's announced Sims as the starter for the Wake game, Sims is, realistically, the starter for the rest of the year. There's no sense in benching him after the Wake game - ideally, you'd use the bye week to firm up his abilities.

So, with Sims as the starting QB, I'm resetting my expectations for the program ... again. If we get to 3 wins this year, I'll be ecstatic. If we stay at 2, but look competitive, I'll be happy.

Ugh, it's comical how the opposing coach can realize that Rocco is the better pure passer. Rocco, with the run game we've had the last 2 weeks, would've won 1 of them, if not 2. Yet, we're stuck with Sims because of his big arm. That's nice ... but I'd rather have a good QB that knows how to study and learn the system.