Friday, October 11, 2013

game preview: Maryland

Date/Time: Saturday, October 13; 3:30


Record against the Terps: 32-43-2

Last meeting: Md. 27, UVA 20; 10/13/12, Charlottesville

Last weekend: BSU 48, UVA 27; FSU 63, Md 0

Line: Maryland by 7

Injury report:


OUT - OL George Adeosun, PK Ian Frye, CB Demetrious Nicholson, TE Mario Nixon, OT Sadiq Olanrewaju, S Wil Wahee



PROBABLE - TE Zach Swanson


OUT - DB Milan Collins, OL JaJuan Dulaney, CB Dexter McDougle, DL Mike Minter, DL Ty Tucker, WR Tyrek Cheeseboro, RB Tyler Cierski, K Adam Greene, DB Jeremiah Johnson, OL Nick Klemm, LB Matt Robinson



PROBABLE - WR Daniel Adams, OL Silvio Altamirano, LB Cole Farrand, WR Nigel King, TE Dave Stinebaugh, DL Zeke Riser

I'm a little torn, but strongly leaning toward the idea that we should close down relations forever with Maryland once their time in the ACC is done.  Depends on the sport, really; lacrosse, definitely.  Basketball, probably, and replace them with Georgetown.  Football, I suppose, is a little less clear, but then, the schedule's tied up for a good long time anyway.  So this'll be our last shot for the foreseeable future at what was a very fun rivalry when Ralph Friedgen would flap his fat gums and we would beat his teams in response.

-- UVA run offense vs. Md. run defense

Top backs:
Kevin Parks: 88 carries, 398 yards, 4.5 ypc, 5 TDs
Daniel Hamm: 23 carries, 141 yards, 6.1 ypc, 2 TDs

UVA offense:
178.20 yards/game, 4.09 yards/attempt
80th of 125 (national), 9th of 14 (ACC)

Md. defense:
115.40 yards/game, 3.21 yards/attempt
25th of 125 (national), 3rd of 14 (ACC)

It seems like a safe but tentative bet so far that in the season-long who's-after-Parks watch, Khalek Shepherd is slowly but surely emerging as the primary backup.  Neither he nor Taquan Mizzell show up on the injury report this week, so we finally have the health we need to see the decision through.

The other name not on the injury report: Conner Davis.  Mike London has hinted this means another change in the order of battle for the offensive line; despite what the depth chart says, it appears Davis will take Luke Bowanko's left guard spot and move Bowanko back to center.  Bowanko is still a better guard than center, but I guess the real idea is that Davis is a better guard than Ross Burbank or Jackson Matteo are centers.  Last week's lineup shuffle looked good against a bad run defense; Maryland presents a tougher challenge.

Mitigating that will be Maryland's loss of disruptive OLB Matt Robinson.  Robinson is one of the defense's leading players and a member of one of the best linebacking corps in the league.  Inside backers Cole Farrand and L.A. Goree ought to be able to cover up for him to an extent, but Maryland loses something on the edge without Robinson.  Marcus Whitfield, on the other side of the Terps' 3-4, is more of a pass rusher.  Of course, last time I said there might be a weakness on the edge, attack the edge, Steve Fairchild kept attacking the middle.  So we'll see.

The 3-4 is just another challenge for our O-line, too, which hasn't been allowed to see many conventional defenses this year.  Maryland's line has been solid, and nose tackle Darius Kilgo is a load, so the O-line is simply going to be tested all day, and the threat will be more versatile than just watching Aaron Donald tear into the backfield all day.

It may be that Davis's return is another small boost to the line.  Changing from Wallace and Whitmire to Whitmire and Smith certainly was one, and you have to like getting a starter back.  But one good day against Ball State doesn't change my mind about the offense.  Even without Matt Robinson, Maryland is well-equipped to slow down and even stop the UVA run game.  Then you add in the fact that the read-option is designed against a 4-3 defense, and I definitely don't see strong results in this area of the game.

-- UVA pass offense vs. Md. pass defense

David Watford: 101/171, 59.1%; 813 yards, 3 TDs, 7 INTs; 4.75 yards/attempt

Top receivers:
Jake McGee: 19 rec., 119 yards, 1 TD
Darius Jennings: 14 rec., 107 yards, 1 TD

UVA offense:
171.4 yards/game, 4.6 yards/attempt
125th of 125 (national), 14th of 14 (ACC)

Md. defense:
218.4 yards/game, 6.5 yards/attempt
43rd of 125 (national), 8th of 14 (ACC)

Another injury has sapped quite a bit of the effectiveness out of the Maryland pass defense: the loss of Dexter McDougle for the season.  The main consequence of that was the loss of most of their big-play capability; McDougle had three picks in as many games.  Isaac Goins is a solid cornerback, but McDougle's replacement, freshman William Likely, is 5'7", and, you know, a freshman.

The Maryland pass rush can be nasty.  The aforementioned Marcus Whitfield has 5.5 sacks, and his backup, Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil, has three.  Maryland's nose tackle position, between Darius Kilgo and Andre Monroe, has combined for 5.5 sacks, and the team total is 18, which ties them for 5th in the country.

So the O-line is in for another test.  Given the pass rush the Terps can generate from the middle of the line, having Bowanko at center is a little bit of a relief.  The playing-time intention at wide receiver, though, is still a mystery, even with the "ors" taken off the depth chart.  I guess there's just a skepticism factor that the starters are suddenly Kyle Dockins, Keeon Johnson, and Miles Gooch.  Johnson I believe given the role he played against Ball State, and that lineup of guys could provide an advantage given the lack of size Maryland has at corner.  Finding it hard to believe they're fully relegating guys like Tim Smith and Darius Jennings to the bench, though.

I do think our receivers provide an advantage over the Maryland defensive backfield, where the Terps are middling-decent but did present no threat whatsoever to the FSU passing game.  (By contrast, FSU's run game was successful but not spectacularly so.)  However, Watford's still learning, and slowly.  I'm gonna have to see something before I give the whole unit the benefit of the doubt.  At some point Watford's gonna have a great game and prove me wrong, but I don't plan on saying "this weekend is it" all year til I get it right.

-- Md. run offense vs. UVA run defense

Top backs:
Brandon Ross: 68 carries, 331 yards, 4.8 ypc, 2 TDs
Albert Reid: 29 carries, 120 yards, 4.1 ypc, 1 TD

Md. offense:
188.0 yards/game, 4.65 yards/attempt
53rd of 125 (national), 6th of 14 (ACC)

UVA defense:
149.2 yards/game, 3.87 yards/attempt
50th of 125 (national), 6th of 14 (ACC)

Like the offense in reverse, I'm gonna have to see more than one bad game out of the defense (Oregon doesn't count) before I decide it sucks.  I don't think that'll be in this phase of the game, at least.  The likely loss of C.J. Brown makes the Maryland run attack fairly one-dimensional.  Decent opponents have shut down Brandon Ross's backup, Albert Reid, which by subtraction leaves Ross as the only real rushing threat.  (Other backup Jacquille Veii, with almost as many carries as Reid, has been a garbage-timer so far.)

Ross can move the ball, but is no threat to break one open, and is a little bit stat-padded by a big game against ODU.  Florida International shut him down and FSU made him disappear entirely; he's just not a game-breaker, and Maryland's patchily young offensive line is still learning its way around consistent run-blocking.

So this is a very important phase of the game for UVA.  The Maryland pass offense can be dangerous, and UVA simply must force them to have to rely solely on it to move the ball.  If the run game can be stifled with just the regular up-front personnel, maybe even with six in the box, it'll make this game so much easier.  Long day otherwise.

-- Md. pass offense vs. UVA pass defense

C.J. Brown: 72/113, 63.7%; 1,125 yards, 7 TDs, 1 INT; 9.96 yards/attempt

Top receivers:
Deon Long: 24 rec., 348 yards, 1 TD
Stefon Diggs: 20 rec., 424 yards, 3 TDs

Md. offense:
257.6 yards/game, 9.3 yards/attempt
10th of 125 (national), 4th of 14 (ACC)

UVA defense:
191.4 yards/game, 5.6 yards/attempt
10th of 125 (national), 2nd of 14 (ACC)

It's great to have such nice numbers on our side, even with such nice ones on the Maryland side too, but here's where the injury bug takes a chunk out of our defense, with Demetrious Nicholson out for the game.  This is not the time for that, as UVA goes up against a dynamic duo at receiver for the third time in a row, and probably the best of the three in Stefon Diggs and Deon Long.

Diggs is also dealing with a malady of his own, which could slow him down and even up the matchup; Randy Edsall has been referring to him as not 100% and he hasn't been taking return duties.  He's been limited the past two weeks to two catches each.  Long has stepped forward somewhat.  Still, you have to game plan for him.  You're not going to worry about Levern Jacobs or Malcolm Culmer.  You might watch Nigel King, who stands 6'3" and for that reason alone can be a tough cover, but Diggs and Long are what make the Maryland offense move.

The above assumes C.J. Brown can play, but he's listed as doubtful - so he probably won't.  We're in much better shape if he doesn't.  Backup Caleb Rowe is not incapable but not close to the player Brown is, either.  The combination of losing Brown and having Diggs limited could be a major crippling factor for the Maryland offense, and without Nicholson we'll take all the help we can get.

-- Favorability ratings:

Run offense: 3
Pass offense: 3.5
Run defense: 7.5
Pass defense: 3 if Brown plays and Diggs is playable, and 6.5 otherwise

Average: 4.25 or 5.125

-- Outlook

You can see the effect on the game of Brown's injury.  Take him out of there and I can see UVA having the slimmest of advantages.  Put him in and the game swings Maryland's way.  Maryland's run game is much more dangerous with Brown (Rowe is not a runner) and Brown is easily the better passer too.   UVA must, must must must shut down the run game to the greatest extent possible, and do so nice and early, so that they'll be able to focus on stopping the pass.  If they can do that, that's their chance.  Moving the ball will be tough and opportunities to do so limited, so there'll be plenty of pressure on the defense to keep the game within striking distance.

-- Prediction summary

-- Watford throws neither a pick nor a touchdown.

-- Neither run game musters more than three yards per attempt.

-- Keeon Johnson leads UVA wide receivers in receptions.

-- Stefon Diggs has had two catches each of the past two games; he has more here.

Final score: Md. 17, UVA 13

-- Rest of the ACC

Pittsburgh @ Virginia Tech - 12:00 - Tech will be remembering the embarrassing beatdown they received from the Panthers last year.

Duke vs. Navy - 12:30 - Duke bowl eligibility hopes probably demand this win.

Syracuse @ NC State - 3:30 - As do the bowl hopes of both these teams, slim as they are.

Boston College @ Clemson - 3:30 - Clemson's tuneup before the big game next week.

Georgia Tech @ Brigham Young - 7:00 - Should be a useful game in learning how we stand.

Byes: Miami, Florida State, Wake Forest, UNC


Brandon (not Brendan) said...

Wow was that game ever an epic pile of frustration. The massive touchdown scoring failure, the tipped passes, the 3 mile screen pass, the double covered go up and get it to win the game, then the maybe overturned td, then the brilliant drive, but then the typical super-conservative once you hit field goal range but not _easy_ field goal range play calling, then the miss...... man. Just... man.

Anonymous said...

Here's the thing - had that field goal not sailed wide right, we'd all be talking about how great it was to see the offense clicking, the running game firing on all cylinders, defense and special teams forcing turnovers, and Watford making real progress in a gritty ACC road win.

But losing makes everything look a lot worse. I was encouraged by a lot of what I saw yesterday, but win or lose, four things were unacceptable:

1) Couldn't score a TD on 2nd and goal from the 1.
2) Letting the Terps pick up a 1st down on 3rd and 21 with the game on the line.
3) Not even trying to get closer to the end zone on that final drive. If Frye was kicking, fine, but don't ask Voz to nail a 42-yard game-winner on the road.
4) Three turnovers in MD territory result in 6 UVA points.

The only thing to do is beat Duke this weekend and try to get better every game from here on out. Lose against the Blue Devils and this very well could be a 2 win season, which would be catastrophic.

Oh, and let's not forget kicking the PAT instead of going for two when it was 14-12. Fat lot of good that extra point did us.


Anonymous said...

You don't go for 2 in the first half. Consider that at one point late in the game, we led 23-20. Had we gone for 2 earlier in the game and failed, that lead would have been 22-20. At that moment, the choice to take the XP seemed pretty smart. Just because we ultimately lost by 1 doesn't mean we made the wrong decision there.

But I agree that there were some good signs. A little late -- it just reminds me how we coulda won any one if not all of these last three games -- but progress is always a plus.