Manning up in the maroon zone

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It’s Tuesday morning, and that means on a less-busy day it’s time to read the latest offering from TMQ.

TMQ, of course, is the insightful column Gregg Easterbrook pens for espn.com each week. It is the source of such team nicknames, past and present, as the San Francisco Squared Sevens, Jersey/A and Jersey/B and the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons.

A few years ago, Easterbrook came up with (or, at the very least, explained with clarity) a concept called the Maroon Zone. In short, the success of plays contested in the area between an opponent’s 30- and 40-yard lines – where field goals are iffy and punting is impractical – are often an indicator of the overall outcome.

I’ve tweaked this a little bit to take a look at Maryland – and plan to delve deeper into it in tomorrow’s dead-tree edition. In the following two charts are the results of every drive in which Maryland has run at least one play between its opponents’ 21 and 40 (the 20 yards before the red zone).

What prompted this? Oh, maybe that the Terrapins went 0-for-4 in those situations on Saturday against Florida State (punt, missed field goal, interception, downs). In Maryland’s one scoring drive, the Terps dispensed with the maroon zone altogether before stalling inside the 20.

First, though, here is Maryland’s maroon zone performance in its seven victories (and please keep in mind a maroon zone drive can become a red zone possession as well):

OutcomeNo.Pct.
Touchdown1641.0
Field goal
820.5
Missed FG
512.8
Interception 
37.7
Half37.7
Punt25.1
Downs12.6
Fumble12.6

That, by the way, is a solid 24-for-39 (61.5 percent) of scoring drives.

Now, onto the four losses…

OutcomeNo. 
Pct.
Missed FG
323.1
Interception 
323.1
Downs323.1
Punt215.4
Field goal
215.4 
Touchdown00.0

That’s right. In Maryland’s four losses, the Terps have had 13 possessions when they ran plays between the opponent’s 21 and 40. And not once did they score a touchdown.

Put simply, that’s a remarkable difference. But at least it’s a quantifiable reason that explains something – either a cause or a symptom – about Maryland’s on-again, off-again struggles.

Patrick Stevens

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