Muted explosions

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First a quick accounting of Maryland’s “explosive plays” from Saturday, as defined as gains of 16 or more:

Q1: Turner-Smith 22 pass (2nd/9)
Q3: Turner-Tyler 16 pass (3rd/5)
Q4: Turner-Tyler 20 pass (4th/4)
Q4: Turner-Cannon 27 TD pass  (1st/10)
Q4: Turner-Scott 18 pass (3rd/15)

Thus endeth the list of chunk plays for the Terrapins against James Madison.

Which really isn’t all that much of a surprise to anyone who watched Maryland run 70 plays on Saturday night.

What it also does is reinforce one thing that is being openly accepted by Maryland’s coaches (that “falling behind schedule” is disastrous) and one thing only receiving tacit acknowledgement (the Terps are simply not equipped to do much more than dink and dunk on a regular basis).

“We have to be great on first and second down,” offensive coordinator James Franklin said. “Third and short, that’s what we have to be. We have to be highly efficient. It might not be as exciting as people want if you want to throw the ball down the field. But I don’t know how much we can afford to do that.”

As Herm Edwards might intone, you play to win the game. And let there be little question: The Terps aren’t winning when they face 2nd-and-8 or 3rd-and-5 this season.

Let’s take a look at those situations based on whether the Terps either scored or extended drives when saddled with those situations in the first two games:

SECOND DOWN

8+: 7/18 (California 4/10, James Madison 3/8)
1-7: 20/29 (California 7/13, James Madison 13/16)

THIRD DOWN

5+: 7/22 (California 3/13, James Madison 4/9)
1-4: 6/9 (California 3/4, James Madison 3/5)

Some of this is clearly intuitive. Anyone would rather want to be in 3rd-and-2 rather than 3rd-and-8.

But Maryland ultimately converted 69 percent of its 2nd-and-reasonables and 39 percent of its 2nd-and-longs. The difference is even more severe (67 percent against 32 percent) in similar third down scenarios.

“We found a way to win,” Franklin said. “We found a way to get some points on the board. it wasn’t always pretty. We got the job done. We have to improve. We have to be able to run the ball better, and we have to be able to protect. That’s clearly obvious.”

Equally obvious: The reality that what Maryland’s done over the first two weeks is indicative of what will be seen all season, unless those two areas Franklin mentioned improve. Without a better running game and pass protection, all the Terps have are quick passes to receivers in space and the hope they’ll do something with them.

It’s not “explosive,” but at this point it’s the most efficient thing the Terps have.

Patrick Stevens

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